How to make a conference poster which isn’t rubbish (I hope)

If I’m confronted with a new and puzzling task, the first thing to do is to google the problem. So when I had to design my first poster for our departmental conference, I did a quick search and came up with some excellent advice.

First of all, Colin Purrington’s website

has some great tips, with a couple of handy templates for getting started. For basic design issues and basic how-tos, this is a good place to get started.

If you want to get properly geeky about it, the better posters blog is fantastic 

Here, you can see poster critiques, poster makeovers and posts on how to design an attractive poster that your audience will want to read. Since this is a skill which is going to come in handy in the future, I thought it was worth investing some time to explore this website properly. Let me show you the finished article, which is certainly not perfect but I hope it’s a good start. I can’t for the life of me work out how to embed a little photo of it onto here, so here is a link to the PDF:


Katy Kennedy poster final


Some observations about my design:

  • I tried to make it very visual, and to minimise the amount of text on the page. This wasn’t that difficult, given I don’t have any data yet!
  • I used a font for the title which is similar to the Nike logo font. Given the title is ‘Running Commentary’, I thought it was a neat link
  • I also used a similar colour to the colour used in many of the Nike webpages. Orange is quite striking, so I didn’t want to overuse it, therefore it’s confined to lines and boxes mostly. I did like the idea of a colour scheme though, it ties the elements of the poster together to make a coherent whole
  • the photo at the top is intended to convey the concept of ‘feeling feet’, since the study looks at feelings during running. I contemplated the idea of using a photo of shoes, but I like this photo as it’s funny but hopefully also conveys the idea I’m after. I found something similar on Flickr but couldn’t find any source to acknowledge, so I ended up having to make my own photo. My son thought that me drawing silly faces on his toes and then taking lots of photos was hilarious. Plus I was able to colour in his toes to match my colour scheme
  • I also used a photo of some ‘normal’ looking runners, as it shows who my participants are going to be. I found this photo on Flickr using a creative commons search
  • I had some feedback on how the poster looked from a few people, one thought it looked better without the boxes and one thought the boxes organised the information better. Both agreed that my original design used boxes which were too cramped. Therefore I made the boxes bigger so that the words could breathe more easily. I also used round-cornered boxes, which echo the shape of the toes a tiny bit (I might be overthinking this slightly!)
  • The poster is for a proposed study, so there were no data available to add to the poster. Instead, I give more detail on the participants and the methodology. A future version will hopefully have plenty of lovely data, some conclusions and some useful suggestions for applying the results.

So, that’s it. I’m looking forward to sharing my poster and getting some useful feedback on it and on my study.




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