When designing a research poster, there are two incredibly important things to think about before you start putting together your poster: your audience and your message.
- Audience: Your audience is who's going to be reading your poster. Will your poster be presented at a poster competition hosted by an academic department, or at a poster session that's part of a conference in your discipline?
- Message: Your message is the information you want to share — in other words, your research. What interesting information do you want to share with with your audience? Are you talking about the migration habits of birds? Discussing the use of color to convey mood in artwork?
Being aware of both your audience and your message will help you determine the tone of your poster. Will it be more serious, or more relaxed? Formal or informal? Knowing the audience and message will help you with design decisions, including how to lay out your poster, what colors and fonts you choose, and even the writing style for your poster.
There are four areas of poster design you'll want to be aware of when laying out the content for your poster. These are based on design principles used to make engaging publications. The following video explores how to get people to focus on your poster, how to organize the content, making sure to exercise restraint as you design, and paying attention to detail when creating a poster.
Description of the video:
Hi, I'm Beth.
And in this video, I’m going to talk about some of the fundamental principles of design, and how they can help you make an effective research poster.
First off, you might be wondering: what are the principles of design?
Well, there are eight of them, pulled from two books on design – Roger C Parker’s Looking Good in Print, and Robin Williams’ The Non Designer’s Design Book.
These eight principles will help you design effectively – they’re the principles of contrast, repetition, alignment, proximity, direction, proportion, restraint, and detail.
Why do we want to make use these principles in a research poster, though?
Well, if we work these principles into our poster design, they’ll help us make a well-organized and visually attractive research poster.
The rest of this video will go into detail about the different principles that can help you design an effective research poster – these principles will be broken up into four groups: focus, organization, exercising restraint, and paying attention to detail.
The first group of principles we’ll look at fall under focus – this involves getting the reader’s attention and keeping it on your poster.
You want people to read about your research, and that means making your poster catch your reader’s eye.
We can use the principles of contrast and proportion to get our readers’ attention and get them interested in our poster.
Contrast and proportion go hand-in-hand.
Contrast means making your poster elements stand out visually – with color, maybe a different font, or other styling.
Proportion means using size to help emphasize importance.
The more important an item is, the bigger it should be in relation to the other elements on your page.
One place we can use contrast and proportion together is with the poster’s text – we can use different sizes for different text elements.
For example, you’ll want to make your titles and headings stand out so they catch people’s eyes and give them an idea of what your poster is about.
Once you’ve got your reader’s attention with the title and headings, they’ll read through the rest of your poster’s text.
If we have images that relay important information, you can make them larger than the others on the poster to help them stand out – that’s another use of contrast and proportion to help get a viewer’s attention.
We can even add color to text to help get a reader’s attention – color adds some contrast and will help it stand out from its surroundings, which will catch your reader’s eye.
Adding color to headings, for example, really helps them stand out.
Next, let’s think about organization.
You want to be conscious of how information is laid out on your page, to make sure your information makes sense to your readers.
Organization involves the principles of direction and proximity, to make sure we’re leading our readers through the page in a way that makes sense and making sure we’re grouping our related items together.
As you’re laying out content for your poster, make sure you’re leading your readers through the poster in a way that makes sense.
Our eyes are drawn towards visually interesting items on a page, and we can use these items as stepping stones to lead your reader around the poster in a specific direction.
These visual stepping stones can be arranged in different ways to draw the eye through a page – common shapes for laying out page elements involve the C shape, Z shape, and I shape.
While you’re putting together your page and laying out these stepping stones, you want to be conscious of where you put things and make sure you’re keeping your related items in close proximity to each other.
For example, if you’re including graphs that illustrate results for a study, you’ll want to keep them near the text that describes those results.
If you put them near another section, viewers might get confused about what they’re looking at and how it relates to the text.
Let’s talk about exercising restraint next.
This is a really important principle to keep in mind when creating a poster.
There are so many different colors, fonts, visual effects, and images that we could incorporate into a poster…but if a poster is too busy, it might overwhelm your readers and discourage them from reading about the research you’re trying to present.
I’ve got some suggestions that’ll help you exercise restraint as you lay out your poster.
First, you’ll want to limit your color choices to two, maybe three at the maximum.
You can use these colors in a number of different places – headings, borders for images, maybe as a background color for a text box.
You’ll also want to limit the amount of different fonts you use – stick to two different fonts, one for the headings and one for the body text.
I’ll talk a little more about what types of fonts to use where in the next section of the video.
Last, but definitely not least, attention to detail is important, as it shows you’ve put in the extra effort to make sure you’ve got a polished and professional-looking poster.
There are three areas to pay attention to detail in – text, images, and alignment of your page elements.
When it comes to text details, this means being thoughtful about your font choices and making sure your poster’s text is error-free.
With font choices, as I mentioned previously, you’ll want to stick with two different fonts for your poster – one serif, and one sans-serif.
Sans-serif should be used for your poster titles and headings, while serif should be used for body text.
Serif fonts will help make your body text easier to read, and using sans-serif fonts for headings will help add some contrast to your poster.
While we’re on the topic of text, make sure you proofread and spell-check your poster’s text to make sure there aren’t any errors.
This is essential to making sure your poster have a professional and polished feel.
Images are the next detail you should focus on – make sure they look their best by ensuring they’re ready for print before you put them in your poster.
Images used in a poster should have a resolution of 150 dpi or higher.
If your pictures don’t have a high enough resolution they’ll come out looking grainy or blurry when they're printed.
Finally, you want to make sure all the elements on your page are neatly aligned.
Misaligned page elements look sloppy, and will make your poster look unprofessional.
Use the grid function in your page layout program of choice to help you keep all of your poster elements neatly lined up.
Now that we’ve explored the page layout principles that will help you make an effective poster, you can get started making your research poster!
So long as you remember the following, you’ll be able to make a fantastic looking poster: Get your reader to focus on your page; Make sure your content is organized well; Exercise restraint when building your poster; And don’t forget to pay attention to detail when working on your poster.
Thanks for watching – I hope this information helps you make some amazing research posters!
Now that you've got an idea of the design principles that can help you create an effective research poster, you'll want to think about other poster-specific design considerations, specifically the poster's size and how it'll be displayed.
The size of your poster influences how much content you can include on the page, how large the items on your page will be, and how many images/graphics you can include. Knowing the poster size ahead of time will also help you determine where you can print your poster. Different poster printers have different maximum dimensions for printing, which is something you'll want to be aware of before you start designing your poster. Most conferences and poster competitions will indicate recommended sizes for posters.
Being aware of how your poster will be displayed ties in with the size of the poster. Conferences and poster competitions will typically indicate how posters will be displayed at the poster session along with the recommended poster size. (Posters are commonly displayed by being hung on a wall or attached to a display board.) If the conference or poster competition mentioned the display method but not the recommended size, here are some measurements that will help you get started in the design process:
- Wall display: 36 in x 48 in
- Display board sizes:
- Foam core board: 18 x 24 in, 20 x 30 in, 24 x 36 in, and 30 x 40 in
- Cardboard trifold board: 36 in x 48 in
One of the most important things to be aware of when designing a research poster is making sure your poster can be read from a distance. You'll want to ensure all the elements on your poster are large enough to be seen from a distance of 4-6 feet, at the very least. One effective way to check to see if your poster can be read from a distance is to print out a copy of the poster on an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper and examine the results. If you can still read the content when printed at that size, your poster will be able to be read from a distance.
Now that you're aware of design principles that will help you create an effective poster, and are aware of some design considerations you'll want to keep in mind as you design, it's time to get started with assembling your poster's content.