AP 101: basic academic poster tech
(The first of two articles about creating academic posters. See part 2.)
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.
- Presentation – PowerPoint, Keynote
- Desktop publishing – Publisher, InDesign, Scribus (open source)
- Vector graphics – Illustrator, Inkscape (open source)
- LaTeX – typesetting and document preparation (open source)
- 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
- Creating Effective Posters (NC State) – extensive information, well organized, popular
- Advice on designing scientific posters (Colin Purrington) – another popular general resource
- Tips for presenting a poster (Texas Tech) – advice on the face-to-face dimension
- Poster and Presentation Resources (North Carolina) – a page of links
- PowerPoint poster templates (No. Colorado)
- A page including sample posters (Penn State)
- posterpresentations.com – printing, tutorials and templates
- MakeSigns.com – printing site recommended by a colleague
- Better Posters – blog