This session has already been covered before in this blog, but I felt I had to do this after I saw some people printing out presentation slides on A4 sheets and passing them off as posters. Come on people! Tim Miller delivered another of his fabulous sessions yesterday, on designing technical posters for the second time this week (Just helps in making my point about how badly we all need it). He's fun, he's enthusiastic, and he makes a lot of sense. Here are a few pointers from his session:
I agree we're all scientists, and not designers, but we aren't writers either but we still have to write papers and design posters. The nature of the poster session makes a vast expanse of knowledge available, and people often make an emotional decision of whether or not to approach your poster depending on how it "looks". For the short 3-5 hour duration that we need to put it up, we might as well a decent job of it. To put it in short, a good poster is one which is attractive, legible, digestible and expresses one (and only one) idea. (yes, sometimes some posters fail to convey less than one idea). Here are seven easy(?) steps you should go about if you have to make one:
Step 1: Take a piece of paper or open a word document and write down all the ideas. Don't start right away in your design space as the design space is going to limit your wonderful, wonderful imagination and ideas. Don't want that to happen now, do we?
Step 2: Assemble the figures. Time for some design theory. There are essentially two kinds of images, the first one being bitmap ( .jpeg, .png etc ) which are unscalable and pixelate badly when expanded (which means they look grainy and bad). The other kind, the one you want to work with are vector graphics (.pdf, .svg, .ai) which are much better to work with and make your poster look good. Also, another tip will be to expand your image as much as possible and label the curves/axes within instead of putting them at the bottom or side. That's a waste of space and makes it difficult to read. Do everyone a favor and make your axes readable and not some minute font which nobody can understand.
Step 3: Make a plan of how you're going to lay all your data out.
Again, do this one on paper first, its much easier and convenient for novices like ourselves. An important thing to remember while doing is the order of operations should be clear. Don't put random boxes in any order to make it look "creative".People should know what's the order of the text.
Step 4: Colors, Fonts and Sizes.
I feel this is the most needed tip as most of us are grossly bad at it and choose outrageous color schemes and fonts for our posters. If you don't know what looks good and what doesn't, ask someone who does. Also, its good to be proud of your school and the place where you came from, but that doesn't mean you have to use your school colors to design your poster.
Use atmost three colors, using a different color only to distinguish something. Dont use light colors on white, or green on red. Be aware that the colors you see on your screen and the colors printed on your poster look slightly different. So don't go for any intricate gradients or color schemes. Keep it simple.
Fonts! Ideally, use only two font types, one for your titles and one for your body. Here are some Font size guidelines for you: (assuming your software knows the final size of your poster)
Title Size: 86 pt
Headings/Authors: 56 pt
Sub-Headings : 36 pt
Body: 28 pt
Step 5: Lay it out in software.
Please please do yourself and this world a favor and dump Powerpoint for making posters. Its terrible at this stuff and just a huge recipe of a disaster poster. Familiarize yourself with design software like InDesign, Illustrator or Inkscape. They're really easy to learn, and going to make your job easier. Plus, if you've already done steps 1-4, this shouldn't be too much trouble.
Step 6 : Print the poster and Hang it a week before the conference.
Highly recommended step. Cannot stress it enough.
Step 7: Go to the session! Know when and where you're supposed to be, whether you're supposed to bring pushpins, etc etc. Be confident, interact, and present your poster well!
These are all the wise wise words and ideas of Tim Miller of Spoken Science, and I claim no right over them whatsoever. Hope we all learned something!