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FURI (Fulton Undergraduate Research Intiative): Creating Your Poster

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Introduction

Posters present your topic or research in a concise, visual format.    Conferences frequently hold poster sessions because they provide an opportunity for many people to display their research at one time to many other people.   Posters sessions can be a great networking opportunity but only if your poster can attract the attendees over to you.    


left to right
 Roger Knouff (former Map and GIS Librarian), Taylor Feiereisel (FSE graduate), Kyle Squires (FSE Dean), Linda Shackle (Engineering Librarian)
Photo taken FURI Spring 2012

Creating Your Poster

A poster has many of the same components as a journal article or student report however it is much more succinct and must have substantial visual elements.   The visual elements are important as they not only attract the reader to the poster but also present information in an easily understood format.   The rule of thumb for posters - less text, more pictures. 

The information on a poster should include: 

  • Title and Author(s)
    The title should be descriptive but needs to be balanced between too much information and not enough; sometimes reworking your research question or hypothesis will help find a good title.   If the title takes more than two lines at the top of the poster it's too long for the reader to grasp quickly but also avoid short, generic titles that reveal little about your research as these will probably not capture the reader's attention.  The authors should be listed below the title with one per line and each line should include the author's academic unit; if the event is outside of ASU, include "Arizona State University" after the academic unit (do not use "ASU" - spell it out). 

     
  • Introduction, Abstract, or Background
    Explains what you are studying and why.  May include a brief history of work in this field, and its benefits.  Keep this to 2-4 sentences.   . 

     
  • Methodology, Instrumentation, and Materials
    Explanation of what you did and the methods,instruments, and materials you used; could include photograph of the material under study, the instrument used, or researchers using the instrument/methodology.

     
  • Data, Results, Outcomes
    As much as possible use tables, charts, and/or graphs for this section; avoid presenting data within a paragraph of text.  

     
  • Conclusion(s) and/or Future Work 
    Briefly explain what all this means and indicate if future work is needed; keep this to 2-4 sentences.  

     
  • References or Literature Cited
    Always include some references to the literature of the field.  One or two background articles, especially review articles, should support your introduction and if you are using a specific methodology, you should have a reference to an article where that methodology is described in detail. 

     
  • Acknowledgement(s)
    Not always applicable for every poster, but if there is anyone you should be thanking for their assistance with your project, you are strongly encouraged to include this section.  
     

Note: This is not a formula or template.  You do not necessarily need to divide the poster into exactly these sections nor use this exact wording as headings.    

Always check with your instructor or the event's organizational sponsor for poster guidelines and/or if examples of previous posters are available.   If the event guidelines differ from what is written below follow the event guidelines. 

Size
Poster size varies as this can depend on the amount of event space and the type of display.  Poster size should be given in the event guidelines; if not, ask.

Backing
The guidelines should also specify the display conditions so that you'll know if the poster will need a stiff backing for propping on an easel or sitting on a table.  If the poster will be attached to a bulletin board, wall or other upright structure, a backing will not be needed.  

Layout 
The following suggestions may be helpful but not all will apply to every situation.  

  • Your poster is telling a story so the layout should intuitively lead the reader from the beginning to the end. 
     
  • Posters may be laid out in a horizontal or vertical direction; if the guidelines do not specify, choose the direction that best presents your content.
     
  • One of the basic tenets of design is the "Rule of Thirds" in which the poster (photograph, painting, etc.) is divided both horizontally and vertically into equal thirds so that 9 equal rectangles are formed ...



    Prominent features should be placed at the dotted intersections or along the vertical/horizontal lines.     See Rule of Thirds under "More Information".
     
  • Odd-numbered groupings are more pleasing to the eye than even-numbered groupings.   Use 3 columns of content rather than 2 or 4; group 3 or 5 like items together.      
     
  • The title and author information should go across the top of the poster; a common technique to make this information stand out is to put the text on a color block that extends across the width of the poster.
     
  • Each content section should be readily distinguished from the other sections; use techniques such as headings, borders, text on top of a color block, and/or leaving "white space" in between sections. 
     
  • Visual elements such as photographs, charts and illustrations should be placed near the section or text that discusses them.
     
  • References and the acknowledgements should be kept unobtrusive by placing them in the lower right corner or across the bottom as these areas are the last places on which the reader usually focuses.  Conversely, don't make the text so small that the reader must step close to the poster and use a magnifying glass. 
     
  • The information you consider to be most important needs to be on the poster; do not plan on displaying a prototype or having large amounts of supplementary material available.  For most poster events space is limited, so unless the event guidelines state otherwise, assume that nothing other than the poster is to be displayed.  Posters placed on table tops are more likely than the other display types to allow small objects adjacent to the poster.  

     

Background
The best backgrounds are usually a solid white or very light neutral color as this will not compete with the content.  Avoid using wallpaper as a background; at the very least the images can be distracting and tend to draw the reader's eye away from the content; at worst, text may be unreadable when placed over the wallpaper's images.  If you can't live without that wallpaper background, put your text on a solid, light color block.  
 

Font Style and Size

  • Text must be readable from several feet away from the poster, so use a large-sized font.  If you can't fit the text on the poster, do not reduce the font size, reduce the amount of text. 
     
  • Stick with traditional font styles, so that the printing service you use is likely to have those fonts on their system.  
     
  • For readability avoid:  
    • Fancy styles with lots of serifs 
    • Free form styles (ex. comic sans) or script-based styles that simulate handwriting
    • Styles in which similar characters are hard to distinguish (capital O and zero; small "l" and number 1; etc.)
    • Styles with very thin strokes such as Garamond 
       
  • DO NOT USE ALL CAPS.  It shouts at the reader and is much more difficult to read than mixed case. 
     

Color
Color is essential in a poster to catch the reader's eye and to distinguish the different elements.  Black text on white background with no color is not a poster, it's a term paper blown out of proportion.

  • ASU Color Scheme (maroon and gold)
    If the event guidelines require the ASU color scheme (both maroon and gold), consider using black, white, gray and beige (the latter especially adjacent to the maroon) as your secondary colors.  One of these colors: orange, blue or green, may, very sparingly, be used as a "punch" color.  If you are using only one of the ASU colors (either gold or maroon but not both), you can be more creative with you color choices. 
     
  • Visual Disabilities:
    • About 8-9% of males exhibit some degree of red/green color blindness in which these colors are perceived as shades of gray.  Avoid using red and green colors next to each other (especially in graphs and charts) as well as next to gray.
    • Monochromatic color schemes can be tricky.  There needs to be enough contrast between the text and the background to prevent the elements from blurring into indistinct globs of color.   Pair dark colors with light colors not dark with dark or light with light.     
    • Dark text on light background is easier to read than light text on dark background.   

The following references were consulted for this guide; please read these for further details and suggestions ... 

 

General Poster Guidelines 

Rule of Thirds

Accessibility Issues

Color

Examples
These sites give you examples of posters (mostly academic style but some other styles are shown, too).   Keep in mind that not all of the examples shown represent good design.

Posters presented at the Fall 2016 FURI Symposium are available at: http://furiposters.lib.asu.edu/ 

Winners by popular vote were: 

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