Academic Posters – Using Pictures to Enhance Your Words:

An academic poster doesn’t have to be a bristol board with some cut outs glued to it along with some glittery letters, an academic poster can be a useful tool to a great presentation.

Either on a backboard or even through a projector lens we can create academic posters, conference posters or presentation posters.

In order to have an effective academic poster the creator must take into account several things:

  1. The audience the poster is directed towards: Pick what the poster will have on it based on the general audience, can you include anything people can relate to? Will it be a focal point of the presentation or will it be an accessory?
  1. Try to use as little words as possible and still have it make sense: Don’t convert your      whole speech to pictures, unless for some reason you want the audience to repeat after you. The poster does what you cannot and that is to give visual aid.
  1. Have a full poster, but not a busy one: Making the audience have a sensory overload is definitely not a goal to strive for, even posters for the wildest rave festivals are simple enough to understand at a quick glance. Including hectic patterns, many different font and font sizes, moving images, sounds, and anything else to distract the viewer can cause more confusion and distract the viewer.
  1. Keep it interesting: Give the audience a reason to want to look at it, include interesting pictures, ask questions, have charts, include quotes, give proof, etc… Just remember to pick the ones that will have the most impact and any other pertinent information can be found elsewhere once the reader has taken interest. It is the “front-line” of advertising.
  2. The poster is a direct representation of the presenter: Whether the speaker created it themselves or if a person with more expertise such as an advertising company created it, it will always be a representation of the presenter and the cause or company they stand for. If it looks sloppy and poorly done, it will reflect itself on every other aspect of it’s origin.

People can sit down and talk until they’re blue in the face or type until their fingers fail about the “do’s and don’ts” about making a visually appealing poster but it ultimately takes practise and constructive criticism from others, trial and error and most importantly: confidence.  

Below are two examples, one is a good poster and the other is a not-so-good poster, take a look and try to find the good and bad aspects of them both:

Example 1:


The first example uses colour, making it jump out at the reader, the font goes with the overall feeling of the poster’s concept, it shows pictures that pertain to the message of laughing and the reasons behind doing so. There may be slightly more words and sentences than needed but at least it makes the reader stop and investigate. Overall the general message is conveyed and it makes sense and can be perceived as interesting. Questions are asked, and answered but left the reader still intrigued.

*Example used from:

Example 2:


The second example is very plain and to the point, it has about the same word count as the first example but it is displayed very blandly, without any imagination. The pictures are there but they don’t really do the poster any justice, the creator could have left them out and it would have made very little difference. This poster was full of information but would be a bit much for someone merely passing by.

*Example used from:


The best way to begin creating good academic posters is to analyze ones that already exist, there are several great websites to help as well which are included below and to develop your own style based on trial and error. There are very few “bad” posters but there many “ok” ones and fewer “great” ones.

As stated above, it is always important to remember that the poster is providing the visual aspect while the presenter articulates the spoken/written portion, if done properly the poster and presenter will compliment each other perfectly, which will make for a pleasant experience for the audience.



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