Four years of research poster design

Science conferences are ubiquitous components in research. What are you working on? What are you interested in? What do you want to tell us? Maybe you are allowed to read slides at us for twelve minutes (plus three for questions). Maybe you’ll bring twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one is. More likely, however, you’ll have a dozen square feet of real estate on a tack-board. That is enough room for thirteen or so eight-by-ten color glossy photos with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one is, but the more commonly employed medium is that of the research poster.

The form and function of presentations and posters have their respective merits and drawbacks, and you can find ruminations extolling both of these somewhere else. I am a no preference kind of guy. To wit, I have one of each to present at this year’s Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in March. The LPSC is the main conference our entire research group attends every year. I have had at least one poster at each of the previous three LPSCs, plus two posters at other conferences. With three years under my belt, it should be easy to make a poster, right? Heck, you might say, after three years you should have a Masters of Poster Science! Well…no, it is not that simple.

substance without style is truth without beauty

Communicating science is hard, and only more difficult if conveyed boringly. Whenever it’s time to start making a new poster, my search history fills up with terms like “poster design”, “award science poster”, and “awesome research poster” (see here and here to start). The essence of a research story doesn’t change; My substance is the scientific method. But substance without style is truth without beauty. And with 700 other posters to choose from, would you stop to check this out?:

2009: Fear my wall of text! Size: 42″x34″; Title: Times New Roman 72pt; Body: Times New Roman 30pt

Nope. The color scheme is all right, but there is no hierarchy. What is important here? Graphs are all about the same size, there is no central point of focus, and look at all that text! This was made after 6 months of grad school, so I vowed to focus more on results the next time around, resulting in… Continue reading