Poster Guidelines

How to Produce a Good Poster? 

General instructions

-  The poster board is 95 cm (width) X 136 cm (height).   
-  Your poster is one of many and should awaken interest of visitors within a few seconds. So the overall appearance is of utmost importance. It should stand out, be attractive and easy to read. 
You are kindly requested to devote considerable effort in the design of your poster. Providing A4 takeaway versions of your poster is also encouraged.
-  Apply the KISS principle: ‘Keep it Short and Simple’. 
Short: You (not: your poster) should tell the entire story. Your poster should be a visual aid to a discussion and stimulate a meaningful dialogue. The key to producing a good poster is eliminating as much as possible from your first draft. Be concise.
Simple: Use a simple, functional design with traditional section headings, an obvious reading sequence and simple language use.
-  Your poster is a visual means of communicating. It should contain maximally 350 words, preferably much less. Visual elements should predominate.
-  It might be appealing to use a (semi-transparent) photograph as the background of your poster. However, be aware of the final readability. In general, avoid a dark background.
-  Use a light colour background and dark colour letters for contrast. Use a theme of only 2-3 colours and avoid overly bright colours.
-  Make sure the directional flow of information is clear. Follow the basic principles of navigation: left to right first, then from top to bottom. 

Title and headings

-  The title should quickly orientate the audience on the subject, your name and affiliation. The title should be 3.5 – 4.5 cm tall, short and catchy, maximally 12 words.
-  Specific sections (e.g. methods, results) should be easy to locate on the poster. Select an outstanding font (size and color) for section headings.

Font size & type

-  The font type should be such that the poster can be read easily from about 2 m distance (i.e. at least 10 mm high, which is ≥20 (preferably 24) point size for text and ≥32 (preferably 36) for headings).
-  Don’t mix fonts, chose one font for all text blocs in the entire poster. You may wish to use a second font for title + headings and figures and tables.
-  Serif typefaces (such as Times, Cambria) are easier to read and preferred for the body of text blocks. Sans serif typefaces (Arial, Calibri) may be used for titles, headings, figure legends, tables, etc.

Textual elements

-  Use text sparingly. Let the visuals elements tell the story instead. The text guides the reader through the visual elements to the final take-home message. 
-  Use columns of max. 70 characters (including spaces) width. Avoid large blocks with text and long sentences (<10 sentences per block; <50 words per block).
-  If possible use bulleted statements rather than blocks of text.
-  Avoid abbreviations. When abbreviations or codes are necessary, keep them as simple as possible.
-  Choose the line spacing settings such that the use of sub- and superscripts will not affect the layout of text blocks.
-  Avoid unnecessary jargon. Assume that most of the visitors are not experts in your subspeciality. 

Poster sections

A traditionally structured design will facilitate navigation. 
Introduction (maximum length: 100 words)
-  Attract the interest of the reader with a minimum of background information and definitions. Why did you do the research?
-  Then, come up with an interesting, novel hypothesis or research question. 
Materials & Methods (maximum length: 100 words)
-  Keep this section as short and general as possible, outline your methods briefly.
-  When applicable: Try to illustrate (drawing, scheme of experimental layout) the applied methods.
Results (maximum length: 100-150 words)
-  Present the results preferably in graphs or if necessary in a table. Usually 4-6 figures+tables are included in a poster.
Discussion & Conclusions (maximum length: 100 words)
-  The discussion (if necessary) and conclusions should be succinctly stated. Many viewers read this first and hence it should be easy to understand. 
-  Remind the reader of the major results and state whether the hypothesis was supported. 
-  Indicate 
   •  the novelty your findings
   •  how they extend the frontier of knowledge 
   •  their relevance to the real world. 

Figures and Graphs

Figures are highly preferred above Tables. 
-  Graphs or tables should be self-explanatory and therefore please provide a clear legend including symbols. Put legends above a table and below a figure.
-  Keep legends short (10-25 words).
Figures
-  Properly label the x- and y-axis of graphs, include units. 
-  Keep graphs as simple as possible.
-  Include the results of statistical analyses (significance levels) in the graphs by using discriminating letter codes (a, ab, b) or asterisks (*, **, ***). 
Tables
-  Do not use Tables that contain more than 20 items. Complex data should not be included in your poster but may be provided in a separate information sheet.
-  Do not give more decimals than necessary to show meaningful variation.

Common blunders

-  Including too much text.
-  Using a font size that is too small.
-  Chaotic design, directional flow of information is not clear.
-  Figures and tables are not self-contained, they cannot be understood independently.

References and further reading

Gosling PJ 1999 Scientist’s Guide to Poster Presentations. Kluwer Academic / Plenum Publishers, New York, USA.
Malmfors B, Garnsworthy P and Grossman M 2000 Writing and Presenting Scientific Papers. Nottingham University Press, Nottingham, UK.
San Francisco Edit 2013 Developing an Effective Poster Presentation. http://www.sfedit.net/poster.pdf (visited: 3-12-2013)