I will be presenting my research topic during a poster session at an upcoming class. Even though I barely know what that topic is yet, I’ve been attempting to put a poster together over the past few days. At our last class, I learned that a poster that I might create for an advertising campaign and an academic poster are two different animals, at least in the eyes of academia. Our professors showed us some samples – basically dense research papers transferred onto large pieces of glossy paper with virtually no redeeming graphic design elements. It is unlikely they are recyclable either, so my poster will be used once, then collect dust in a corner, unless I can figure out a reuse.
Before I could shift judgment to curiosity, I blurted out: Do people actually read those things? According to my profs, indeed they do. I am not convinced. I may have mumbled something else about violating all communications principles, no doubt ensuring a top mark this term. One of the profs, who is aware of my advertising background, said that we were not selling a product here. I beg to differ. Whether you are selling fair trade coffee or a concept, radiant heating or research, your purpose is to engage the customer, no matter if they are a consumer, professor or a fellow grad student.
Posters that communicate well with their audiences include provocative headlines; white space; minimal, yet interesting and entertaining copy that expresses two maybe three ideas; white space; bold use of colour; one or two tasty, nicely sized fonts; white space; eye-catching photos and graphics; white space. A well-designed poster is sure to break through the clutter of 100 other text-heavy mega-brochures on the walls of a stuffy conference room. Add an engaging activity and maybe a plate of cookies, and you will definitely attract attention.
As for my poster, I chose the least offensive template I could find (no, not the one shown). I’m shooting for a hybrid, knowing full well I may fail to impress.