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Creating Effective Posters

Use this guide to get ideas for designing scholarly research posters.


This guide will assist students and researchers in preparing for a poster presentation. It will point you to resources that can help you design, create, print, and prepare your poster and presentation. 

Posters are an effective way of sharing your research. Posters may be presented at SOURCE, other professional conferences, local research events, or educational events for the general public. Regardless of the setting, posters will allow you to communicate information about your research to others in a concise and visual manner and also engage with viewers.

This guide provides tips and resources for each stage of the poster design process. Use the tabs on the left side to navigate through the pages of the guide.

Planning your Poster

Some suggestions for planning your poster:

  • Explore other posters (there are examples on this guide!)
  • Make a sketch of your expected layout.
    • Arrange the contents in a series of 3 or 4 columns.
  • Plan your photos, figures, and tables that will help tell your story.
  • Design your poster to address your central question and state it clearly.
  • Experts suggest the following is a good balance for your design:
    • 20 - 25% of your poster should be text
    • 40 - 45% of your poster should be graphics
    • 30 - 40% of your poster should be empty space.

Review guidelines for the conference you will be presenting your poster at:

  • Ask yourself: What are the dates for submission and presentation of your poster and what are the size parameters for your poster?
  • Is there any information that you are required to put on your poster like funding information or a conference logo?
  • Identify your audience and the main message you want to convey on your poster! This will help you decide what information (text and graphics) to include on your poster.  

Most people will not read your entire poster.  Viewers should be able to figure out what you did, what you found, and why it's important by quickly scanning the title, results, graphics, and conclusion of your poster! Look at your poster as if you have never seen the content before. Can you get the gist of it in 5 seconds? 

Distribute text and graphics evenly throughout the poster. Below is a graphic with examples of ways to keep your poster symmetrical:

Credit: Hess, G.R., K. Tosney, and L. Liegel at Creating Effective Poster Presentations.

Graphics, Images, Tables, and Charts

Graphics like charts, tables, graphs, figures and photographs, are a way to impart information to your viewers.  The type of graphics that you use will depend on your audience and the message of your poster.

Create graphics that are easy-to-read and self-explanatory.

Your graphics should be large enough that they can be read by a person standing a few feet away.  

Give each graphic a title and clearly label charts, tables, graphs and photographs.

Think beyond the basic chart or graph, and consider how other data visualizations or infographics might help convey your message.

If you do use anything that you did not create, then cite them!

Colors and Fonts

  • Create a color scheme with 2-3 colors.
  • Use dark text on a light-colored background.
  • Do not use excessively bright colors.
  • Remember that your viewers are going to be standing 4+ feet away and the text will need to be readable far away!
  • Consider people who have trouble differentiating colors.
  • What fonts should you use?
    • Pick your 1-2 fonts and use them consistently. 
    • Use sans serif fonts for titles and headings.
    • Use serif fonts for text. See examples below.
    • Do not use unusual or elaborate fonts, word art, difficult-to-read, or cartoon-like fonts.
    • You want your poster to be as easy to read as possible.
Sample Serif Fonts Sample Sans-Serif Fonts

Lucida Sans Unicode

Times New Roman Tahoma

Font size depends on the size of your poster.  Here are some basic guidelines! If you need more text on your poster, you'll probably have smaller font size. Standard suggestions:

  • Title: 80-120 point
  • Names and affiliations: 60-90 point
  • Headings: 44-80 point
  • Text: 32-52 point

Text tips

  • Visit the University Writing Center in the Academic Success Center the first floor of the Brooks Library to go over your text!
  • Use active voice when writing the text.
  • Use short sentences, simple words, and bullets to illustrate discrete points.
  • Use language that your audience will understand.
  • Use left justification of text - not full justification.
  • Size of text -- it should be large enough to be read from 6 feet away.
  • Spell out acronyms the first time you use them.
  • Edit!  There is almost always too much text in a poster.
  • Delete all redundant references & filler phrases.
  • Write your content out first, then transfer to a design program and copy and paste the content into the design program you have selected for making your poster and edit it as needed to fit formatting.


Credit: Text from Oregon State University Libraries and graphic from University of Southern California Libraries. 

The Basics of Designing a Research Poster