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Creating Good Posters

Creating a poster is a delicate balancing act. You want your poster to be appealing enough to attract attention without being garish; have enough information to communicate how cool your research is without being overwhelming; and appeal to both nontechnical and technical readers. This page includes some advice based on the collective experience of the faculty, systems staff, and the rest of the 'Net.


From a design perspective, you should stick with the Harvey Mudd College logo (the words “Harvey Mudd” over a bar with the word “College”) and avoid using the seal. You should definitely not use the 50th anniversary logo.


Don't put a background on the posters. Backgrounds (1) make the poster's text harder to read; (2) use a lot more ink; and (3) make it take a lot longer to print the poster.

Important Ideas to Take to Heart

Get your final poster to me as soon as possible
The sooner I have the posters, the sooner I can look them over, which means that there's more time to correct mistakes with the poster. It also means that I can have more flexibility in when I print them, so I can adjust for my own schedule. Finally, more time up front means more time to fix problems with the printer, obtain more supplies if we were to run out, and so forth.
Use standard fonts (or preview on a Mac)
If you're using PowerPoint, be aware that I'll be printing from a Mac; if you use weird Windows-only fonts or random fonts downloaded from the 'Net, I may not have them and weirdness can result. Sending me a PDF or giving me a preview is also a good idea, so I can check anything that looks weird against your idea of what it should look like.
Avoid raster images (bitmaps)
If you're including diagrams, figures, graphs, or other nonphotographic material, try to create them with vector drawing programs, such as Illustrator or OmniGraffle, or save them as EPS or PDF (especially for tools such as MATLAB).

Vector images can be rescaled without pixelation; raster images can't.

For photographs or other images that can't be rendered as vector images, try to make sure you have the highest-resolution images you can find (300 dpi or better). That's especially important for things like corporate or organizational logos.

Note that resaving a raster image in a vector format does not make that image a vector image—it just puts a vector wrapper around a blob of raster data.

Make sure you use one of the standard page sizes
Basically 36" x 48" or 36" x 54". If your poster doesn't have 36" as one of its dimensions, I will either have to scale it or, if scaling results in a poster that doesn't look workable to me, kick it back to you to be redone with the proper page height.
Do some preview prints
Even though your poster might be sized to print on a huge piece of paper, there's no reason that you can't print scaled versions to look at for balance, color, relative font size, and, of course, spelling, grammar, and punctuation. I would encourage you to do letter-size previews on your own, and tabloid-size color previews when reviewing your final design before sending it to me.
Send me what I need (and have the rest available)
If you're completely happy with your poster, you've used the right page size, checked your spelling and mechanics, and everything is great, you can send me a PDF file.

Otherwise, I would encourage you to send me (or, even better, put somewhere where I can get them) all of the pieces, including images, the PowerPoint or TeX file, and any modified class files or style files that aren't available on the math cluster (you can cd to a directory not containing the style files and type kpsewhich stylefile.sty, where stylefile is the name of the package, to check).

Having a preview (in PDF or paper) form is especially useful for PowerPoint posters, which could have font, spacing, or other issues when moved from Windows to Mac OS X.

The best way to submit posters would be to put them in a directory on your math cluster account and send me e-mail telling me where they are. I can then grab a copy and go from there. Second best would be to put the poster and other files on a website, and tell me where to look. Third best would be sending me the poster by e-mail. And last, but not least, dropping by my office with a USB key works, too, assuming that I'm actually in when you come by. (E-mail me in advance to make sure!)

External Resources

Designing Conference Posters, Colin Purrington, Swarthmore College.
Good overview of designing and presenting posters. I don't agree with everything (in particular, I think that sentence-capping titles makes no sense), but most everything here is great advice.
Research Posters 101, Lorrie Faith Cranor, Crossroads: The ACM Student Magazine
More good advice.