This is one of the most common problems with academic posters. “Clutter is a failure of design,” as Nancy Duarte wrote in Slide:ology. The good news is that you don’t have to know that much about design to fix this problem. All you need is one guiding principle.
Take out the trash.
Whether in a room or on a poster, trash stinks. Trash is the excess, the non-essential, the old stuff past its prime. Clutter is often just an accumulation of trash that people haven’t categorized as trash yet.
In a poster, trash is the long blocks of text nobody’s going to read. The institutional logos. The abstract. The 3-D perspective effects in your bar graphs. The nested boxes around every individual piece of the poster.
The art of cleaning is about making decisions about what you need and what you don’t. Once you think hard about what is essential, cleaning up your poster becomes much easier.
And as the caption to the picture above says, “If you have the right attitude, even taking out the trash is fun.”
Top picture from here; second photo by Ed Yourdon on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.