#Eval15 Week: Donna Podems, Aimee White, and Sheila B Robinson on the Challenges of Creating a Conference Poster

Greetings! We are Donna Podems, Amiee White (AEA board members), and Sheila B Robinson, aea365’s Lead Curator with some tips and advice for creating a killer conference poster.

We served as judges of the Evaluation 2015 Potent Presentations (p2i) Poster Competition and used p2i criteria to identify the top two posters that came closest to meeting all and would be named “Best in Show.”

Cool Trick: Use p2i design principles for conference posters.

Posters should be:

  • Readable from at least six feet away with fonts no smaller than 24pt for body text, 48pt or larger for headings, and 64pt font or larger for titles.
  • Printed on one large sheet (3’8” x 3’8”), and not on multiple smaller pieces of paper.
  • Understandable, focusing on “big picture” points with a minimum of jargon, acronyms, abbreviations, etc.
  • Free from electricity. The poster session cannot accommodate computers.
  • Logically organized into sections with text and graphics that flow well.
  • To the point with elements that highlight the work in a way that is understandable in a very short time.
  • Colorful with well-chosen graphics and intentional use of color to emphasize key points.
  • Visually engaging, and attractive to passers-by with large, clear graphs, photos, diagrams, color blocks, or other graphics/images related to the work.
  • Conversational in nature, as opposed to using language suited for a journal article.
  • Succinct with text and titles that can be read at a glance. URLs and references should be place on a supplementary handout. 

Cool Trick: Learn what not to do. We saw many fabulous posters and it was quite difficult to choose this year’s winners. What made it especially challenging was that many included high quality research and interesting studies. Many met some, but not all of the p2i criteria. Here are some of the “deal breakers” we saw:

  • 3D graphs and color not used well or intentionally on graphs
  • tiny fonts that were difficult to read from barely one foot away
  • too much clutter! We couldn’t understand the research or the story the exhibitor was trying to tell with so many details shared
  • poor contrast between font and background colors
  • shocking fluorescent color that hurt our eyes
  • clip art (as opposed to higher quality images or icons)
  • all text and no graphics, images, or visual cues

Lessons Learned: We were already familiar with p2i design principles but learned even more from observing posters through a different lens in our work as judges. We realize that posters present unique challenges and recognize the intense design work that exhibitors put into them.

Congratulations to all Evaluation 2015 poster presenters!

Rad Resource: The Potent Presentations (p2i) website at p2i.eval.org has excellent resources on poster design!

2 thoughts on “#Eval15 Week: Donna Podems, Aimee White, and Sheila B Robinson on the Challenges of Creating a Conference Poster”

  1. Did you post pictures of the Best in Show posters? I think I remember seeing the “winners” posted last year. Thanks for the great tips on design principles and deal breakers.

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