To begin, there are a few basic things you will need to think about as you start planning your academic poster, including deciding what your basic message is, who the audience that will likely be seeing that message is, and what your space and price requirements are. We start off by defining exactly what a poster is, from an academic standpoint.
A poster is visual communication tool. An effective poster will get your main ideas across to many people and will assist you in engaging your colleagues in conversations. A well-designed poster will act as a source of information, be a conversation starter, promote your work, and summarize your work.
A well-designed poster will deliver a message, is highly visual, and is readable from 3-6 feet away. Unfortunately many posters suffer from problems that can easily be fixed such as: main points are hard to find, small text, poor graphics, and poor layout. These guidelines will take you through the process of creating a successful poster and give you a few examples.
The audience should shape your poster . . .
(1) Specialists only. You can assume a high level of disciplinary knowledge, use jargon, and take other presentation shortcuts.
(2) Wide-ranging discipline. You can assume familiarity with the discipline in general, but there are so many sub-specialties that jargon is to be avoided and language simplified.
(3) Very general audience. You cannot assume familiarity with any discipline and must explain everything in the most basic terms.
However, there are three types of people in almost any audience . . . (Woolsey 1989)
(1) People in your field of specialization are likely to seek out and read your poster, even if it's not very good.
(2) People in related fields might study your poster, if they can be "hooked" quickly. They are worth capturing, because they can have interesting insights and perspectives about your work.
(3) People in unrelated fields are not likely to read your entire poster, but might want to quickly read and glean the main points.
You want to - and can - satisfy them all!!
Write an abstract: An abstract is generally needed to get a poster accepted and a good abstract will serve as a starting outline for the poster. An abstract can also be illustrated with images that will go into the final poster.
Create a draft poster: Drafts, whether printed or done by hand, can help with the overall layout and design of the poster. Information can be edited, moved around, and verified before the final is done.
Displaying your poster: Before you arrive at the conference you need to verify the size of the available display space, have the necessary mounting materials with you such as double sided tape, push pins, or Velcro™, and mounting boards or form core. If your poster is going to be displayed at several events, you may wish to have it laminated to protect it.
Evaluate the outcome: How was the poster received? Did it make an impact? Was your message clear and understood by those who viewed it? Use what you learned in designing your next poster presentation.
What's my message?
How much room do I have?
This determines what you can fit ...
What you'll have to leave out ...
And how things will be organized.
How much money do I have?
Set up some deadlines
Woolsey, J.D. 1989. Combating poster fatigue: How to use visual grammar and analysis to effect better visual communication. Trends in Neurosciences 12: 325-332.
Text by Fran Rogers. Full original document, below: