How to make nice looking scientific poster?
May 27, 2008 8:45 PM   Subscribe

I am in the last quarter of organic chemistry. I have only about a week to design and come up with my scientific poster to present now (due to circumstances beyond my control). My professor wants us to build these posters the old fashion way (gluing info onto a matte board). I am artistically inept. Please give advice!

All the info I can find online regarding building these posters says to print them out from a template using powerpoint. Unfortunately this mindboggling technology is not what my professor wants. We have to do it the old fashion way (get a big matte poster board, cut stuff out, glue it on to the board).

I want my poster to look great but I have zero artistic ability. Last year for my gen chem poster, I just bought a white board and pasted stuff on it. It looked terrible and was voted worst poster out of everyones. I don't want that to happen again.

Other people had poster boards and fancy backgrounds with stuff glued on. One person had a black board with white text that was bordered with colored cardstock and it looked simple yet wonderful (and won the award for best poster). Someone else in the class is copying the posters layout exactly (the professor told me today this is plagiarism and she will get in trouble if she actually submits it) so I can't just copy someone else's layout.

What can I do? I don't have a clue how to even get a background on my poster board or design this thing. I thought maybe a brown poster board (if that exists) but I don't know how to make the text look nice and add a little artistic design.

Please, any help or suggestions? The professor has very strict standards that we stick to an old, archaic system of title in the middle, everything glued on to the regular poster board (the kind that have two flaps that fold in on itself, I don't know what they are called).

I desperately need help. How can I make it so my poster isn't the laughing stock of the school this year? All sites I have found give info on how to make them from a template. I don't need help on how to organize my content either or font size, I just need help on how to make it look pretty.
posted by rainygrl716 to Education (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I know this is for the kiddies, but the general layout is what you want to go for. I unfortunately seem to have lost the photograph I took of the poster I did for my physio class a few years ago, because it might have helped you a lot. (I opted to do it by hand because I personally think it looks better (and also I have more time than money) (also: I am cheap).) Anyway, what I did is took the paper I wrote, broke down each section into its most basic parts, made it easily readable, put it in a legible font in a size big enough to be read from a distance, mounted each section individually on maroon and black (school colors...ish) construction paper (like, a two-tiered border), then pinned each of these things up on the sides of the space. I left the center for the discussion of the project and the pretty graphs/pictures, which were also individually mounted the same way. Then, I printed out my school's logo, twice, and put it in the top corners to make it look "professional". Separating each section made it easier to read and to follow, and broke up the monotony of a big block of text. Having each section uniformly bordered by the same colors made it really snazzy and eye-catching, but without being distracting. It sounds like a lot of extra work, but it's really not (as long as you have access to a paper cutter and a glue stick).
posted by phunniemee at 9:07 PM on May 27, 2008

I'm no artist either, but here are some things I've picked up over the years making these types of boards:

Instead of just gluing white paper to your board, it always looks better to put a piece of colored paper behind it as an outline. Stick to the same color or couple of colors throughout the whole poster.

Stay far away from drippy white glue. Glue sticks are much neater.

Keep the board uncluttered. Resize things so everything fits nicely and the text is still readable.

When cutting papers to paste on the board, it helps to use one of those paper guillotine things rather than trying to freehand with scissors.
posted by rancidchickn at 9:10 PM on May 27, 2008

Googling for "scientific poster" found lots of things that might be helpful to you. This one is similar to the one I pulled off, only mine was way sexier, what with the double border and better layout. It sucks that I've lost that file. =(

One good thing about doing it by hand (mount the words to the border backing first) is that you can play around with where you want things to go before you have to glue anything down.
posted by phunniemee at 9:18 PM on May 27, 2008

Tape circles + colored paper + cut out paragraphs of information or pictures.

If you're using a poster that's folded into 3s (which is the best), put a nice big title in the top middle. Under it, the main points and conclusions with maybe one or two pictures to look nice. On the two sides, put some graphs/pictures and data explanations.

You don't need to be artistic, just make sure there are clean lines and it's symmetrical. Anyone can work with "simplicity = beauty" to make a really nice looking presentation.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:32 PM on May 27, 2008

(that is, those circles you make of tape are the best material to use... gluesticks work, too.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:32 PM on May 27, 2008

It's not that tough! They actually make black display boards for this very purpose.

