Here’s a made-up example of a bad conference poster that I crafted for the journal, Nature (see article). I could easily have used a bad poster on the internet (there are tens of thousands), but I worried the author might notice, find out where I live, and shoot me. I’ve listed the reasons why the poster is bad below.
- Far too much text. You should shoot for 800-1000 words. Most posters seem to be have ~3000 words, which is the main reason why they look so bad and why so many viewers avoid poster sessions.
- Background image is distracting (i.e., it distracts from text and illustrations).
- Text box backgrounds are dark, which makes text really hard to read.
- Text box backgrounds are all different colors, for no reason (distracting).
- Text boxes are different widths (distracting, hard to follow flow of poster).
- Some text boxes too wide (aim for 45-65 characters per line).
- Text boxes not separated from each other by pleasing “white” space.
- Text box edges not aligned (distracting).
- Text justified, which causes bad inter-word spacing. Also makes reading harder (brain uses jaggedness of left-justified text).
- Logos are distracting, useless, crowd title.
- Title word art distracting, hard to read, juvenile.
- Title is in all caps, which is harder to read and obscures Latin name.
- Title is italicized, which also obscures Latin name style conventions.
- Author font and color is annoying (comic sans should be reserved for comic books, internet memes).
- Author font color is too loud relative to other text.
- Results are presented in sentences instead of visually with charts.
- Section headers have too much formatting (big font, bolded, italicized, underlined, and colored — ack!). Choose one. [Note: I forgot to number the sections…that would have been even worse.]
- Terrible graphic of Guinea pig on scale. Need one of the actual set up (pigs eating while weightless, for example).
- Inclusion of an Abstract consumes space needlessly. Abstract section should be banned from posters. Posters ARE an abstract.
- Plus the science is terrible! (Bad science is correlated with bad graphic design, by the way.)
I encourage teachers to print the poster and hang in a hallway a month prior to when students’ posters are due. Here’s the PDF if you want to do that.
COPYRIGHT 2017 COLIN PURRINGTON