Putting It All Together
After you've determined audience, purpose, and the total amount of space you'll have to present your ideas, it's time to think about putting the poster together. Although some professionals have hardware and software that allows them to create, print, and enlarge the poster on a single large sheet of paper, relatively few people have access to such equipment. Most often, posters are assembled from several sheets of standard printer paper, with each sheet (or two) including the information for a particular section of the poster. (Always use the highest quality laser printer to get sharp images on the pages.) Then you need to consider how to arrange the pages on and attach the pages to the poster.
How you post information greatly affects your audience's comprehension and, ultimately, their interest in your work. A poster that includes only text in a small font will not attract viewers from far away or close up. But a poster that uses large headings to announce topics, that includes graphics and text, that uses color and white space wisely will attract viewers.
Font Sizes and Lettering
Because your audience will be standing from four to eight feet away from your poster, you must make your text readable from a distance. Use at least a 36 point font for your text, and at least a 48 point font for the title. Your font style should be legible also. Avoid using italicized or fancy scripts. Highlighting with colors or underlining important information is acceptable, but make sure your font style is consistent over the entire poster. Don't use more than one style!
Avoid using all capital letters except for the title. The emphasis of capital letters helps titles stand out, but in general all caps take longer to read than mixed upper- and lower-case letters.
Finally, always use a laser printer to produce professional-looking sheets. Handwritten posters appear sloppy and imply that you didn't put much effort into preparing your poster.
Colors and White Space
Colors can help liven up your poster. Some experts recommend you use only one color plus black, while others suggest you choose several colors. When using more than one color, consider the overall impression your poster makes. Since dark-colored objects generally draw the eye to a specific area, consider when and why you might need to do this. You also might consider using warm colors, such as red, orange, and yellow since these are typically more inviting.
As you plan your poster, be sure to leave ample white space. This makes your poster appear less cluttered, and helps you distribute information proportionally.
Clark Harris, Gary Maricle, and Bob Birkenholz offer this advice for using color in posters:
"When mounting text, graphs, figures, or pictures, care should be taken to use contrasting colors to 'show off' the information. White paper on white background will cause a 'white out' effect and the text may be lost in the background. A good rule of thumb is to always mount light items on darker, contrasting colors and mount darker items on white or light-colored paper. Leave a border from Â¼ inch to 1 inch around any artwork or text. . . . Be sure to blend colors so they do not clash."
Harris, C., Maricle, G.L., & Birkenholz, B. (1990). "Poster Presentation: The Key to Communication of Ideas." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Agricultural Education/American Vocational Association (Cincinnati, OH, December 6, 1990). ED333491
General Layout Guidelines
Always check with the poster session organizers about layout and format. Sometimes the sponsors will set a format to ensure consistency among all posters at the session. If you don't have to conform to a set format, then consider how you can best communicate your points with the clearest arrangement of poster chunks.
Moreover, to make a good impression, your poster must be attractive and informative. To help you accomplish this, consider the following:
- Provide a title and your name in larger text. This helps your audience determine whether or not they are interested in your research.
- Remember that viewers will typically expect information to flow from left to right and from top to bottom. If you want to use a different flow, be sure to give explicit signals on your poster.
- Use headings and subheadings to label your information. Keep these short and to the point since they function as an index.
- Use the same size margins on both graphics and text.
- Don't use glossy paper because reflections will make your content more difficult to read.
Before buying any supplies, check the conference guidelines to know what specific materials to use. If the guidelines don't specify a particular size and type of posterboard, consider using a foam board. This type of poster stands easily and if you need more than one panel, you can create a velcro hinge to make the panels stand together. Posterboard is easier to attach pages to, however, so make your final decision based on ease of transportation and assembly. Remember, too, that if you are traveling, many of these supplies can be purchased at the conference for assembly on site.
- Some foam boards have sticky surfaces to make posting your research easy. However, you can also use double-faced tape on foam or posterboard and achieve the same result.
- Rubber cement is not as good as double-faced tape or dry mounting tissue because it will cause your postings to wrinkle. Your poster won't look professional if your information is not posted perfectly.
Dry Mounting Tissue
- Dry mounting tissue is the best way to post your research on the poster. Usually, you can get this from a bookstore or a photo shop. If you can't get to a photo shop to use a dry mounting press, use an iron. First, cut a piece of dry mounting tissue a little smaller than the size of your paper or graphic. Place the tissue between the poster and the text or graphic. Then, place a nylon windbreaker over them. With the iron on the lowest setting, iron the windbreaker. Be sure that none of the dry mounting tissue sticks out because you don't want to iron the windbreaker to the poster!
- Using a glue stick is another good way to post your research. However, if you are traveling, be sure the stick doesn't dry out before you need to use it. Traveling conditions may have a negative affect on a glue stick!