Below are some things to think about when you are creating your poster board, but keep in mind that none of these factors are wholly separate from one another. Each area is dependent on each other. Content influences design; design influences audience; audience influences content, and so forth.
Who are the people who will see your poster? Design and organize your content to fit your intended audience. If your audience is, say, fifth-grade students at a science fair, you would tailor a poster on the human genome differently than if you were presenting the information to professional geneticists who decode human DNA on a daily basis.
You might be tempted to paste pages out of your dissertation onto the poster, but even if you could find a board big enough to fit them all, it would not make for an effective poster presentation. Think about what your research is really about. Aim for detailed brevity. Extract the essentials: What have you learned and what knowledge would you like to impart to your audience in the brief time that you have their attention? What discoveries have you found fascinating, surprising, disturbing, strange? Did your findings confirm your hypotheses and assumptions, or did they blow them all out of the water?
Remember that a poster is a visual medium. That requires text, images, white space, and the placement and adjustments of the three. In designing your poster, prettiness is not the chief goal. The design goal is to help your audience understand your research. So make it interesting and easier for your viewers to digest by using high-quality graphics, including photographs, illustrations, charts, graphs, maps, and so on. Arrange the information in bullet points when appropriate. Put lists of statistics in tables. Highlight, bold, and/or italicize responsibly.
Do's and Don'ts
- Do keep titles brief. Overly long titles are usually forgettable and, alas, have the tendency to be boring even if your subject is anything but. Short, sweet, to-the-point titles are more likely to catch the attention of passer-byers.
- Do make your fonts big enough to read from a reasonable distance. The title will be the largest words on your poster and legible from across the room. The rest of your text should be relatively smaller, though people should be able to read them from at least five feet away.
- Speaking of fonts: Don’t use too many of them. It’s nice to use two or even three different ones for variety, but any more than that and your poster board risks looking "busy."
- Do put your name(s) and contact information on the poster, preferably near the title. You’ve done all this work, you should take credit for it! This also allows people to contact you later if they have any questions, comments, or praise. Include your full name, institutional affiliation (St. John’s University), and your email address (ideally one that you would not be ashamed to place on a poster viewed by your peers).
- Do incorporate “white space” on your poster, enough to give your viewers a visual breather, and to help your content look uncluttered.
- Do use colorful and relevant graphics! Make sure you use high-quality images (that you own/created personally or have permission to print) because grainy, low-quality images will detract from your otherwise splendid poster.