Designing a Scientific Poster

In August, I’ll be heading to Milwaukee to present the research I did in Australia at the Ecological Society of America’s annual conference. Perhaps because I’m a foolish and naive young academic, I’m incredibly excited about this conference, and the idea of being surrounded by hundreds of other people with similar interests, and new knowledge to present within those interests, has me really stoked. And it’s not just presentations, there’s workshops and field trips, and I want to attend every single one! Of course, that’s not possible for both financial and temporal reasons, but it shows how excited I am.

I’m presenting my research in the form of a poster, so I’m currently working on designing it. I already made one in Australia, but Australian scientific posters are very different from American ones. The Australians prefer extremely concise posters, with large amounts of empty space for important images, and a concise take-home message. Here’s the poster I made for my research, in the Australian style:


I had a lot of fun making that poster, it challenged me to summarize a massive amount of information, and present it so that it could be understood quickly.

Contrast that with the American style, where the goal is to cram as much information onto a poster as possible, while the text still remains legible. For example, take a look at this poster:

So with all of that in mind, here’s the poster draft I have right now. I’m leaning more towards the American style, just because that’s what is more ‘acceptable’, but I’m trying not to cram in information either. The two issues I’m fighting with currently are whether the upper right sector should get filled with something, whether the poster needs more color, and whether Figure 1 requires a caption. I’d really love some opinions on what works, and what doesn’t. Here’s the poster:

It obviously borrows a lot from grid-based web design, which I’ve been playing around with for a few months now. The title is obviously very banner-like, and section headings are very tab-like. And looking at it now, I should probably expand the margins, but other than that, any other comments?

Edit: If you’re curious, here’s the poster I ended up presenting:


2 responses to “Designing a Scientific Poster

  1. apropos of nothing, I was suddenly reminded of you upon seeing this:

  2. I would suggest making better use of the white space. the first thing my eye is drawn to is not the title, but the empty right corner. Similarly, the content of the poster looks a little heavy to the left as well, which could be the impact of the title bar, but more likely is a result of the varying column widths. I would maybe suggest oversizing the titles and tab headers, and maybe even reorienting the whole poster. I don’t know how functional the non-graph images are, but they’re sort of large, also. In short, the orientation of whitespace in general is poor.

    I dunno, I worked a lot on table-based web design at lenovo, and ran graphic design operations for a few organzations at school. So that’s just my nitpick.

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