Poster Design Guide

Poster Session
A poster presentation is a method of communication which requires a unique design approach. Your poster is an introduction to your topic and should provide just enough information to spark a conversation between you and your audience. This page will guide you toward making a quality poster capable of grabbing attention and inspiring a quality discussion of your work.

Required Poster Dimensions: 32 inches wide x 40 inches tall

Table of Contents
  1. Planning and Managing Your Content
  2. Designing Your Poster
    1. Fonts
    2. Colors
    3. Pictures
    4. Graphs
  3. Examples & Tutorials
  4. Printing

Planning and Managing Your Content

Rule #1: Consider your audience and strive to find the most simple, clear, and catchy way to approach them with your content.

Rule #2: Make use of available resources. Creativity is inspired by boundaries, so familiarize yourself with the presentation requirements of the event.

Rule #3: Think of the poster as a conversation starter and keep all of your text concise for impact and readability.

Pictures, graphs, and text should all work together to present your information. Balance is key and white space is a friend, not a foe. In fact white space makes a poster more readable and more approachable, so try to spread things out. Don't go overboard. You can't squeeze everything on there, so don't even try. As always, stay away from excessive jargon.

Designing Your Poster

Create your design on a single PowerPoint slide. This is not the best format for poster layout; however, it is the easiest for beginners to get the hang of and it is easy to print. When you are participating in one of CRL's programs, you must use a CRL Poster Template as a baseline for your design. For other conferences the following Generic Poster Template for Students is recommended. This ensures that your poster will have the appropriate dimensions, font sizing, and program logo; as well as be in the format (PowerPoint) that CRL requires for printing. Make modifications to the template at your discretion, always keeping in mind the clearest, simplest way to communicate your research to your audience. You do not have to adhere strictly to the colors or header text included in the poster template. Make the template work for you. CRL-sponsored poster sessions require posters be in portrait (tall) layout, and the dimensions should be 32 inches wide x 40 inches tall. Other poster sessions may differ. Always refer to a conference's website for specific requirements.

People walk past walls of text. After transferring your content from the word processor to the PowerPoint slide you'll likely find that some adjustments need to be made. Does the content have a natural flow, or is it hard to understand where it begins and where it ends? Is there enough white space? Again, consider simplifying your text. Focus on key points and main ideas, and provide just enough information to prompt your discussion and help you remember your work.


People also walk past unprofessional looking text. Use unembellished, legible, and heavy fonts such as Helvetica, Calibri, Arial, etc. If you have so much text that it doesn't fit in the box, shorten the text rather than make it smaller. Don't justify your text like a newspaper, and make sure that hyphenation is disabled, this will make the text more readable. Black type is best, but bold or color can be used to emphasize or highlight key points. Just remember: Your text needs to be legible from 5-6 feet away.

Font sizing Suggestions:
Poster Session
  • Title: 100-144 points
  • Section Headings: 72-84 points
  • Main Content: 18-24 points, double spaced
  • Acknowledgements and References: 10-16 points, single spaced


Does your area of research have any associated colors? For example, breast cancer is commonly associated with the color pink. Using color correctly will draw people to your presentation, and may draw key people that are already familiar with your discipline or area of interest. You may have noticed that the pink in the sentence above was hard to read, so instead of using pink for your text you might find another way to incorporate the color onto your poster via a picture of a breast cancer ribbon, for example. Additionally, try to dress in colors that do not clash with your poster, as you are a part of your presentation.

Keep your background white for legibility. (Also: CRL cannot afford to print large blocks of saturated color, and the background of your poster must be white if you intend to print at CRL.)


A picture is worth a thousand words, but make sure they speak to your message: Use pictures that strongly communicate something about your work, and use them sparingly for impact. Photographs of your office, laboratory, or field site, or the apparatus you have on your lab bench may also be eye catching and communicative. Apply a thin gray or black border as needed for a professional touch.
Poster Session
Pictures should be high resolution (between 150dpi and 300dpi) otherwise they may appear blurry when printed on the poster. When taking images from the web, make sure they are high resolution and absolutely do not stretch them to be any larger.


Keep graphs and diagrams simple to improve their effectiveness; this is not the place for lots of dots and numbers.Graphs and diagrams are good as long as they clearly communicate important information.

External Examples & Tutorials

Beyond this tutorial there are countless examples of research posters throughout the internet. Take a look for yourself and try to learn from the mistakes (or successes) of others. The Oceanography Society provides some great insight into the preparation and delivery of scientific talks and visual aids, and gives some examples of both bad and good posters along the way. Please note that some of their design standards (such as font sizing, poster content, and poster dimensions) differ from ours. Additional resources can be found here.


Once you've finished designing your poster you will need to print it. IUPUI students have the following resources.