13 August 2009

Entry points: Five ways to make your poster more inviting

Puls BiznesuPoster presentations are often crowded, often busy spaces with many people who have never met you or know with your research.

What do you have on your poster that beckons someone to come closer?

What on your poster might reach out to someone strolling by to lean in and have a second look?

Jacek Utko is a designer, best known for his work on Eastern European newspapers, who has been mentioned on this blog before. He argues that such questions are not simply some sort of cheap salesmanship, but necessary for people to connect with content.

People need entry points to text. People look at headlines. People avoid long stories. There are many proofs for this, such as eye-tracking research.

I am somewhat cautious about over-interpreting research when it comes to design, but Utko’s remarks are helpful ways to think about poster design. What kinds of entry points can you have on a poster?

Here are five suggestions to make your poster more inviting.

  1. Pictures: Use a big, high quality photo that relates to your topic. In biology, one of the simplest entry points can be to have a big picture of the organisms you are working on. Graphs might work as an entry point, but tables almost certainly would not.

  2. Headlines: This is not just the title, but section headings, too. Have you considered something more descriptive than the stock phrases used from journals? “Introduction.” “Methods.” “Results.” “Discussion.” Section headings might become a little like...

  3. Pull quotes: These are frequently used in newspapers and magazine. They’re one or two juicy bits in a story, set off from the rest of the text in large type, that give a bit of a teaser as to the content of the interview. But apart from the occasional descriptive section heading, I have never seen them used in posters.

  4. Circles: “The human eyes loves the circle and embraces it,” writes Kimberly Elan in her gook Grid Systems. Maybe this is why bullet points have proved so popular. Considering that posters are built around rectangles shapes, having a circles somewhere in the layout might attract more attention than you think.

  5. White space: Don’t underestimate the intimidation factor of a poster that is chock-a-block with text. Leave some breathing room.

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