Apr 08

“Posterizing” Your Data

By Tammy Hilgendorf, WSU Vancouver Neuroscience Student

As a scientist you are known for your brains, but to be successful you must be able to present your findings in a meaningful way. Many times, it takes the form of a poster at a convention.  Exhausted and caffeine buzzing colleagues and potential employers are passing by and you only have seconds to grab their attention. Like it or not, they are judging your poster by its cover. Thankfully, Sandy Roberts, a professional graphic designer, has a few helpful tips when presenting your work.

White Space: Have a hierarchy. What do people need to know? This should be your biggest piece – what the eyes are drawn to. Descriptions should be summarized in eight words or less. Supporting this should be medium sized boxes, supported again by small boxes. It is important to have a larger piece with contrasting boxes of smaller size for bolstering effects. If your reader’s attention is grabbed they will read the smaller pieces. Then, organize this interconnected information with appropriate white space. Never feel the need to fill all the space.

tammy graphic 1Colors: Colors are uniquely related to mood. Therefore, pick colors that reflect the feeling you would like to evoke in your audience. For example, if your poster is on clean water, use greens and blues because they are soothing colors. If you were presenting on migraine, red and black would be appropriate as they are associated with danger or harm. For a unique feel, don’t use “straight” colors, use custom blends. For the migraine topic, try mixing the red with purple hues. Finally, when pairing colors use complementary or tertiary colors. Complementary colors are across the color wheel and tertiary colors form a triangle.

Text: Stay in your lane. Don’t get too fancy. The maximum fonts you want to have in presenting your research is two. As a rule of thumb, use font sizes that are derivatives of one another. If the title is 72 then subtitles should be 36. You want to make big visual steps down. Larger texts boxes may be around 24 and the smaller font 18. Your eyes will pick up on the mathematical font sizes and it will come across organized. When organizing your text, don’t center everything. It complements to have right-aligned text with centered text.

Tammy graphic 2



Know Your Audience: Graphic designers have learned to be mindful of their audience when advertising, especially cross-culturally. For example, when Gerber Baby Food started selling their product in Africa, they used the same packaging that was used in the United States. The cute Gerber baby’s face plastered on every jar of baby food stocked the grocery shelves. Unfortunately, in Africa due to high illiteracy rates, they label their products with images of its contents. You can imagine their horror! The same caution can be applied when scientists are conversing with individuals outside their field of study. Get points across with verbiage familiar to your audience. Otherwise you are going to lose your audience like the Africans lost their appetite.

These simple steps can help you educate the public about your work using a colorful, structured, and organized approach. A poster is the key to dissemination of scientific research and creating a good poster is crucial for educating the public about exciting new research.



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