Unformatted text preview: Design of Scientific Posters 11/8/08 6:32 PM Design of Scientific Posters
Sample Poster 1
Sample Poster 2
Sample Poster 3
Sample Poster 4
North Carolina State
PowerPoint (44 x 36 in.)
PowerPoint (40 x 32 in.)
PowerPoint (32 x 40 in.) Posters are a special type of presentation. When well designed, they are
not simply journal papers pasted onto boards. Nor are they mounted sets of
presentation visuals. Rather, posters, when effectively designed, are
something in between. This web page discusses the special situation that a
scientist or engineer faces when designing a poster and then suggests some
guidelines to address that situation.
The purpose of scientific posters is to present work to an audience who is
walking through a hallway or exhibit. In poster presentations at
conferences, the presenter usually stands next to the poster, thus allowing
for passers - by to engage in one - on- one discussions with the presenter. In
other situations such as the hallways of laboratories, universities, and
corporations, posters are stand- alone presentations for passers - by. For a
poster to communicate the work, the poster first has to orient an audience
that is not seated, but that is standing. Often the audience has distractions
of noise and movement from other people. Given those distractions, a
journal article tacked onto a board fails as an effective poster because the
audience cannot concentrate for a time long enough to read through the
paper. In fact, given the distractions that the audience faces, many in the
audience will not even bother trying to read a journal article tacked onto a
board. So what then makes for an effective poster ? This
question is not easy to address because the
expectations by the audience vary significantly from
discipline to discipline. For instance, what an
audience of a medical poster session expects differs
significantly from what the audience of an engineering
poster session expects. Nonetheless, this web- page
tries to present some general guidelines that would
apply to most situations in science and engineering.
First, the title of an effective poster should quickly
orient the audience. Here are some guidelines for
1. Make the title the most prominent block of text on
the poster (either center or left justify at the top).
2. Do not typeset the title in all capital letters (such
text is difficult to read).
3. Use small words such as of, from, with, to, the, a,
http://writing.engr.psu.edu/posters.html Figure 1. Learning Factory Showcase at Penn State [Lamancusa et al.,
2006]. Page 1 of 3 Design of Scientific Posters 11/8/08 6:32 PM an, and and to separate details in the title.
While phrase titles are most common, some scientists
and engineers effectively use sentence titles for
posters that present one main result. In such titles,
state the result in the title and capitalize the words as
you would in a sentence. Because the sentence title is
a stand- alone, as opposed to being part of a paragraph,
the period is generally dropped.
Second, the poster should quickly orient the
audience to the subject and purpose. One good test
is whether the audience recognizes the subject and
purpose within 20 seconds of seeing the poster.
Usually, a poster accomplishes this goal with a wellcrafted title and with supporting images. Also, make
sure that the type is large enough to be read and that
enough contrast exist between the color of the type
and poster's background. Typography
recommendations can be found in the following
PowerPoint poster template.
Third, the specific sections such as the results
should be easy to locate on the poster. Once readers
recognize what the work is, they decide how much
energy to invest into the poster. For instance, many
will read only the motivation for the work, the
objectives (or goals) of the work, and then the final
results. Others, who have a deep interest in the topic,
will try to read the poster from beginning to end.
Given these different approaches to reading posters,
another characteristic of an effective poster is that
specific sections are easy to locate. Figure 2. Poster that is well designed [Couch et al., 2003]. Figure 3. Poster that uses a sentence title [Alley, Lo, and Edmister,
2006]. Fourth, you should design the individual sections of
a poster so that they can be quickly read. Given the
distractions that occur while reading posters in a
symposium such as in Figure 1, the poster should not
contain large blocks of text. Neither should the poster
contain long sentences. If possible, the sections should
rely on images: photographs, drawings, and graphs.
Figure 2 presents a poster that quickly orients the
audience to the topic of the work. This poster also
identifies the purpose of each section and then
supports those sections in a manner can be quickly
read. Figure 3 also presents a poster for a conference.
Notice that this poster uses a sentence headline to
identify the main result of the research.
http://writing.engr.psu.edu/posters.html Page 2 of 3 Design of Scientific Posters 11/8/08 6:32 PM References
Alley, Michael, The Craft of Scientific Presentations (New York: Springer- Verlag, 2003), pp. 211 - 217.
Alley, Michael, Jenny Lo, and Whitney Edmister, "In this study, we promoted and fostered undergraduate research through a special
option in a required technical communication course," 2006 National ASEE Conference (Chicago: ASEE, June 2006).
Bakker, Vickie, "Movement Behavior of Red Squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) in Fragmented Forests," EPA STAR Conference
(Washington, D.C.: EPA, July 16, 2001).
Cho, Daniel, "Particles in Microdischarge Plasama: Coulombic Interactions and Optical Effects" (Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Tech,
Couch, Eric, Jesse Christophel, Eric Hohlfeld, and Karen Thole, "Cooling Effects of Dirst Purge Holes on the Tips of Gas Turbine
Blades" (Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Tech, April 2003).
Kaeli, Jeffrey W., Hanumant Singh, and Roy Armstrong, "Morphological Image Recognition of Deep Water Reef Corals"
(Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Tech, October 2005).
Lamancusa, John, Jens E. Jorgensen, Lueny Morell, Allen L. Soyster, and Jose Zayas - Castro, "The Learning Factory: Industry Partnered Active Learning since 1994," 2006 Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology (Washington,
D.C.: National Academy of Engineering, November 2006).
Thole, Karen, "Improving the Cooling of Turbine Blades and Vanes in a Gas Turbine Engine" (Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Tech,
Wynn, Tess, "Proposal to Study the Effects of Woody and Herbaceous Vegetation on Streambank Erosion," EPA STAR Conference
(Washington, D.C.: EPA, July 16, 2001). Last updated 04/2008
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