Academic posters

1 Research posters & poster sessions

  • Most conferences have poster sessions
    • “Choice” of talk vs. poster depends on: type of project, size of conference, your comfort level in different situations, goals of presenting the project
  • Usually, you stand beside your poster to explain & tell the story (see here)
  • Research posters: summarize research concisely and attractively
    • Aims: Highlight your research; Generate discussion; Get feedback; Network
    • Posters facilitate one-on-one conversations!
  • Twitter poll: What’s the average time you WANT to spend talking to a presenter at a conference poster?

Source: Faulkes (2021); Figure 4.8; Faulkes 2019
  • Q: Should our poster be understandable without explanation?

2 Questions for starters

  • What is/are my research question(s)?
  • What is the most important/interesting/astounding finding from my research project?
  • How can I visually share my research with conference attendees? Should I use charts, graphs, photos, images?
  • What kind of information can I convey during my talk/conversations that will complement my poster?

3 Exercise: What do you like/dislike?

  • Please discuss with your neighbor: What do you like/dislike about the posters?
  • More examples in Faulkes (2021) for inspiration
    • Fig. 1.2/p. 4; Fig. 4.5/p. 31; Fig. 6.1/p. 57; Fig. 7.6/p. 70; Fig. 7.11/p. 77; Fig. 7.12/7.13/p. 78
  • Trust poster
    • Bad: Too much text; No explicit research questions;
  • Polarization poster
    • Bad: Not enough text?; Does not work without author’s explanation; Graphs too complex?; Structure not clear;
    • Paper:

4 What makes a good poster?

  • Important information should be readable from about 10 feet away
  • Title is short and draws interest
  • Word count: 300 to 800 words
  • Text is clear and to the point
  • Use of bullets, numbering, and headlines facilitate reading
  • Effective use of graphics, color and fonts
  • Consistent and clean layout
  • Includes acknowledgments, your name and institutional affiliation
  • Follow classic structure: Intro/puzzle/research question, theory, methods, results, conclusion (familiarity!)
  • Best poster awards: Google image search (e.g., see here)

5 Basic design choices

  • Format: Usually A0, wide or long (84cm x 118cm)1
    • Set size from the start in your software, e.g., in PowerPoint (Slide size/Foliengröße; cf. Faulkes (2021), Fig. 5.3/p. 50)
  • Color: Generally stick to dark colors (Q: Which colors should we avoid?)
  • Font family: Stick to plain fonts (avoid Comic Sans), not more than 2-3 fonts
  • Font size and style: See next slide
  • Spacing: Leave breathing room around your text (less is more)
    • Gives clear distinction between sections of your poster
  • Alignment: Use left-alignment on text to prevent awkward spacing and stretching of font

6 Text and type

  • Use readable font (1 point/pt is equal to 1/72 of an inch)
    • Title: ~80pt
    • Author: ~40pt
    • Section titles: ~60pt
    • Text: ~36pt
  • Typefaces can be used to create distinctive look
  • Sans serif fonts generally perform well on posters
  • Setting text too close together is a common error

Source: KCU - Creating Scientific Posters: Design Tips;

7 Graphs & images

  • Posters = visual medium → graphics provide fastest, best way to inform viewers
  • Posters = large format → make sure images are not distorted or pixelated
  • Take your own photos/graphs when possible (and respect copyright/licensing)
  • Font within graph should have minimum font size
  • Ideally 150-300dpi resolution (Test: Big display or zoom in)
    • Set other aspects in ggplot (e.g., width, height, font size, captions etc.)
  • General rules for good (data) visualization apply!

8 Data & color

  • Presenting data
    • Simple/common graphs often better than more nuanced but uncommon graphs
    • Tables are bad (if possible do not use them!)
    • Flowcharts are an underused way of showing processes
    • Anything can be an infographic (e.g., data collection, measures, hypotheses, etc.)
  • Colors
    • Color = accessibility issue (pick color-blind friendly colors)
    • Powerful but easy to misuse (try out different schemes, ColorBrewer!)
      • Make sure colors reflect scale type (nominal/qualitative = distinct colors)
      • Possible to exclude white for sequential colors
    • Make sure connected elements/categories are consistently colored (e.g., highly educated)
    • Printed ink colors can look differently from screen colors
  • Beyond paper: Poster not limited to paper; online resources, video may provide interactivity

9 Layout, grids, background and title

  • Layout
    • Top of poster is more valuable space than bottom
    • People expect consistent path from top left of to bottom right
  • Grids
    • Make grid, then line up edge of every element on poster to at least one other element
    • White space is not wasted space (organizes your content!)
    • Boxes usually look desperate rather than organized (but..)
  • Background: Busy background (e.g., photograph) obscures content
  • Title bars
    • Title most important part of poster (all that most people will ever read!)
    • People care less about other information usually stuck in title bars (author etc.)
    • Institutional logo less interesting than you think it is
  • Ideally: Visit a poster session around you!
  • More discussion by Faulkes: Blocks of text; Sections; Images and graphics; Fine-tuning; Before you print; Printing; Travel; Networking and presentation; After the conference

10 Software for posters


Faulkes, Zen. 2021. Better Posters: Plan, Design and Present an Academic Poster. Pelagic Publishing Ltd.


  1. 841 mm x 1189 mm, 84.1 cm x 118.9 cm or 33.1 inches x 46.8 inches.↩︎