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Elements of Style

Using graphic design to enhance visual communication in scientific posters (and elsewhere)

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. Visual presentation is more than "packaging"—it's a means of improving readability, and a way to gain greater visibility for your work. 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."

Fig. 1: Before and After

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.

Special thanks to Belinda Akpeng of UMBC for allowing me to redesign her poster and include it here.