Planning & Designing Posters

A poster is a vehicle to start a dialogue. It should catch the eye of your audience and stimulate curiosity about what you have to say. Just remember, it’s a poster, not a novel.

Creating Content
Clarify your message by identifying your audience and defining the purpose of your poster.

“Need to know:” The primary message of your poster is essential.

“Good to know:” Information that supports your position, rationale, or approach that can add extra interest.

“Nice to know:” Contextual information that is interesting but not essential. Save “nice to know” items for dialogue with your audience or provide it in supplemental handout materials.

Bee Poster Sample
Bee Poster Sample

One option for a basic poster layout is to place the title at the top of the poster, followed by the author’s name and affiliation. Think of the remaining poster content in terms of an abbreviated thesis; include an abstract or purpose statement, introduction, brief outline of methodology and summarized results, as well as references. Use graphics to illustrate important points of interest.

Visual Impact
Organize your content logically into the following areas, as appropriate:

• Title
• Author(s)
• Affiliation(s)
• Abstract (if appropriate)
• Introduction
• Method
• Results
• References
• Captions

Information Flow Diagram
Information Flow Diagram

Western European audiences are conditioned to information flowing from left to right, top to bottom. Arranging poster content to follow this pattern will increase visual and cognitive accessibility of your poster for audiences scanning for information.

Draw a thumbnail sketch of your poster, with a top-to-bottom, left-to-right flow of information in a spatial grid divided into three to four columns. This will help you organize the flow and visual impact of information.

When designing your poster keep the content:

• Legible
• Logical
• Well organized
• Succinct

Posters should employ the KISS and KILL philosophy.1

Keep it Short and Simple (KISS)
Keep it Large and Legible (KILL)

Poster content should be organized in a logical sequence that makes your message clear and guides the user to the information they are looking for. Graphics should be selected with care to illustrate specific points. Support graphics with descriptive captions.

Fonts & Sizes for Posters
Fonts & Sizes for Posters

For maximum accessibility, poster text should be legible from a distance of 4 to 10 feet for individuals with 20/20 vision. (Fonts illustrated above are not to scale.)


• Headlines should be 100 to 150 point san serif font
• Subheads should be 40 to 48 point san serif font
• Content text should be 36 to 38 point san serif font
• Caption text should be 30 to 34 point san serif font
• References should be 24 point san serif font

Graphics, photos, and charts should:

• Be 300 dpi resolution or above
• Be cropped or enlarged to focus on essential content
• Illustrate important points
• Be succinct, specific, and attractive
• Include titles or explanatory captions

To ensure full accessibility of your poster to all members of the audience, have large-print handouts of your poster’s content available to give away.