Design an Academic (Research) Poster

A poster is a visual presentation of information. A research poster is a visual presentation of your research (information) and should be designed as such – do not simply reproduce a written paper in poster format.

Academic posters are typically created for display at academic conferences and they should be understandable to readers/ viewers without verbal comment – someone might look at it when you are not there to explain.

A research poster is used to:

  • catch the reader’s attention - potentially useful contacts who are working in the same or related reserach area

  • tell them what researh question you are trying to answer

  • tell them what you found out - if you are at the first stages of your research, then what you expect to find out.


Table of Contents

Creating your poster

Plan on paper first: Let the technology serve the message, not dictate it.

Once you have planned your layout, you can use Microsoft PowerPoint or Word to create your poster. These are not graphical layout applications, but they are adequate in most cases and available to anybody with an LSE network account.

Content of your poster

  • Make sure the title and author name(s) are prominent and eye-catching.

  • Remember to include contact details.

  • Tell a story: provide clear flow of information from introduction to conclusion

  • Focus on your major findings – a common fault is to try to cover too much. Few delegates are going to read everything on your poster, so get to the point.

  • Use graphs, tables, diagrams and images where appropriate. Consider the use of boxes to isolate and emphasise specific points.

  • Always follow the conference guidelines, which may be specific about what you are expected to present.

Design Suggestions

  • Use all the space at your disposal, but do not cram in the content – white space is an important part of the layout, and good use of it can make a poster elegant and arresting.

  • Use colour sparingly – limited use of a few colours is more striking than a ‘rainbow’ approach. Think about why you are using colour; it is especially useful for emphasis and differentiation.

  • Avoid colour combinations that clash (e.g. red on blue) or cause problems for people with colour-blindness (e.g. red and green in proximity). Use white or muted colour background (e.g. pastel shades)

  • The flow of information should be clear from the layout; if you have to use arrows to indicate the flow, the content could probably be arranged better.

  • Clearly label diagrams/drawings and provide references to them in the text where necessary.
    Follow the conference guidelines, which may be quite specific about paper sizes, font sizes etc.

  • The title text should be readable from 6 metres away – at least 48-point text. (Note that if you are creating your poster in A4 format, to be blown up to A1 format later, the final printed font size will be approximately 3 times the size you are working with.)

  • The body text should be readable from 2 metres away – at least 24-point text

  • Choose a clear font with large inner space (i.e. the space inside the loops of letters such as ‘o’, ‘d’, ‘p’). Good examples are Arial, Verdana, Georgia or Helvetica.
    Serif or sans-serif text? Short answer: it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s legible. This short article by Alex Poole “Which Are More Legible: Serif or Sans Serif Typefaces?” (2006) still holds and punctures a few of the myths surrounding this subject.

  • Keep the word count as low as possible.

Images and PDF conversion

When converting your poster to PDF, take care that your images are not degraded in the process. They may look fine on-screen but then look blurry or pixellated when printed as A1 or A0.The following process, in Word or PowerPoint, will ensure that images retain their resolution up to A1 size (provided that they were sufficiently high-resolution in the first place – 300 pixels per inch should be sufficient).First, set the page size:

  • Design > Page setup… in PPT / Page Layout > Size in Word

  • (Word only) Choose More paper sizes… at the bottom

  • Set Width to 59.4 cm and Height to 84.1 cm (A1)

If using PDFcreator or Adobe Acrobat to convert to PDF, check the print resolution before converting:

  • Set printer to Adobe PDF or PDFcreator, and click Printer Properties underneath

  • Select Layout tab and click Advanced

  • Set Graphic > Print Quality to at least 600 dpi

Embedding fonts

You should embed the fonts within the PDF document you create. If you do not, there is a danger that one or more of the fonts you have used will not be present on the printer’s system, and in which case the font you chose will be replaced by a substitute, and that can mess up the layout of your poster.

How you do this depends on the way you convert to PDF; instructions for PDFCreator and Adobe Acrobat are:

  • Acrobat: When printing the poster to Adboe PDF, click the Properties button in the Print window, and make sure the “Rely on system fonts only” box is not ticked.

  • PDFCreator: After printing the poster to PDFCreator, a form will pop up. Click the Options button at the bottom of this form, then click PDF in the list to the left. Click the Fonts tab, and make sure the “Embed all fonts” box is ticked.

Getting your poster printed

Although LSE Reprographics only has facilities to print up to a size of A3 (42cm x 30cm), they can send work out to be printed by an external bureau. If you have a budget code (staff, PhD students with research grant), this is the simplest option.

You can use external printing bureaux. Most companies will accept your poster as a PDF file, and there are many such printers online. Do an online search for the best (and/or cheapest) options. Note the time it may take for delivery, so don’t leave it to the last minute.

If they ask what weight of paper you require, weights around the 170gsm (grams per square metre) will be sufficiently high quality.