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Planning and designing a poster


Start planning the content for your poster early. Give thought to how you will translate the content from a written paper or report to a poster format. This means keeping in mind space and layout limitations, elements that add visual interest (images, charts, graphs, illustrations, etc..), headings and titles. Consider your key message and the audience to which you will be presenting. A good rule of thumb is to aim for no more than 1000-1100 words on your poster. You may use PowerPoint, Pages, InDesign or another software to create your poster. Templates and logos are available for download before creating your poster. Your department may have a template for poster presentations for your discipline, so check with your advisor before creating your own poster.

Design Elements

Be aware of several general guidelines for design elements when creating your poster:

  1. Backgrounds: Be careful with full color, textured or (especially) image backgrounds. You can use them, but they will take longer to print, require careful selection of font size, style and color; and will often require you to add a background color to text boxes or image frames.
  2. Fonts: A good general guideline for font choices is to use common fonts. Helvetica, Times, Arial, Verdana and Georgia are all common fonts for printing. Avoid overly decorative fonts that my be more difficult to read.
  3. Font Size: A general guideline for font sizes is 98 point for the Title, 48 point for headings and 24 point for the body text. You can obviously vary from this somewhat, but anything smaller than 18 points may be difficult to read from a few feet away for many people. Keep the setting in which you will be presenting your poster in mind when determining these sizes. Also keep in mind that if you are forced to increase your font size that you may need to cut text or change your layout to accommodate larger characters. 
  4. Blank Space: Remember to leave proper spacing between elements of your poster. If text boxes and images are cramped on the page, it makes the poster more difficult to read.
  5. Images: Posters are a visual medium, and for that reason images can add significant interest to your design. The images could be graphs, charts, photographs, illustrations or other visual materials that relate to your topic.
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