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Creating Scholarly Posters in PowerPoint: Design Tips

Overall Comments

A poster is a visual presentation - you need a good paring of text and graphics that support each other.

Use visual illustrations of your research - as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Readability is the key. Large font is necessary (so brevity is a must).

  • Font:  Sans Serif - aka: no fancy letters with designs on the ends of letters.

Your layout should help guide people in how to read your poster.

  • Have a logical arrangement for how Americans read -- left to right, up to down.

Your poster is a large document, but it is composed of small bits of information .  It is difficult to read a long line of text.

  • Breakdown your text into small sections that are easy to visually scan.


Using Color in Your Poster

Use of colored background and colored text boxes

  • Muted colors or grays are best for the background.  
  • Use more intense colors as borders or for emphasis - but don't overuse color, it is distracting
  • Use of related background colors help to unify the poster

Planning it Out

Planning out your poster is a must.  

  • Explore other posters
  • Make a sketch of your expected layout
  • Arrange the contents in a series of 3 or 4 columns
  • Plan the flow of information in a logical, easy to follow sequence
  • Look critically at the layout.  "Experts" suggest the following is a good balance.
    • 20 - 25% text
    • 40 - 45% graphics
    • 20 - 30% empty space.
  • Plan your photos, figures, and tables to help tell your story
  • Design your poster to address one central question and state it clearly.  

A Head Start

Head Starts for Poster Designs  

Not sure how to begin or what colors to choose?  Poster templates are available for free from a couple of different sources.  Use those to get a head start on your design.


Notes about Title:

  • Not ALL CAPS
  • Describe your project but make it short - use only essential words.  It is okay use humor to capture attention 


Writing advice:

  • Use active voice when writing the text
  • Use short sentences, simple words, and bullets to illustrate discrete points.
  • Use left justification of text - not full justification
  • Size of text -- it should be large enough to be read from 6 feet away
  • Edit ruthlessly!  There is almost always too much text in a poster
  • Delete all redundant references & filler phrases
  • A poster is not a manuscript - no extra details about methods or huge data tables.  They are good dicussion topics for those stopping by, for a handout, or for a formal manuscript


The success of a poster is related to the clarity of its text, illustrations, and data.

  • Graphics should be self-explanatory
  • Text should supplement the graphic material
  • Use empty space between poster elements to differentiate and accentuate these elements.
  • Graphic materials should be visible easily from a minimum distance of 6 feet
  • Restrained use of 2 - 3 colors for emphasis is valuable; overuse is not