Te Ropu Awhina – Poster Design and Presentation

Poster Design and Presentation Tutorial

Tutorial Provided by: Miles Benton, from Te Ropu Awhina Whanau

This  tutorial  is  intended  to  stimulate  interest  and  awareness  in  the  design  aspect  of  posters  –  be  they scientific or otherwise.  It is by no means gospel or complete, as I myself am still learning much.  This is really just a series of lessons (many learnt the hard way!) and tips that I have gathered over the last few years.  Hopefully you’ll come out of this learning something yourselves – even if it’s just that PowerPoint is not the best piece of software for creating your posters…


Choice of software can make life much easier (or harder!), so spend some time thinking about what it is you are trying to achieve.

Open  source  software  (free  software):  These  programs  can  be  freely  downloaded  and  installed  on  any computer (windows, mac, linux), there are numerous tutorials and helpful forums and mailing lists to get you started.  Both Inkscape and Scribus have rich tool sets and can be used to produce results which rival those of the “professional” packages – all for free!

“Professional” Software (not free):  Many people would have heard of Abobe Photoshop – well they also make design software in the same vein.  Both Indesign and Illustrator are industry standards – as such they come at a price.  30 day trials may be downloaded if you want to play with them.

And then there’s…

  • Powerpoint… the bane of the scientific poster community.  It does what it’s made for well, making slide  show  presentations.    For  posters  avoid  like  the  plague,  I’ve  listed  many  other  options  for  a reason.  If you absolutely must use Powerpoint, you have been warned.

About Poster Design:

Planning your poster before actually sitting down and working on the computer saves a lot of time later on, and  will  almost always  lead  to  a  better  looking  final product.    Reading  others experiences  and  taking  on board tips and tricks allows you to expand your repertoire and should make the process more enjoyable.

Betterposters“Academics use posters to present research, but their posters are often ugly, with tiny text, confusing  layouts,  and  dubious  colour  schemes.  Better  Posters  is  about  making  posters  informative  and beautiful.” – http://betterposters.blogspot.com/

Other useful sites which talk about the dos and don’ts of poster design and creation:

Colour Management:

Working out a colour scheme at the get go will keep elements within your poster uniform and aesthetically pleasing.  Limit yourself to only a few core colours (3-5 is a good general rule) and try and keep a continuum with the colours contained in your figures – it is ideal to design/redesign the figures with the chosen colour palette in mind, however this at times will not be possible/practical.

If  you  are  unsure  which  colours  work  well  together  you  can  use  colour  wheels  to  generate  a  set  of complementary colours:

Paper Sizing:

Know your measurements.  It is important to know what size of paper your final poster will be printed on – and you should determine this before you start!  All software packages will allow you to set up page size – it is also import to determine which units you will be working in (I find mm the easiest and set this before I start).

Paper size charts:

Some Examples:

Looking at others work and critically evaluating it is a great way to learn – think about what is done well, what could be improved upon?  Create a list of techniques and attributes of posters that you could possibly employ into your own design.

Scientific Poster Repository

Google  Image  Search  –  is  a  great  place  to  view  and  critique  many  examples  of  poster  design  (be  they scientific or otherwise).  Use search strings such as poster design, scientific poster design, etc etc.

Having Fun (and general ramblings):

Remember  there  is  no  right  or  wrong  way  to  design  a  poster;  everyone  has  different  tastes  and preferences.

  • Life is much easier when you have all the elements of your poster ready before you start working in your  chosen  software.    Have  the  bulk  of  your  text  written,  have  your  figures  ready,  and  grab  a pencil and sketch out some possible layouts.
  • Don’t be afraid to play around with your design, try something and see if it works.  Bounce ideas of people and ask them to comment on your ideas and designs.
  • Try  to  limit  the  amount  of  text  on  your  poster,  get  your  point  across  in  a  succinct  way  that  will invite interested parties to ask further questions.

Mainly remember to enjoy yourself – you’ve done all the hard work in the lab/research, now it’s time to present this to others.  Have fun with it and try to get your ideas and results across in a way that grabs the audience and makes sense.

Author – Miles Benton from Te Ropu Awhina Whanau

One thought on “Te Ropu Awhina – Poster Design and Presentation

  1. Very nice tutorial. However, I was hoping for a more technical approach. Perhaps elaborating what tools you used to design your poster and how you went about designing it.

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