This is a post dealing with some simple tips to keep in mind when making academic posters. I have gotten into the habit of not posting very regularly over my fellowship this summer, but I will get back into the rhythm of approximately one post a week 😉 So I decided to give you a quick post with some tips on academic posters here. There will be follow ups on how to make them either using GoogleSlides (if you’re really stressed and can’t learn LaTeX first) and another version where I explain how to create a poster in LaTeX using an Overleaf template for complete beginners.
So, without further ado. How to get a nice poster without a lot of skills and little effort:
- Have a color scheme. Probably best start with your project colours (from the logo, project website) if you have some. This ensures you have some sort of brand identity and your project is recognized more easily. Also it makes sure you don’t go for a Word-like look (that is posters in black and white which look like Word documents). This would be really boring and you want your poster to be noticed. To find out which colours can be combined with your base colour, use HTML Colour Codes (Take it for a spin > play around with the colour combination dropdown menu).
- Use a nice non-standard font. Using a font not everybody uses makes you get noticed and might make for a nice unexpected visual effect. Don’t use Comic Sans, however. Even though it probably will make you get noticed too…
- Make good use of logos and images. Place them in a nice way to make an effect. Use images sparingly or they won’t make an impression. Simplicity is key.
- In case of doubt, reduce and simplify. If it doesn’t look good or seems chaotic, delete something to make it more concise.
- Play with font effects (sparingly). Apart from having a nice font, consider alternating serif and sans serif for the heading and subheadings (for example). But don’t overdo it with such effects. Use in moderation only. Simple does the trick. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Sometimes italics look really sleek. Make well-selected use of italics or other such effects. Use a coloured background for a text item to make it pop. If you have a short heading or important keyword, try making it extremely big (like more than two times bigger as the rest of the heading, or let it take up 1/3 of the whole poster). This is really bold, but it can look like a really cool statement in some cases. Also it can be used to conform with the next tip:
- Overview first, zoom and filter, detail on demand. From far away, a reader should get the overview. The closer you get, you see more detail. Having extremely, even disproportionately big headings can serve such an effect.
- Try to express something with an icon rather than text to be more visual. However, be aware that not all topics visualize well. Don’t be too frustrated if yours doesn’t. But try anyway.
- Be aware that colour might come out differently than planned in print. Many printer don’t do colour control, your screen might also show the colours differently. Try viewing the PDF on your phone or something to at least try and avoid the biggest shocks. Still don’t be shocked if it doesn’t come out quite as nice as you thought it would. It hardly ever does come out nicer than you thought.
- If the poster still reads well if you print it out on a normal paper size, the font sizes are right. Only because your poster is A0 doesn’t actually mean you should put on much more text than you could fit on an A4 paper. Also this allows you to print out “mini-posters” or leaflets to hand out for people to take home.
- Pro tip (just to state this AGAIN): Only because you can put on much more text than you could on an A4 paper doesn’t mean you should. Bonus: Print it out a few times in A4 or A5 if possible as handouts.
- Make the poster accessible digitally, so it’s not “dead” after the conference.
Some tips from the Methodos blog are: Don’t let the advice “Don’t add too much text” bother you too much. Your topic might not visualize well. As long as it’s still readable when printed out on A4, you are good. He also says to use questions as headings as easy multiple points of entrance. Nobody will read your whole poster. Get over it. Prepare for it.
The goal is to increase the visibility for your brand identity. This means you should get a clear picture of brand identity across. And it means you should think about having something like brand identity in the first place (Remember the tips about logos and, possibly, colour schemes?).
Hope this helps.
So long and thanks for all the fish!
The Ninja (returned from the dead. Or Wolfenbüttel. Or both 😉 )
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