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Effective poster design basics

by | Mar 21, 2019 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Posters are used as a type of marketing tool to communicate with customers. But in this blog post, the prime focus is on the academic posters. Poster presentation is quite different from oral presentation. Posters are used to effectively communicate with audiences or visitors without the help of presenters. For further explanation or asking a corollary question, a visitor might approach to the presenter. Poster presentation takes place generally in a conference, college symposium, and an exhibition or expo. Designing an effective poster is a work of art to reach potential audiences. To put it in simpler terms, a poster is an advertisement of a larger research or a project. An effective design of a poster should encompass all the key details of the project in an enticing or visually appealing way. As the poster is more of a visual expression of a research story-telling, the chronological organization of the content using texts, images and graphs should be taken seriously. There’s no perfect template for a poster design but it is advisable to follow conference poster design guidelines and design accordingly. The layout for a poster design could vary based on where the poster is presented, discipline, audience age, audience area of interest or expertise. Above all, the overall look of the poster should be aesthetically pleasing to the people passing by.

Poster Design


Tips to design a poster

Layout Design:

Layout design is the first step towards crafting a beautiful poster. The W x L size (make sure to use the right unit, i.e. cm or inch) should be first checked with the poster guidelines for the specific conference. Once this part is figured out, a specific layout style is to be selected such as three column design or two column design etc. This layout style should be picked based on the poster overall structure and how many images or charts to include or how the text arrangement (based on text font and numbering or bullets) will be handled. To bring a logical flow from top to bottom and left to right, subheadings should be chronologically adjusted. The last part in the layout design is to consider the color of the poster background. Although the price of the poster depends on the quality of the paper you use (laminated or fabric or others), background color choice also changes the price from different printing stations.

Poster design software:

There are so many software and online tools that exist to design a poster but here are listed some common ones used by many students.

1. Microsoft PowerPoint


2. Adobe (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Spark) 


3. CorelDRAW []

4. LaTeX []

Poster design online:

1. Venngage

2. Piktochart

3. Canva

4. Fotor

5. Crello

6. Postermywall

and more.

Points to consider for overall poster look and quality:

1. Font size for title, subheading and main body should be properly specified or maintained as per the poster guidelines. In case those size details are not mentioned, 32 pt. for title and 24 pt. for main body should be followed (some conference prefers to have the title size at least 85pt). The size for subheading could fall anywhere in between 24 and 32 pt. These numbers vary a lot from conference to conference. In some cases, lettering specification is provided as 1″ (2.5 cm) high. These details help in calculating maximum viewable distance, and distance for easy readability. Poster guidelines sometimes come with a minimum readable distance i.e. 3′ (91.4 cm).

2. Based on the main body text size, image and graph size should be planned. A number of conferences specify the image quality and format to be used but in general, one can use a resolution of 200 dpi or higher.

3. Based on the background color, text and image color should be chosen with a better contrast. Sometimes, a different border color also helps in bringing contrast. It’s always better to have less number of colors used in a poster. Because the use of a lot of colors could make the poster look bad.

4. Abstract vs. introduction: This is still confusing and there is no clear answer established that if an abstract is needed for a poster or not. If there is an abstract in a poster, an introduction is really needed or not. It’s better to look for the guidelines for poster design and if there is nothing specified on this, anyone or both the subheadings could be used. But any redundant sentences or statements should be avoided.

5. Writing guide: Try to be more visual than verbal and don’t emphasis on full sentence formation. Configure your sentences in short and in bullet points or in numbers. Don’t keep on changing font styles throughout the poster. A maximum of two font styles should be used to differentiate subheading and main body text. The title could be of any of the styles used in subheading or main text. In general, Times New Roman and sans-serif fonts are advised to use for posters. Always, a double spacing is preferred for easy reading but 1.5 spacing is also okay. To use bold, italic or underline style, a transparent box with visible borders are recommended. These styles could also be adopted to emphasize any part of the text but it’s not generally recommended. There should not be any use of capital letters to impart a good gesture of the overall poster.

6. White space management: This is not a mandatory poster design guidelines but poor management of white space in a poster design could make differences in the overall poster look. A rule of thumb of 15 – 35% white space should always be maintained for smoothing appeal.