By Nichole Jonas
Originally presented as a poster at the Fourth Annual NICHD Fellows Meeting on April 27 and 28, 2008, in Airlie, VA.
The design of a poster should enhance and attract attention to the information being conveyed. By adopting techniques and strategies used by graphic designers, researchers can help their work reach a wider audience. Choices in whitespace, typography, color, and layout can impact the effectiveness of a poster. Many such choices are largely a matter of personal preference. However, there do exist accepted rules of thumb regarding aesthetics and how graphic design fundamentals can be applied to both comprehension as well as "curb appeal."
The typeface you choose is the voice of your work. Choose a font that will speak with the level of professionalism you would like to convey. "Handwritten" fonts—for example, Comic Sans—may be attractive because they appear "friendly." Unfortunately typefaces such as this tend to be overused and abused, most often in contexts for which they are entirely inappropriate.
Color should be used judiciously. A white background is safe, but doesn't draw attention to your work. Bright, saturated colors might catch someone's eye, but may also overwhelm the content of your poster. The color spectrum plays an important role in color and readability. Color combinations utilizing colors at opposite ends of the spectrum (such as red and blue) are difficult to read and can cause eye fatigue. The key, however, is to remember: everything in moderation. In general, reserve bright, saturated colors for accent elements and keep your backgrounds light and/or muted.
Whitespace, also known as negative space, refers to the space between objects (such as graphics or blocks of text) on a page. Text margins are perhaps the most common utilization of whitespace. Adding more whitespace to your layout prevents it from looking crowded and increases readability. In addition, text that is broken into shorter paragraphs encourages reading, whereas long blocks of text do precisely the opposite. Eye-tracking studies conducted by the Poynter Institute demonstrated that short paragraphs receive twice as much attention from readers as long paragraphs.
Before and After
Special thanks to Belinda Akpeng of UMBC for allowing me to redesign her poster and include it here.
The above posters demonstrate how careful arrangement of text and images and a balanced use of color can greatly enhance a poster's visual appeal.
For more information, please visit https://science.nichd.nih.gov/confluence/display/~jonasnic/Elements+of+Style