Making an Academic Poster Display

By Niall McMahon


Poster design is largely a matter of personal taste. While putting together my first attempt, I came across a lot of good, and otherwise, advice on the internet. I also consulted some friends of experience in these matters. Most of the sound advice is common to all advisors. Some ideas are, as you might imagine, much debated.

I don't intend to rewrite anything, so without further ado, you'll find below some of the sites that I read or skimmed through but generally found useful. Many other sites have ceased to exist during the past ten years.

Online Advice

First of all for Linux users, Conference Posters in Linux, (2003) Michael Conry.

The best general advice I can give a first-time poster constructor is to describe the circumstance in which a poster will eventually be viewed: a hot, congested room filled with people who are there primarily to socialize, not to look at posters.

From, Advice for designing scientific posters, (2003) Swarthmore College Biology Department.

Tips for Effective Poster Presentations, U.S. Department of Energy.

Poster Presentation of Research Work, (1997) Dept. of Chemical and Process Engineering University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

The title should be legible from 5 - 7 m away (type > 25 mm high). It should be assertive, clear, and catch the eye of the viewer. You may wish to shorten names and affiliations when they are too wordy. This information may be in slightly smaller type than the title.

Main headings carry the essential content and should provide a complete take-home message and be visible at 2 m (type > 10 mm high). Supporting text follows the main headings and should be visible at 1 m (type > 5 mm high). Caps and lower case is easier to read than all caps. Use a simple font.

From, Advice for Preparation of a Good Poster, (2003) North Central Research Station, Forestry Sciences Laboratory, Canada.

All lettering should be legible from 2 m away; older viewers should not have to put on reading glasses. The minimum type size should be no less than 18 points, and the style should be bold or semi-bold.

From, Preparing Effective Posters, (1988). U. S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 88-667.

How to Make a Great Poster, Dina F. Mandoli, University of Washington, Department of Botany. (Plenty of links.)

Sample Posters

There are many ways to making a great poster. To provide some inspiration, here are some posters we saw at CHI 2003 and that we liked (keep in mind that UIST posters can have a different size and aspect ratio). Click on the pictures to enlarge. More poster guides can be found all over the web.

From, UIST 2003 poster example gallery.

Niall McMahon, School of Computing, Dublin City University. Originally posted August 2003.

Most material © Niall McMahon. See legals and disambiguation for more detail. Don't forget that opinions expressed here are not necessarily shared by others, including my employers.