GlamScience Guide to Poster Design

Updated: Sep 9

Now we have reached the fun part of our poster presentation series, and that is…*drumroll please*... POSTER DESIGN! In this post we are going to talk about how to actually design a poster. For our purposes, we will be using Microsoft Powerpoint to design our posters.



When designing your poster, you want to make sure you include a title, abstract, methods, results, conclusion, future directions and acknowledgements. Please keep in mind that this is not the end all be all of what you must include, but this is usually what is included on scientific posters. Some people choose to add a question or hypothesis section on their poster, while some decide to leave out acknowledgements, some people choose to put implications rather than conclusions, and some even add a discussion section! The awesome thing about poster design is that there is no one right way to do it . There are so many variations that can be used, which is usually up to personal preference/style. A good way to think about how to design your poster is to literally walk yourself through everything you did, summarize it, and put that information on a poster. For example, you had to obtain background information, ask a question, construct a hypothesis etc. This will make up your abstract. Then you had to actually carry out the experiments, which makes up your methods section. After doing the experiments, you got some results. This is your results section. You then probably made some conclusions about the results you got and also thought about what to do in the future based on your results. Click here to read part one of poster series as some of these aspects have already been discussed in detail.


Now you know the basics and have a pretty good idea of what goes on your poster. Let's talk about what to do when you open PowerPoint to start actually designing your poster.



Poster Size: The first thing you want to do is set the size of your poster! Trust me, you don’t want to go through the process of creating a beautiful poster only to figure out it’s the wrong size. When you change the size of your poster on powerpoint, you will have to go back in and readjust every single item you put on your poster, so it’s best to adjust the size of the poster at the very beginning.



Background Color: After you set the size of your poster, you will then want to set the background color. This is very important because background color can actually make or break your poster. While everyone has their own preference on colored backgrounds, light colored backgrounds such as white and sky blue with black text seems to work pretty well. In addition to solid colored backgrounds, you can also use a background with a design, but keep in mind that it may be harder to concentrate on the actual content of your poster if your background is distracting.



Text Format: You want to make sure that your text color, font and font size are easy to read. A standard dark text color such as black is perfect for light backgrounds and a light text color such as white is perfect for darker backgrounds. A standard sans serif font such as arial works great for poster presentations. You want the title of your poster to be bold and really stand out so you typically want to go with a font size between 75-120pt depending on how big your poster is and how much space you have. Section titles font size is usually between 45-75pt. The font size of the text you are putting on your poster is usually 20pt less than the section title font size.



Poster Layout: Once you have the size of the poster set correctly and you have a background that suits your needs, you then want to think about the layout. Layouts can vary and you can let your creativity shine, however something that is standard is having the title of the poster at the top of the poster and the results section to be towards the center of the poster. The best way to go about layout design is to first map out everything you want to include in your poster (such as: abstract, methods, conclusions etc) on a piece of paper to visualize where you want everything to go. A good way to think about what to include on your poster is to walk yourself through everything you did during your project then summarize it.


Alignment: When designing your poster you’ll want the information you put on your poster to be properly aligned. When you align everything on your poster, it helps your poster to look neater and more attractive. Luckily PowerPoint has automatic gridlines to help you align the items on your poster.


Visuals! Visuals! Visuals!: The visuals you use for your poster are extremely important and it’s even more important to make sure that your visuals will look amazing when the poster is printed. A really important tip when using Powerpoint to create your poster is that when you want to adjust the size of your pictures, try as much as possible to drag the corners of the image rather than dragging the top or side. This ensures that the look of your image isn’t distorted on the actual poster. In addition to actual pictures, try making visual methods and conclusions for your poster or a schematic instead of just writing out what you did. Biorender is a great online tool to create scientific visuals. This will make your poster much more visually appealing and draw in lots of attention.


Quick Tips:

  1. Set the size of your poster before you start designing it

  2. When in doubt, white background it out

  3. Rule of thumb is to have light colored text on a dark background or dark colored text on a light background

  4. Try drawing an outline of your poster on a piece of paper first to get an idea of how you want to design it

  5. Look up different poster designs available on the internet if you need some design inspo

  6. Try to make your text as brief as possible. Supplement your text with pictures, diagrams, maps, infographics etc.

  7. A good hack that will definitely help you out as you readjust your poster elements is GROUP THINGS TOGETHER on PowerPoint! By grouping things together, it will be so much easier to re-arrange your poster if needed.

  8. Make sure you are using high resolution images. Try as much as possible to adjust image size by dragging the corners of the image rather than dragging the top and the sides. Although sometimes it is necessary to adjust your image size by dragging the top and/or sides of the image, you should keep in mind that this will distort your images.

  9. Consider adding a QR code. If you have a paper or a website that you would like people to visit that relates to your work, try adding a QR code on your poster for people to easily access them.

  10. When you send your poster to be printed, make sure you save it and send it as a pdf. This will help your poster get printed exactly how you designed it.

  11. Print out your poster from Powerpoint on regular printer paper before sending it off to be printed, this will help you catch any mistakes you might have made and give you an idea of what your actual poster will look like.

  12. Don’t be afraid to get creative! The great thing about posters is that there is no one right way to create one.


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