Clear design starts with clear thinking. Before you begin shuffling charts, graphs and photos,
ask yourself this question:
If the viewer only carries away one idea, what do I want it to be?
Now write down your answer. This is the theme of your poster, the focal point. Everything you
include on your poster should support that theme.
Keep your poster simple and visually uncluttered. Someone standing three feet away should quickly
understand what each component is and why it is there. On a poster, columns are easier for the eye to follow than information
laid out left to right.
Let's start with the basic basics:
• Each poster should have a title.
Any text used on the poster should be created on a computer to guarantee the type is clear, clean and easily read.
• Background materials and graphics
should have straight edges and even margins. Use a ruler and razor knife to cut out charts, graphics, photos and text.
• Connect the text to the graphic
elements. If a paragraph refers to a diagram off to the side somewhere, say so. For example, "Wind blows over ocean, generates
waves (Fig. 1)."
• Viewers can't read small type
from a distance. Use 24-point type or larger. (Captions for charts, photos and other graphics can be set in 18-point fonts.)
• Variety is important. Think about
your information. Can you explain something better in a chart? Would bullets make your point more effectively than a solid
paragraph? What about photographs? Edit your copy ruthlessly.
As you jot down the elements you want to include on your poster, group together key or related
information. Think about ways to convey ideas as a unit.
Graphic designers create unity through the use of white space, type and color.
space is the area of your poster not covered with
text or graphics. White space provides a frame for your material and makes the other components stand out. Too much white
space and your viewer's eye will wander. Too little and the result is confusion.
§ Limit yourself to three text fonts. You might want to use one font
for the title, another for the text and a third for any captions. Another solution would be to use a single font, but vary
the way you apply it. For example, choose a text in 72-point bold for the title, 24-point normal for the text and 18-point
italics for any captions.
should be used for emphasis, but be aware of the connotations
that certain colours and colour combinations carry. In most cases, the background of your poster should be a solid colour
rather than a pattern. Combinations of colour can group sections of information together to make easier reading.
A Quick Poster
• What is the theme of my poster?
Do all the items included in my poster support that theme?
• Does my poster have a title?
Does the title accurately reflect my work? Is the title easy to read from
five feet away?
§ Too many graphics without explanation can create the same confusion
as too many text blocks without graphics.
my poster have a conclusion? Does it flow logically and naturally from my introduction? Are there any missing steps?
• Are all my lines straight and
my margins even? Are the photographs in focus and tightly cropped? Is anything smudged or dirty? Neatness counts.
• Are my sentences properly punctuated
and all the words spelled correctly? When in doubt, look it up. That advice applies to names, too.
• Do I have a good balance of text
and graphics? Are they evenly distributed around the poster or are they all clustered on one side?
• Is my arrangement simple and
uncrowded? Look at each element. Does any item duplicate other material? If so, take it out. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
• Is my information arranged in
columns? If not, are my sections numbered so that the viewers won't be confused? Stand back. Does my eye flow naturally from
one point to the next? If not, why?
• Can I read the introduction and
the other paragraphs from at least three feet away? A 24-point type font is ideal for this purpose.
§ Does my background overpower my writing? Pictures as background
are only excellent so long as the writing is legible ie can be easily read.
• What can I do differently next
time? Take notes on the feedback (e.g. things that were difficult to explain and need more clarifying, other experiments that
need to be done, etc). Each presentation builds on the one before it!