29 April 2010

Poster real estate

Not all the “real estate” on your poster has equal value.

The upper left hand corner of your poster, just below the title, is Boardwalk. The lower left hand corner is Mediterranean Avenue.

The vertical dimension is the most important consideration in determining the prime real estate on your poster. That key space on the poster is a band from about five to five and a half feet off the ground. That is normally considered to be eye level for a large number of people. Your poster may not hit this exactly, because of the particular mounting scheme at your conference.

Assuming you put your title at the top, and that your poster has a standard horizontal layout, this means that the most valuable space on your poster is from the top of each column, to about a third to a halfway down the column.

Eye level is the place where people standing and walking by will look the most, so you want to put your best material there. If you have a three column grid, for instance:

  • Top left: Put a compelling question that your research asks.
  • Top center: Put your key results.
  • Top right: Put the take home message.

The title of a poster is usually a bit above eye level. This is great for people walking by, because they will be able to read your title even if you have a crowd around your poster that are listening to your presentation in rapt attention. But the very top of your poster is usually a little too high for someone actually reading the poster. Your title works like the highway sign for a gas station of fast food restaurant: you want someone to be able to spot if from a distance, but don’t expect them to look at it once they get there.

The bottom of the poster, below eye level, is the least valuable region of the poster. People will tend to overlook material there, unless you draw it to their attention. And everything there will be harder to read, because it’s farther away from the eye.

Those regions are good for the details that aficionados and experts might insist on seeing, but that aren’t critical to the story you’re telling. Again, assuming a three column layout, it might look something like:

  • Bottom left: Detailed methods.
  • Bottom center: Supporting results.
  • Bottom right: Acknowledgments to funding agencies and references.

The horizontal position of material on the poster, which not as critical as the vertical, still comes into play. The left side is more valuable than the middle or the right side, because that is where people automatically look when they start glancing over your poster.

So in that upper left side, you want to have an entry point that is attractive, punchy, concise; a conversation starter that draws someone in.

That lower right corner, the lowest value real estate, is a natural place for “fine print” that is necessary, but that people rarely read.

Related posts

Entry points: Five ways to make your posters more inviting

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