Tag Archives: session

Fabric conference posters

I was invited to talk about poster design in Berkeley (DOE NNSA SSGF) and DC (DOE CSGF) this past summer, and used the opportunity to test out fabric as a medium for large-format conference posters. Below are some photographs if you’re curious how logos, illustrations, and photographs look when viewed close up on fabric. By the way, I ordered the posters from PhD Posters (they mailed to my house in a tube, inside a box). And if you’re interested, my poster design tips are here (rather long-winded because I’ve maintained page since 1997).


The rolled up poster above is also fabric. I didn’t have the nerve to fold it into luggage-sized square, but I’ve heard that it can be done … though crease lines an issue. Might be able to iron them out, I’ve also read.


The photograph above isn’t as crisp as a glossy poster, but was totally fine for my purposes. If it really mattered, I’d just print a copy on my photo printer at 1200 dpi (or whatever) and then use double sided tape to attach. Even paper posters have fairly low photo quality, so attaching a high-resolution version is always an option when you need it.


Yes, you can see the fabric if you get close enough. People standing 6 feet away wouldn’t notice and probably wouldn’t care if you told them.





This logo is actually from the poster that is rolled up. It’s at http://colinpurrington.com/2012/example-of-bad-scientific-poster/ if you want to see the whole poster (you can download and print for your class, if you’d like; yeah, students would just love that).

fabric-poster-edge-detailThis photograph shows how the edges can get a little frayed. Holes from pushpins are also visible. Much less annoying than the rips and gaping holes that paper gets.

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Poster judging form

I’ve had several people ask me recently for a copy of my poster judging form, so just in case you were afraid to ask, here it is. The idea is to use tick-boxes (1 to 10 — “atrocious” to “wonderful”) to quickly record your thoughts on poster design, poster content, and oral presentation.  Click on the image to download a PDF if you’d like to use it.  If you ever need it in the future, the most recent version (the one below is a draft) will be near the bottom of my Designing Conference Posters page, in the “Plea to all-powerful meeting organizers” section.

Poster juding form


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The fine print on poster sessions

For giggles, I contacted approximately 100 societies with annual meetings coming up, and asked them whether they offered word count suggestions for attendees presenting posters.  The majority didn’t write back (no real surprise), but of those that did the most common response was, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Some went on to provide me with the word count limit for the abstracts submitted (to get your poster accepted).  Only one response had the information I was looking for: “5 pages of 16pt text” as maximum.  If you fill up 5 pages with the phrase “average word”, that gives you 1750 words. Personally, I think 500 – 1000 is a good range. If you’re curious what a wordy poster looks like, I’ve attached to this post an image of text-only version of one of my templates.

Word count of poster with too much text

In hindsight, though, it was probably a silly question.  What is more important and understandable to attendees preparing their posters is the minimum acceptable font size, because even in posters with low word count, readability can be awful if all the figure text (for example) is set in 12pt instead of the size of the rest of the body text. If only the poster prize committee would police these limits, though.  Whenever I stumble onto a site showing prize-winning posters, committees often seem to be awarding people who have made their font smaller than everyone else, invariably the size is smaller than meeting guidelines.  It’s really puzzling.  It could be that people with high-quality content have a lot to say, and so they have to shrink font size to get it all in.  However, I just think people are somehow wired or trained to attribute small print to “authoritative, creative” and large print to “amateurish, insecure.”  Or do judges take longer to read the small text, and thus demonstrate the “disfluency” advantage that gives strange fonts an advantage in memory retention? If there is a typographer/psychologist out there with insight into this phenomenon, please fill me in.

I know it’s never going to happen, but in an ideal world judges would carry one of those fun little plastic shape templates while they review posters.  Then they could position the 3/8″ circle (or whatever) over a standard letter (“s” perhaps) to evaluate the size.  If the “s” fits without touching the edges, it’s too small and the poster cannot be entered into the prize pool.  Something like this would be really useful, because kids these days have no idea what font size means, especially when the final output is large.

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Poster page revisions

I finally got around to making some long-needed changes to my page on designing conference posters: http://colinpurrington.com/tips/academic/posterdesign.  For those who care, the poster-like file with poster tips is now just a PDF, not a Powerpoint template.  This PDF will hopefully be useful to those who want to both an example layout and tips on how to craft a poster. Teachers can print this PDF out on a large-format printer and pin it to classroom wall a month before student posters are due.  The second big change is that the Powerpoint templates are now text-light, which will make them easier to use as templates (i.e., no need to delete all the annoying “tips” text that was there previously).  Templates now come in a few different flavors, too (and more coming).  Finally, lots of minor changes to the page itself, though just as long-winded, with apologies. If you know of somebody who needs poster help, please feel free to send them the link.

Advice on designing scientific posters

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