Skip to content

AP 101: basic academic poster tech

March 2, 2011

(The first of two articles about creating academic posters. See part 2.)

ND Anthro student with poster

A professor in the college of Engineering at Notre Dame approached me this semester about a project he was considering, where where students would create and present academic posters. Presenting a poster is clearly a form of teaching and our center frequently assists faculty with presentation technique. Posters also involve technology, so it was appropriate for me to begin researching the technology involved.

I discovered that after many years of dutifully cutting and pasting pieces of paper onto cardboard or foam core, a new option has become popular – large format printers that produce the entire poster in one shot. These devices use rolled paper that is typically 36 inches wide, so the height can be 60 inches or more. It’s not cheap, though – a 3-by-4-foot poster can easily set you back $50 – 65!

A variety of different types of software are used in creating posters.

  1. Presentation – PowerPoint, Keynote
  2. Desktop publishing – Publisher, InDesign, Scribus (open source)
  3. Vector graphics – Illustrator, Inkscape (open source)
  4. LaTeX – typesetting and document preparation (open source)
  5. Poster Genius – specifically for making posters

PowerPoint is one of the most popular tools. It’s relatively easy to use, familiar to many people, and readily available on college campuses. It also provides tools for incorporating a variety of poster elements: text, images, shapes, clip art, lines, tables, and charts (also see our article about SmartArt). PowerPoint even has a grid-snap option to help line up items, and it’s easy to find templates you can use as a starting point. There’s lots of help available on the Internet, including this video:

Creating and presenting an academic poster involves visual design (layout, colors, fonts, images), content (identifying and summarizing key information), personal interaction (demeanor, appearance), and other factors. For students, an academic poster project can provide valuable experience in organizing their thoughts and relating with other people.

Eight useful resources

  1. Creating Effective Posters (NC State) – extensive information, well organized, popular
  2. Advice on designing scientific posters (Colin Purrington) – another popular general resource
  3. Tips for presenting a poster (Texas Tech) – advice on the face-to-face dimension
  4. Poster and Presentation Resources (North Carolina) – a page of links
  5. PowerPoint poster templates (No. Colorado)
  6. A page including sample posters (Penn State)
  7. – printing, tutorials and templates
  8. – printing site recommended by a colleague
  9. Better Posters – blog

Let us notify you of new articles! -> subscribe by email or use Google Reader

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve Ehrmann permalink
    March 3, 2011 8:54 am

    Several years ago, for the first time, I saw posters at a university teaching conference displayed on flat screens, not paper. They were touch screens, I think, and roughly the same size and shape as paper postesrs. As you might imagine, this enabled the inclusion of video clips and buttons leading to data, additional resources, etc. I’m surprised not to have seen that a second time yet, but it’s coming…

  2. Chris Clark permalink*
    March 3, 2011 3:43 pm

    I am surprised as well – but at the same time not so much. For one thing, it’s difficult to make a meaningful animation. For another, a poster session is more about a personal connection than it is about a visual experience.

  3. Kristin Lewis permalink
    March 11, 2011 11:54 am

    We have been using PowerPoint for student posters in biology lab for quite a while. One work around the price cost is to have students print to 11×17 paper for about $1-2 at Kinkos. They still look nice and are readable by a TA or at close range. We have students set up the file as if it will be printed at full size so that they have a “real” template for use in the future.

    Colin Purrington’s site at Swarthmore that you mention in your post has always been a helpful resource.

  4. Sal permalink
    May 18, 2011 11:00 pm

    Layout in InDesign if you’re familiar with it – so, so much better for dealing with high resolution images without crashing the computer. Large format printers are the way to go for printing – we’ve pushed a few through FedEx in a hurry, they sometimes have one branch in a metropolitan area with a large printer. Better service through local sign shops, one near me called Alice June – – does extremely good work. Campus libraries sometimes offer highly subsidized pricing but less reliable as it’s busy help desk staffer running things.

    I’ve been at conferences which specifically discourage printing posters & opt for a virtual, bring-your-laptop type approach. The way of the future?

  5. April 17, 2013 2:27 am

    Reblogged this on Academic / Scientific Posters and commented:
    This 2011 post covers some basic compilation issues & has links to useful sites at the end. Its follow-up post though talks about moving from traditional posters to electronic posters & has a link to an assessment rubric. I rebloged this as it shows a transition from the traditional format, to a an IT format, but discusses issues of resolution / dpi. I dislike the idea of people having to view e-posters on standard pc screens, but the author mentions more of a virtual environment, which hints of an ‘afterlife’ for posters …. See what you think :-)

  6. July 27, 2014 9:24 pm

    While continuing with acting roles here and there, Sarandon’s real passion lately seems to be running a business.
    $ Must keep your valuable in safe custody at the locker in hotels which are provided free of cost.
    This is especially true if you are coming during the peak tourist season, that
    starts in September and goes on to April.

  7. July 27, 2014 11:12 pm

    Allow me to cite three bad web design ideas that most websites commonly (and unwittingly) use:
    Using unconventional letter cases is excusable when you’re engaging in casual conversations over the web (through email, chat or
    social bookmarking). It is mandatory at all times to keep the focas on the expectations and convenience of site users at all times.
    You need to make efforts to select credible and reliable services
    that can provide you maximum benefits.

  8. July 28, 2014 7:45 am

    SEO can also take many months to be indexed by search
    engines. The Super – Preview takes away a lot of that frustration.
    You need to make efforts to select credible and reliable services that can provide you maximum benefits.

  9. July 28, 2014 11:22 am

    This way search engines will index the words
    in the headings. You may want to make another research on this topic.
    As summer approaches one of the last thing that you want to be suffering from is blocked drains, they smell, flood and can be extremely unhygienic.

  10. July 28, 2014 12:26 pm

    You do have to make sure that mistakes you make in spelling and
    grammar are at a minimum. It is mandatory
    at all times to keep the focas on the expectations and convenience of
    site users at all times. Importantly, ranking on the first page is vital since users rarely go to page 2 or
    more of their search results.


  1. How to design a digital media project « NspireD2: Learning Technology in Higher Ed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 592 other followers

%d bloggers like this: