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Posters, Presentations & Science Writing: Design

use this guide to create a successful science poster presentation.

Design your poster

Use VISUAL EXPLANATIONS: Illustrations, photographs, flowcharts, figures, graphs, and tables can explain a lot in a little space.
Add descriptive titles and legends for visuals.

USE poster design templates: search Google for "poster template" and the software you will use.
  • DEVELOP a logical progression of ideas, text, and visuals
  • LINEAR flow from left to right and from top to bottom.
  • ALIGN text and images neatly in columns.
  • FOLLOW standard patterns: introduction & methods in the left-hand column, results in the middle, and remaining text in the right-hand column.



Content is printed on a single sheet of paper.
Pro: This layout is common at scientific meetings.
Con: Requires a large format printer available at special printing facilities. The cost may exceed $50 or more.
sketch of a single sheet poster

Images & Graphic presentation

Beautiful Evidence / Edward R. Tufte. P93.5 .T837 2006. Cheshire, Conn.: Graphics Press, 2006.

Envisioning Information / Edward R. Tufte. 10th printing, Mar. 2005. ed. Cheshire, Conn.: Graphics Press, 1990, 2005. P93.5 .T84 2005

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information / Edward R. Tufte . 2nd ed. Cheshire, Conn.: Graphics Press, 2001. HA31 .T914 2001.

Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative / Edward R. Tufte. 7th prt, revisions, June 2005. ed. Cheshire, Conn.: Graphics Press, 2005. BF241 .T83 2005



Content is divided across panels that usually fit on letter size paper (8.5 x 11 inches) (Mandoli, 2007).
Pro: Printing letter size poster panels is relatively inexpensive and the printers are readily available.
Con: This layout is less common at professional scientific meetings.
sketch of a poster made up of multiple panels

Format Text for easy reading

Emphasize text with different styles and sizes.

Try these settings so headings stand out in single sheet posters (Hofmann, 2010):

  • Title: 90 point, boldface
  • Subtitles: 72 point
  • Section headings: 32 to 36 point
  • Other text: ideally 22 to 28 point

Other formatting tups:

  • Crowded text is hard to read. Try line spacing at 1.15, 1.25, 1.5, or double spacing.
  • Text in formulas, legends, and illustration labels should be sufficiently large.
  • Large headings may be easier to read in sans-serif fonts like Arial, Helvetica, and Calibri
  • Avoid large blocks of text. Bulleted Lists may be easier to read.
  • For graphs, y-axis labels are easier to read when aligned horizontally.
  • Remove visual clutter ~~ Leave empty space between sections.
  • Remove grid lines in graphs.
  • Bright colors and backgrounds may be distracting, use sparingly, and try muted hues.