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J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library

Poster Design: Poster Design Tips

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Frequently Asked Questions

Top 5 Library FAQ's:

Sample Posters

These are not necessarily great or terrible examples of posters! Just a large variety for you to look through.


Your poster should concisely and clearly summarize your research. Keep in mind that posters are a visual medium - include graphs, charts, and images that clarify or explain your information.

As you design your poster, think about the context it will be displayed in. Typically at a conference there is a large room of posters that attendees alk through and browse. Your poster needs to be eye-catching enough to make people want to stop and look over it, and simiple enough that they can still get the general idea of what you're discussing if they only stop for a moment. Along these same lines, you need to be able to briefly (1 min. or less) explain your research to those viewing your poster.

There are several key areas of content that most posters include:

  • Title
  • Author(s)
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgements

Occasionally you will find you need to use different categories than these due to the nature of your project. Just make sure that you are always answering the key questions:

  • What are you researching?
  • Why?
  • How did you perform your research?
  • What did you find?



When glancing at a poster, a viewer should always know where to look first. Your poster is telling a visual story, and, like a story, there should be an obvious flow. This can be created using headings, text, images, color, and layout. To get an idea of your poster's flow, size it so that it takes up most of your computer screen and then view it from across the room. What pops out? What do you see first? Where does your eye go after that first glance?

The most common poster design uses columns. You are not required to use columns but they do provide an easy way to organize information and create a nice flow for your viewer's eye to follow because they closely mirror the way we typically read (Left to right, top to bottom). 

Colors & white space

Use bright colors and blank space to highlight and group different aspects of your poster.  Avoid dark text on dark background or light text on light background and other color schemes that make your poster difficult to read from a distance.

The colors in PowerPoint are often slightly different than the actual colors that are printed on the page. Be sure to save a copy of your poster as a PDF to see the true colors before you print.

Margins & spacing

In order to create a professional looking poster, ensure that your formatting, margins, etc. all line up and are consistent  . For example, if you use a column layout, all of the headings should start the same distance from the side of the poster and the text boxes should be the same width.

If you are creating a poster that folds, be sure  determine before you start how wide each section is and to leave extra space in the margins for the fold.


As a general rule, use sans-serif fonts (like Arial or Helvetica) for titles and serif fonts (like Times New Roman) for body text. To be readable from a distance, some good rules of thumb on size are:

  • Title: 85pts

  • Author: 55 pts

  • Headings: 36 pts

  • Text: 24 pts


Be sure to zoom your PowerPoint window in to 100% to see what the resolution of images will look like when printed (or more if you will be resizing when printing - so 200% if you will be doubling a 30" x 20" poster). If you are creating a graph or chart, make it relatively large. An image that is shrunk will generally retain more detail and resolution than one that is enlarged.

If you would like to use images that you did not create, you may need to obtain permission to do so. Visit this University of Michigan page for detailed information on copyrightability of charts, graphs, and tables. Also consider using images that are licensed under Creative Commons if possible. These can be shared and reproduced more freely than works protected by traditional copyright.

Also be sure to include a logo if you are representing Tech or your department at a conference. Read through the Visual Identity page on the MTU website as there are quite a few guidelines for using a logo.

Setting up PowerPoint

Before you begin laying out your poster, do the following:


  • Resize your poster (Design --> Page Setup) to ensure that it scales and prints properly.  
    •  PowerPoint will not create a page larger than 60". If you need a larger poster, make it proportionally smaller and then enlarge it during printing (for example, create a 30" x 20" workspace and print it at 200% to create a 60" x 40" poster)


  • Under View, turn on the Ruler, Grid, and Guidelines options to help line up and structure your poster