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How to Make a Science Research Poster: Design

A guide on how to make a scientific research poster for a conference, class, or university event

Design: Text

  • Text – less is more!
  • Use graphics to tell the story when possible
  • Use just a few sentences to describe the figures

Design: Fonts

  • Large text – should be able to read it from a few feet away (~ 80 pts or larger for title, 36 or larger for headings, 24 or larger for text, 18 or larger for captions)
  • Pick one or two fonts and use consistently
    • a san serif font such as helvetica, arial, or calibri often used for title and headings
    • serif fonts such as times new roman, cambria, georgia, or palatino often used for text
    • don’t use comic sans.
  • Use bolding, not all caps, for emphasis and use sparingly (once or twice on the poster, if at all). Italics should be saved for species names.

Design: Clean Background

  • Large background images are usually distracting and not recommended


Design: Spacing

  • The poster should have white space around all text and figures – it shouldn’t look crammed 

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Design: Colors

  • About 8% of men and 0.5% of women are color-blind. It's therefore critical to choose colors that will readable to your entire audience.
  • Use color-blind friendly colors. Avoid certain combos such as green & red or blue & purple (see the chart below)
  • You can use the following chart to help you pick color-blind friendly color combos. The left panel represents what most of the population sees. The two right panels represent what colors look like in two different forms of color-blindness.
    • The blue boxes illustrate that color combos can look very different in color-blinded and non-color-blinded vision. For non-color-blinded vision, green and bluish green is almost indistinguishable but for a color-blinded person, red and green are similarly difficult to tell apart.


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Design: Alignment

  • Make sure everything is properly aligned and evenly spaced. PowerPoint and other graphics software packages such as Adobe Illustrator and Inkscape have alignment functions.
  • Below is an example of a poster that has poor alignment. Aligning boxes, figures, and text boxes helps keep the reader focused on the science rather than distracting design.


Poor alignment

Good alignment

How to align in PowerPoint: 

  • Select two or more objects
  • Find the alignment tool under the Arrange Objects icon of the Home tab 
  • Choose which edges you want to align (i.e. top, bottom, left, right)