Sometimes, people tell me, “I can’t follow the advice you have in the blog. There’s an institutional poster template, and they make me use it.”
My first reaction is usually, “Who will stop you?”
Who is the person who is going to make sure that you’ve followed your university style guide and haven’t used the wrong shade of blue in the Pantone matching system?
Who is the person who is going to watch over your shoulder as you sit at your computer designing the poster, proof the poster when it comes back from the printer, and then follow you the conference?
I have not heard of anyone who suffered any consequences for not using a university poster template. I can imagine an administrator harrumphing, but that’s about it.
But for the sake of argument, let’s imagine that there is such a person. Let’s imagine there is someone who designates themselves as the poster police for an institution.
Swallow your pride and use the institutional template. Slap in the text and graphs. Try to make it competent, make it acceptable, but don’t pour any more time into it than you absolutely need to.
Make a second poster. Make the poster that you want to make. Make a poster where you get to make the design choices that are appropriate to your material, not your University Marketing and Communications department.
Roll both posters into your poster tube. Put the institutionally approved poster up in the designated poster slot. There. Now you have complied with the guidelines, and you won’t get into trouble.
In pretty much every conference I’ve ever been to, there are a few empty poster boards somewhere. Around the edges. In the back. They are probably not in areas with high foot traffic.
Hang up the poster you wanted to make in one of those unused spots. Then sit back and see what kind of reactions the two posters get from conference goers.
Let anarchy reign!
Updated, 18 March 2016: This is not a hypothetical situation.
Misplaced priorities on institutional templates
The question isn’t who is going to let me, it’s who is going to stop me