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Poster Design

Getting started

Once you have finished the initial design of your poster, it's time to edit!

The first and perhaps most impactful thing you can do is find friends, family members, and colleagues to review your poster. After hours of working on your poster a fresh pair of eyes can give you a new perspective and find errors that you may have missed. Experts in your field can review for content, and anybody can review for design! In fact, it may be helpful for someone who isn't familiar with your subject matter take a look at your poster from a design perspective.

Printing out a draft of your poster is recommended when possible. You'll get a feel for it that you and your editors don't have when it's on your computer, and it will help you catch mistakes that you can't see on a smaller screen.

While you and your editors are reviewing, here are some general things to watch out for, but remember, your intuition on what works for you can go a long way!

Spelling and Grammar

Groundbreaking research is meaningless if it can't be read or understood clearly, and nothing can muddle a poster more than simple spelling and grammar errors. Not to worry, however, because these are the easiest things to fix! Here are a few tips to make sure your poster is free of any embarrassing tpyos typos.

  • Read every sentence out loud, and make sure it explains your information exactly like you want it to. When you're done, read it to someone not familiar with the project, and make sure it makes sense to them too!
  • Look at every word in isolation, especially big or unusual words that your computer's spell checking software may not have found, and make sure it's spelled right! When you're reading whole sentences your brain sometimes doesn't notice small errors, so it helps to find words individually.
  • Show your work to someone outside of your field who isn't familiar with your research. Remember, they may not know the implications of your research or have the background knowledge to understand it, but it should be syntactically clear to anybody who reads it.

No matter your level of education or experience, simple mistakes happen to everyone, but careful editing can help avoid them and stop them from being on your poster come presentation.

Readability

It's extremely important that your poster is easy to read when you're presenting it, so here are a few key things to look for.

  • Most importantly, hang your poster up and look at it from the distance you'll be presenting it! Is the text large enough to read? Do the colors obscure the information? Can everything be understood without standing immediately adjacent to the poster?
  • Check to see that your images and graphs are at a sufficient quality. When images are printed large they can loose quality and become grainy or pixilated. This can be solved with higher resolution or smaller images. This is an especially common problem with logos, if you cannot find a good quality logo, contact your institution. They'll often have a high quality logo, and its use will benefit all parties involved.
  • Make sure lines within tables and graphs are easy to see and interpret.

Consistency

One of the most important things you can ensure is that your poster is internally consistent. Inconsistencies distract the viewer and take away from your material. Here are some tips.

  • If the site you're presenting at has a style guide, use it! Otherwise, create your own personal style guide, and stick to it! Keep a record of what you're using, like colors, fonts, font sizes, heading styles, box types, and more!
  • Ensure that all of your text is the same size font. It's okay to have different sizes for your title, headings, and text; but make sure they're the same throughout! If you can't tell if your font is the same size, grab a ruler or check your poster. Furthermore, make sure you're consistent with your use of bold, italics, underlining, and other styling. These formatting tools work best when sparsely used, and a standard should be set for what they indicate.
  • Make sure references and footnotesare clear to your reader, and consistent in the styling.
  • Check to see if your tables and charts are presented in a similar way. It is important to make sure that data is presented in the same way not just to make it look better, but also to allow viewers the opportunity to understand and compare it better. Charts should be designed in the same program to try to make them look similar.

 

1As an aside, it should be noted that footnotes can distract the reader, and should be used sparingly in a poster setting

Spacing

When things are your poster--whether that be headings, images, text, or figures--aren't aligned correctly, it will stand out to your audience and draw their attention away from your content. We humans like patterns and things being even, and your viewers may notice that something just isn't quite right if you have poor alignment, even if they don't know exactly why. Here are a few things to check when you're checking the alignment on your poster.

  • First, grab a ruler! Make sure that your headings are equidistance from either edge of the poster. Move down your poster, checking the margins are consistent all the way around, and that no text or images go into the margin. This disrupts the symmetry of your poster and draws the eye away from the content.
  • Next, make sure everything on your poster is even and justified correctly. Space between your columns should be the same width and gaps between content should be straight.
  • If possible, try to ensure that your columns are the same width. If they're not, make sure that differences in widths are purposeful and meaningful.
  • Make sure all images and text are straight, not tilted or otherwise poorly placed.

Accessibility

Good design means good design for everybody. Accessibility is crucial to making sure everybody can understand and be impacted by your research. Here are a few quick tips to make sure your poster is accessible.

  • Don't make color the only way to understand your information. Colors add a lot to design, but for people who have difficulty seeing them it can undermine the value of a poster. For instance, instead of coloring all of the lines on a chart, trying using a mixture of lines, dashed lines, circles, and other markers that can be interpreted without color alone.
  • Make sure that contrast is high on your poster. A light gray font on white is difficult for many people to see.
  • Break up content and use design that doesn't simply throw walls of text at people. This will make your poster dynamic and exciting for all viewers, and help those with certain disabilities.