  • Get a presentation board. You can get a three part version that stands up on its own, or a flat version. I prefer black. It makes the images and text pop. Here's a black presentation board from Staples. Any office supply store should have them, or arts/crafts store.

  • Spray Mount adhesive. Spray the little pieces that you are going to stick onto the bigger piece. If you get any gunk on your black board, you can remove it with a soft eraser once it is dry. Do this in a very well-ventilated area if possible - spray mount fumes will make you loopy.

  • Print out your blocks of texts in a font size that can be read 4-6 feet away. Bigger is better. You can make text boxes in MS Word with a border, so you know exactly where to cut. I like to cut 1/8" outside the border so that it remains on the finished piece.

  • If you have any .jpg files, you can actually upload them to anyplace with a photo dept (like Walgreens or Target) and get some nice, glossy 8" x 10s" to stick on to your presentation.

  • If you want to cut out individual letters for your title, you can use an X-acto knife.

  • posted by Ostara at 10:03 PM on May 27, 2008

    Okay, according to Robin Williams, author of some design books I can't remember the names of right now, this is what you need to remember: CRAP. (or carp if you like).

    C - Contrast - Black & white, black and pink, Green and white - the key to this is not too many colours, say limit to three or four and they all have to go together. Black, white, pink, grey. Nice. You can do that on a cheap laser printer (black text) and white, pink and grey paper. Or gray, if you like that.

    R is for repetition. Use the same fonts. Use the same font sizes. Over and over. I like sans serif, Arial, or Swiss, or Helvetica. Using comic sans will cause any students with taste to vomit on your poster. Make it easy to read, say 40 pt bold for your headings, 30 pt italic for your subheadings and 20 pt for your regular text. See how that looks. No, I don't know, because I haven't tried that particular combo.

    A is for alignment. I'm not a fan of full text alignment because it generally mucks up the spacing between words but what you should really really avoid is centering. Centering and comic sans are two common student mistakes and usually lead to design ebola. Anyway, put in very faint pencil lines and make sure your pictures and text all line up. No-one's going to notice it, but it'll look great. Really. It's like sunscreen, trust me on this one.

    is for proximity. If you're doing the body's digestive system, put information that goes together, together. Food and the oesophagus go together, follow up with the stomach and then the intestines. Don't start with the intestines. Put the diagrams near the text that it relates to. Try to have a flow for people to read to, don't just throw all your neatly cut out pieces of paper in the air and paste them where they fall.

    Crap. (or carp). Really good design advice. Send me a picture of your final poster.

    Oh and some people say Kiss is good too. Keep it simple, stupid. That means, leave out the unnecessary flourishy bits. Unless you know what you're doing. Kiss carp?

    Oh and if you can get hold of a guillotine, it cuts way better than scissors. Find little ones in your scrap booking aisle. Under no circumstances take any advice from the people you find there.
    posted by b33j at 12:17 AM on May 28, 2008

    Rubbber cement is your friend. It doesn't get wrinkled like white glue can, and if you mess up with placement you can peel off and re-set your text boxes or pictures. May be similar to the Spray Mount Ostara suggested, but probably easier to find (I can always find it at the drugstore, no art supply store required).
    posted by Jemstar at 6:12 AM on May 28, 2008

    In high school I discovered something even better than rubber cement, glue sticks etc...monotape! It's like a roll-on double-stick tape. It will change your life.

    Get thee a paper cutter. Having straight lines looks so much more professional.

    I found that printing on glossy or semi-glossy paper makes graphics and charts "pop." Also, for the paper you put behind as your background, don't use garden-variety construction paper, it looks really cheap. I think I actually bought lightweight matting paper from an art/framing store last time I did a board.

    You can get standard-size presentation boards practically anywhere. Find out if your prof has a max size - if you want bigger than the standard ones, you can buy foamboard at an art or framing store and they will cut and score it for you.
    posted by radioamy at 11:03 AM on May 28, 2008

    See if you can make your structures with ChemDraw or similar chemical drawing software. Someone in the department should have acess to a copy.
    posted by lalochezia at 12:16 PM on May 28, 2008

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