Monthly Archives: June 2014

Some notes on poster design

In preparing my fabric poster for ASM 2014, I decided to review some of the key concepts for how to make a poster about your research. Here are some of my notes.

It’s essential to remember that a poster is a marketing tool. It’s more of an abstract than a scientific paper. And because it is an abstract, you don’t need to have one on your poster. Its purpose is for networking and shameless self-promotion. Be sure to use lots of pictures and select a nice color scheme. This time around I decided to use a combination of the Wes Anderson palettes

You should use something like Adobe In Design to lay out your poster. Powerpoint is not designed to create high quality graphic images. I use Photoshop because I like to take photos and I know my way around it. Also my computer is powerful enough that I don’t run into any memory issues. But I’ve been told that In Design is better suited for poster layout and uses less memory.

Your poster is a way of introducing yourself to new people and for sharing a few of your recent findings. Under the title, put your name, co-authors and institution(s) but please no logos. No one cares about your institution’s logo or what your building looks like. You should also provide your email address or website, so interested folks can contact you afterwards.

Don’t put any references on your poster. You can’t afford to give that space away to a reference list that no one will read. But you can give out copies of your own relevant published work (that has references). For the first time I posted an envelope with copies of a recent paper next to my ASM poster and I ran out of copies early into the poster session. 

Here are the fundamental questions that your poster should address:

What is your question and why should we care?

What did you do? 

What did you find?

What’s next? 

You should also address the ever important question: So what?

It is very important to check the amount of space that you will be allotted at the conference and to know what the size requirements are for the company who will be printing your poster. It will save you time if you set it up with the right size at the beginning. For my fabric poster that I printed with Spoonflower, the size was 36 in by 58 in. Although I was hoping to do something more edgy with my poster design, I fell back on the traditional strategy of using a landscape layout and dividing it into thirds. Then I addressed the above questions, moving from left to right. People know what to expect in terms of flow with this format. If you use another format, be sure to provide clear visual cues to guide the reader from start to finish. 

Use a bigger sized font or bold to highlight important results or concepts. Try to use no more than three fonts. I used two fonts in my poster: Helvetica (font size 56) for the subheaders and Garamond (font size 36) for the text. Avoid Comic Sans Serif, Times New Roman and Arial. This also applies to slides for talks (but with different font sizes).

For additional resources, Colin Purrington has an excellent webpage on poster design that is well worth a visit and is way more extensive than the suggestions provided here. You can use the website Vischeck to see how your figures might be seen by someone with colorblindness. And you can post your poster in this Flickr group for feedback. 

Here is my poster, which will also be up on F1000Posters soon. 



Fabric posters

It’s that time of year when we have to prepare presentations on our work for scientific conferences. Recently I presented a poster at the General Meeting for the American Society for Microbiology 2014 that was held in Boston a few weeks ago.

This time around I was excited to make a poster after reading a blog post by Jessica Polka about fabric posters. In fact, I was so intrigued that I didn’t even try to get a slot for a talk at ASM and instead I signed up to give a poster presentation. I followed Jessica’s advice and I ordered the performance knit from Spoonflower. One key thing to remember when starting to making your poster is that the standard size with Spoonflower is 36 in x 58 in, so set your poster up with that size at the beginning and use 300 dpi. Also I used the rush service and it was still cheaper than traditional poster printing (but you do need to allow at least four days). I ordered mine on a weekend; it shipped on Tuesday and arrived on Thursday morning. 

In addition to the novelty factor and the brilliant colors, fabric posters have a huge advantage over traditional posters because they fold up small and you can easily fit them in your carry-on. This is how my poster arrived in the mail:Image

You can also wear them to the meeting and whip them out when some kind person expresses interest in your work. Jessica encouraged me to take a picture of me wearing my poster as a scarf and post it on Twitter with #posterscarf And you should too!


The poster hall at ASM was very impressive. I did see one other fabric poster there but I was surprised that there weren’t more. And I felt sorry for all the people schlepping around poster tubes.


When the time came to mount the poster, I found that it was a little hard to smooth out every last wrinkle. We needed a few extra pins and I was glad to have a friend’s help. But all in all the fabric poster was a huge success. I had a great time at the meeting and now I can think about what sewing projects I want to do with it.