March 2011

The ABCs of poster making

The left column also should clearly state (preferably in a single sentence) the hypothesis underlying your work and describe, under a Materials and Methods section, how the hypothesis was tested. Avoid being too wordy and again, especially if new technology is being used to address the question, try to include a graphic.

The center column: figures

The central panel of the poster generally displays figures representing the findings of your work and the corresponding figure legends. Several things should be kept in mind when putting this section of the presentation together. First, although it is good to be creative and color readily draws the attention of the reader, be careful when selecting colors to represent your data (e.g., on a chart or in a graph). It is estimated that in the U.S., nearly 8 percent of men and nearly 0.5 percent of women are color blind. Therefore, it is better to use different symbols, all in black, to distinguish among different groups on a graph rather than using different colors. If you are tempted to use color, however, avoid using red, green, blue and yellow.

If you show the same data (i.e., treatment type) on multiple graphs or charts, keep its representation (symbol and/or color) consistent from one figure to the next. Again, this serves to help your reader understand your findings in the least time-consuming manner.

The legends below each figure should summarize the finding depicted by the figure in a single sentence and explain, if appropriate, whether statistical significance between the various groups compared has been attained. Although you may be tempted to present all of your work on the poster, include only the work most relevant to the title of the poster. You can discuss your other findings with your audience in person if they are interested in learning more about your research.

The right column: conclusion

The last column is used to summarize the findings of the presented work under a Conclusion heading and to address its significance and any future work you may conduct based on the questions you already have addressed. Remember also to thank everyone who helped you under the Acknowledgment heading. This also is the place to include information about the agency funding your work and to whom the funding was issued.

Remember that a poster should speak clearly and concisely about your work, so it likely will take several attempts and drafts for you to design a poster that does it right. However, seeing audiences engrossed by your work at a conference should serve as a reminder that the effort you put into your poster is well worth the satisfaction you’ll feel as a reward.

Marina Pazin ( is a doctoral candidate at Northwestern University.


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thank you tashi



PosterGenius is a great software package that helps people create posters:



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