The april fool s guide to designing a scientific poster
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The (April) Fool’s Guide to Designing a Scientific Poster. Stephanie R. Taylor CS 441 April 1 , 2010. Outline. Getting Started PowerPoint Designing and Adding Content Layout (general layout, what to include) Graphics (e.g. Matlab figures, bitmaps) Fonts (What size?)

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The april fool s guide to designing a scientific poster

The (April) Fool’s Guide toDesigning a Scientific Poster

Stephanie R. Taylor

CS 441

April 1, 2010


  • Getting Started

    • PowerPoint

  • Designing and Adding Content

    • Layout (general layout, what to include)

    • Graphics (e.g. Matlab figures, bitmaps)

    • Fonts (What size?)

  • Printing (Language Resource Center in Lovejoy)

  • Presenting the Poster (it’s a dialog)

  • Additional Resources

My favorite form of publication
My Favorite Form of Publication

  • A poster allows you to share your work with the scientific community

    • Get the main ideas across to others

    • Spark discussions with potential collaborators

  • A poster is a hybrid form

    • Less detailed than a paper

    • More detailed than a talk

  • A poster presentation is INTERACTIVE.

    • When you are creating your poster, think about how you will describe your work

Getting started
Getting Started

  • Getting the size right

    • Check the conference website for size and other guidelines

    • Common size is 3ft (height) by 4ft (width)

    • 3ft tall is what you want if printing at LRC

  • PowerPoint 2007

  • Easy way to get theright size is to download theblank poster fromLRC’s website


  • Determine the template

  • Determine the story

  • Put the figures, titles, references, and equations in

  • Then refine the layout and add necessary text

In addition to content include
In addition to content, include

  • Title

  • Author list (this is like a paper, so chances are, your advisor’s name should be included)

  • The fact that the project is associated with CS 441

  • Colby logo (I use the seal)

  • References to works cited (but this list should be small)


  • Tell a story, e.g.

    • Circadian clocks are complex multi-oscillators. Phase adjustments to intercellular signals allow them to synchronize. We want to understand what intracellular components are important for this behavior and we want our multi-oscillator models to be smaller. So, we developed a new model reduction technique and applied it to a model. The results were good over many runs of the reduction. The results at the single oscillator level were excellent. The acid test was forming a multi-oscillator model and examining the population-level behaviors. It passed.

  • Focus on 2 or 3 main points. Create figures for them and design the layout around the figures.

  • Make the take-home message explicit

    • Write it on the poster

    • Put it into the title

Content and layout
Content and Layout

  • Make sure your story follows an expected pattern, e.g.

    • Motivation

    • Method

    • Experiment/Application

    • Results

    • Discussion

  • Separate the main sections visually, e.g.

    • 3 column layout

    • Box the subsections

    • In PowerPoint 2003, it is helpful to put this on the master slide


  • Balancing Text and Graphics

    • I aim for 50/50 but that isn’t a universal rule.

  • DYA

  • Equations

    • Pay attention to your audience

    • Font should be at least 24pt

  • Fonts

    • Use a readable font (I likeVerdana)

    • Title (~80 pt)

    • Subtitles (~60 pt)

    • Figure Captions (24-30 pt)

    • Text (24-30 pt)

    • References and Acknowledgements (18-24 pt)


  • Make sure you have sufficient resolution

    • A good rule of thumb is never to increase the size of a graphic (e.g. a bitmap) once you have inserted it into the poster – make sure it is big enough before you save it as a bitmap.

    • To copy a figure from a pdf, first zoom in as much as you can on the pdf.

  • Advice from LRC: To include an image on your poster, do NOT 'copy and paste'. You must save the image to your computer, then use the 'insert > picture' option to import it into Powerpoint.

  • Figures


    • Generally, aim for at least 7” wide figures (this is a heuristic based on my own work)

Importing figures from matlab
Importing Figures from Matlab

  • Get the Matlab figure at the desired size and appearance, then save it as a picture (.jpg)

    • Make the fonts as large as they can be while fitting everything in the figure (aim for 14 or higher, but this won’t always work)

    • For data that are simple time traces, consider using thicker (2pt) lines

Refining the layout
Refining the Layout

  • Do your best to make the whitespace look evenly distributed throughout the poster

  • Do your best to make the graphics evenly distributed throughout the poster

  • Get the level of detail correct

    • Someone reading the poster should be able to get the main picture without your help

    • But it is NOT a paper and details not immediately relevant to the story should be left out


  • Language Resource Center

    • Lovejoy 404



  • Important Notes from the LRC

    • Size must be 36" tall by 48" wide.

    • No more than 1/3 of the poster may have a non-white background to conserve toner and reduce printing time.

    • Photographs, pictures, and figures should be of the highest possible resolution.

    • Keep fonts simple - remember that if a you use a font that is not installed on the master computer, your poster will lose both the font and its formatting in the printing process.

    • Use a font size that can be easily read from a distance.

    • The poster must be saved as a PowerPoint file (.ppt)

    • **A note about creating your poster on a Mac: To include an image on your poster, do NOT 'copy and paste'. You must save the image to your computer, then use the 'insert > picture' option to import it into Powerpoint. No solid colored backgrounds allowed (no more than 1/3 poster can have color on it)

    • 48 hours to print

    • You never know when the hordes will descend upon the printer, so PRINT EARLY (1 week ahead of time).

At the poster session
At the Poster Session

  • General Advice

    • Stand by your poster for as long as you can handle it

    • Drink lots of water and bring breath mints in case you are standing close to people and shouting at them

    • If there is alcohol, don’t imbibe too much. You need to be able to think on your feet.

A poster presentation is a dialog
A Poster Presentation is a Dialog

  • When someone is interested

    • Gauge their level of interest and background with a couple of quick questions, e.g.

      • Do you work with mice?

      • Are you familiar with phase response curves?

      • Do you want the mathy version or the non-mathy version?

    • Present the poster quickly (e.g. 1-3 minutes). Tell your story without including every detail on the poster. If people are very interested, they will ask questions, and THEN you can go into detail.

    • Let the visitor ask questions – this is a great opportunity for feedback!

    • Smile and don’t be flustered when they find fault. Often that arises out of a lack of understanding

    • Remember, people outside your immediate field want to be told why this work is interesting to them, e.g.

      • The methodology extends to other problems

      • The application is particularly important

      • You can solve their jetlag problems 


  • Jane E. Miller (2007) Preparing and Presenting Effective Research Posters, Health Services Research 42 (1p1) , 311–328 doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2006.00588.x