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. 



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