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Creating a Conference Poster

Getting Ideas

When thinking about how to structure your poster (as well as choosing colors, fonts, etc.), it is helpful to look at what others have done.  Here are a few places you can go to view posters: poster layout sketch

Please note that these posters aren't necessarily designed with the suggestions provided in this guide.  

Three Components of Every Poster

Posters are made up of three components: text, graphics, and white space.  While content is king, the balance between the three components is vital to attracting attendees to your poster.  For instance, if you have too much text, some attendees will skip the poster all together because they won't want to invest time in reading everything.  Some recommend splitting the surface area of your poster equally between the three components. More commonly, people agree that white space is often the most lacking on posters.

White space refers to the margins around the edge of the poster, between content blocks, and between the edge of content blocks and the content itself.  Here are some tips to help incorporate white space into your poster:

  • Include a two inch border around the edge of your entire poster
  • Include a one inch border between each content block
  • Include a one inch border between the border of the content block and the content itself
  • When mounting on a poster board, include a one inch border between the gutter (crease in the poster board) and the content boxes on each side of the gutter

This will be demonstrated in the next section "Develop the layout"

Taking advantage of human reading patterns

When structuring your poster, you should first consider how humans read.  For instance how do you read this text:

Reading the left column first, we read the first line left to right and then move down to the next line.  At the end of the column we move back to the top of the second column.  Why is this important for poster design:

  • Instead of being one long block of text, studies have found that using columns improves reading speed.  This is also true on posters, where displaying content in columns is easier to read than in one large block.  Columns also permit multiple attendees to read your poster more easily at the same time.
  • When choosing what to read first on a poster, we naturally read the upper left column first and work our way down the column and then go back to the top of the next column to the right.  It is only logical that the natural flow of your poster sections should utilize this pattern with the introduction appearing at the top left and the conclusion at the lower right.

Additionally, you should consider the balance of your poster.  For example, a three column poster where two columns are completely filled with text and graphics, while the third column is half empty doesn't look appealing.  Some attendees might wonder if the poster creator ran out of time or just doesn't care about the quality of their work.