Tips on Poster Design

Keep it simple and professional.

Allow the data to speak by being clear and concise with your use of text and other visual information.

Use One or Two Typefaces at Most

If you want to use two, choose one with serifs, and one sans serif. Be judicious in your use of CAPS, bold, underlining, and italics. These features can help organize your material so that it is easier to read and understand, but overusing these features tends to dull their effectiveness.

Attention Span

Since your audience will be standing in a public place as they look at your poster, they will likely be distracted or interrupted as they read.

Keep Your Column Widths Easy to Scan

This helps viewers maintain focus on your material and find their place asily if they have to step away for a moment. The size of your text should also facilitate reading while standing in a public place.

Be Judicious in Use of Colors and/or High Contrast Borders

These features can give your work impact and can direct the viewer toward key information, but too many colors or borders can be distracting, especially if used in an arbitrary manner. (This is a common design problem with many poster displays at Wellesley.)

Layout the Entire Poster Arrangement Before You Attach Anything Permanently

Your viewer is likely to begin at the top, and the left, scanning the arrangement for aspects that jump out, then skipping to the bottom right. How does your eye flow as you scan the overall arrangement? Where does it stop? Which parts are most essential? Which parts are details of other material? Do they seem that way visually? Look for abalance between elements such as the title, the blocks of text, and thegraphics. This is not to say that there needs to be an equal amount of each, but that all of these kinds of elements should complement each other.

Keep an Eye on the Empty Spaces Between Elements

This is essential "rest" space for the eye, and most good design depends upon being sensitive to apparently negative spaces and intervals.

Keep Margins Even, and the Lines of Text in Alignment with Each Other Horizontally

If your poster display is contained within an overall rectangular format, plan to leave a bit more space at the bottom margin (rule of thumb is equal top and side margins, but extra space at the bottom, to visually "weight" the material)

Use a Level if You Aren't Sure Whether Your Elements Are Straight

Use a T -square or right angle to make sure your cuts are clean and square- unless you have a purpose to the wavery line or odd angle. If possible, make use of a page layout computer program to generate your text. Please visit the LTS page on creating a research poster for more information.

References

These are good resources for developing visuals (all from Peach Pit Press):

  • Robin Williams, The Non-Designer's Design Book
  • Robin Williams, The Mac Is Not a Typewriter
  • Robin Williams and John Tollet, The Non Designers' Web Book

Also recommended: the last few chapters of Frank Ching's Architectural Graphics, which is on desk reserve in the art library for my ARTS 113 class.

Good luck with all your preparations!
Phyllis McGibbon