Just a website update for those who care about scientific posters: added two Powerpoint templates with portrait-style orientation. The one on the left is for people who love columns. But I like a big space for results so that you can show off the big finding, so I prefer the one on the right. I call that big space the “Results arena.” But the disadvantage of the one on the right is that your conclusions are moved down low, and taller viewers have to bend their necks a tad to read it. But if your results stand nicely on their own, it can work well. Both versions, like all my templates, nudge you to put logos at the bottom (ideally, delete them altogether … you don’t need logos). Find the downloadable PPT files in my Designing conference posters page.
When I give lectures on poster design, I show examples of horrific posters I’ve found on the internet. But I fear that someday the author of a poster I’m critiquing is going to be in the audience and carrying a concealed weapon, so I thought it was time to construct my own bad poster. The result is, “Pigs in space: effect of zero gravity and ad libitum feeding on weight gain in Cavia porcellus.” A list of why the poster is awful is below the image.
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. Ideally, also print and hang my poster that shows tips on how to make a poster. More poster tips than you really need, plus free templates, at “Designing conference posters“.
Why this is a terrible poster
- Too much text (I’ve been on mission to push for 800 words).
- Background image is distracting (distracts from 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).
- 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.)
This poster was published in the journal Nature. And yes, that street number is a horrific gravity reference. Sorry.