19 March 2009

The background

Most documents have a few core elements that they share, like words and pictures. One is so basic that it’s easy to overlook: the background, or the blank page, that you’ll be working on.

There are a couple of basic questions to ask about your background.

First, how big will it be?

There are usually two factors that go into answering this question. One is how big the conference’s poster boards will be. Conference organizers are usually very good about making this information available at the outset. The other is determined by how you plan to physically print the poster. If you are planning on using a plotter printer that prints on 36 or 42 inch rolls of paper, don't plan on making a poster that is 48 inches high.

Second, what colour will be it? In the vast majority of cases, the answer should be, “White.”

Many people fear black on white is boring, and want to make something more “eye-catching.” This often results in disaster. This may be a good time to bring in a guideline for making posters for presentations.

Never do anything that interferes with communication.

I am a big believer that people should make beautiful, gorgeous, luscious conference posters. I want to write a lot in this blog about how to make the most attractive posters possible. Nevertheless, communication should always be the first, most important goal of a poster.

If this means that the poster looks “boring,” this may not be a bad thing. Think about your favourite book. The way it is laid out on the inside is probably pretty boring. There is a reason that most books are printed with black text on a white background: it just works.

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