How many times have you ended up with an aching back after continuously bending to read the bottom of posters at conferences? This is not a problem I’ve had but I realised after this session that I avoided looking at posters for too long to avoid this very problem. And that is what this session had as an icebreaker – what problems do you have with posters? This icebreaker focused on design problems though – and there are lots of these too. How do you fit all the information you want to have on your poster? Where do you put graphics and text? What about colours, fonts, graphs etc? Why create one anyway?
There are lots of good things about posters. You can revisit them and you don’t have to talk to the creator if you don’t want to. If you are a creator, it is a good way to share research to a wide audience. They can transcend language barriers, are good at presenting ideas in different ways and you can also have a printout for the viewer to take away. It can act as a teaser to a future paper and if you have one already or a website, screencast or podcast, you can add a QR code to it so the viewer could, if they wanted to, go straight to that for more information.
A good poster is one with inclusive design. A good poster is easy for dyslexics and people with colour or vision disabilities to make sense of, easy for people with bad backs or knees to read (don’t put text on the bottom!), and has a reading flow that makes it easy for people who read right-left and left-right to navigate. There are some basic design tips to remember: use sans serif fonts – (and don’t mix them!), the header should be as large as possible for contrast with rest of the text, punchy headings draw in the audience, balance space and information, visuals should complement the text, don’t use acronyms unless the audience knows what it refers to (I guess MeSH is a good example of an acronym lots of medical librarians recognise whereas RMH, the acronym of my workplace, is not), bar charts are more immediately understandable than pie charts, and make sure your poster is understandable from a distance. Finally – remember to follow the conference poster guidelines!
We all got the chance to feel like kids again when we worked in groups creating a poster (cutting and pasting pictures from magazines onto butcher paper) and had fun with the mini poster presentations. We all got a great handout [Create a Great Poster] with tips and were pointed to some useful resources to use when choosing palettes, contrast, and designing materials to suit people who are visual learners as well as people who are text readers. I’ve only created one poster (years ago now) and after this session, I am keen to try my hand at another.