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Research Guides@Tufts

NUTR202 Principles of Nutrition Science

Poster Design and Presentation

Posters are an effective way of sharing your research.  Posters may be presented at professional conferences and local research events, or educational events for the general public.  Regardless of the setting, posters allow you to communicate information about your work in a concise and visual manner, and engage with viewers in an informal setting.

This guide provides tips and resources for each stage of the poster design process.  Use the tabs on the side to navigate through the pages of the guide.

Please feel free to contact us if you have questions on the information or resources presented in this guide.

Goddard Science Poster Session

Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Source: flickr

Getting Started

Review guidelines for the conference, event or class at which you will be presenting your poster

What are the dates for submission and presentation of your poster?

What are the size parameters for you poster?

Is there any information that you are required to put on your poster, such as specific sections, funding information or conference logo?

Identify your audience and the message that you want to convey about your research

Identifying your audience and message will help you decide what information (text and graphics) to include on your poster.  Who will be viewing your poster?  How likely is it that your viewers will be knowledgeable about your topic?  What information you need to include in order to convey your message?

Most people will not read your entire poster.  Viewers should be able to figure out what you did, what you found, and why it's important by scanning the title, results, graphics and conclusions of your poster.

If the information is not essential to understanding your message, then don't put it on your poster.

Writing Content for Your Poster

The following sections are usually included on a poster:

  • Title
  • Authors and their affiliations
  • Introduction/background
  • Materials and methods
  • Results
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Acknowledgements

Tips for writing content for your poster

  • Be concise
  • Use active voice
  • Use language that your audience will understand
  • Use bulleted lists when possible
  • Spell out acronyms the first time you use them

Write your content first, then transfer to a design program

Type your content, without formatting, in your preferred word processing program.

Then, copy and paste the content into the design program that you have selected for making your poster.


Layout is where things go on your poster 

Once you have decided what sections and graphics you want to include on your poster, then you need to decide how to organize and arrange this information.

Sketch a layout for your poster on paper

Before you start working in a design program, do a rough sketch of the layout on paper.  You can take a picture of this sketch and upload it to your design program to use as a template.

Organize content in a logical manner so viewers can easily read your poster 

Arrange content in the order that people naturally read.  In English, we read left to right, top to bottom.

Put a banner with your title, authors and affiliations at the top of your poster.  Use titles and headings to guide your viewer.

Arrange content in 2-4 columns

Align columns, headings and graphics using the alignment features of your design program.

Distribute text and graphics evenly throughout the poster

Leave white space around the entire poster (margins) and between content, keeping spaces even.

Poster Layout

Image Credit: Compiled from Hess, G.R., K. Tosney, and L. Liegel. 2014. Creating Effective Poster Presentations.


Create a color scheme with 2-3 colors

Create your own color scheme, or choose from amongst the hundreds of themes that others have created, in the free Adobe Color site:  These themes are accessible from within Adobe InDesign.  InDesign can also generate a custom color scheme based on the colors in an image that you have uploaded.

Use dark text on a light-colored background

Light text on a dark background is difficult to read.  Also consider color values (lightness vs. darkness) and contrast (perceived difference in color and brightness between two colors that are close to one another).  If font color is too similar to the background color, then it will be hard to read.

Do not use excessively bright colors

Bright colors may attract viewers to your poster, but they are often distracting and difficult to read.

Do not use patterns or gradients

Patterns and gradients look unprofessional and dated.

Consider people who have trouble differentiating colors

Many people have difficulty distinguishing colors from one another.  Do not use red and green next to one another because an inability to distinguish red from green is one of the most common forms of color vision deficiency. 

Types of Color Vision Deficiency

Color Vision Deficiency

Image Credit: Joeybatt on Pixabay, modified for "You'll Be Amazed How People with Color Blindness See the World"
Source: boredpanda


What fonts should I use?

Use 1-2 fonts consistently. 

Use sans serif fonts (e.g. Arial) for titles and headings.

Use serif fonts (e.g. Times New Roman) for text.

Do not use unusual fonts, such as Comic Sans.  Do not use word art.

Serif versus Sans Serif

Image Credit: Sara-Ruth Wolkiewicz in "How to Use Typography in Your Marketing Design"
Source: GetResponse

Font Examples

Image Credit: Vinicio Chanto in "Best Times New Roman Alternatives"
Source: Slidebean

What size should the text be?

Font size depends on the size of your poster.  Here are some guidelines:

  • Title: 80-120 point
  • Names and affiliations: 60-90 point
  • Headings: 44-80 point
  • Text: 32-52 point


Graphics, such as charts, tables, graphs, figures and photographs, are an excellent way to impart information to your viewers.  The type of graphics that you use will depend on your audience and the message of your poster.

Create graphics that are easy-to-read and self-explanatory

Your graphics should be large enough that they can be read by a person standing a few feet away.  Do not make 3-dimensional charts or graphs because they can be difficult to read.

Give each graphic a title.  Clearly label charts, tables, graphs and photographs.

Think beyond the basic chart or graph, and consider how other data visualizations or infographics might help convey your message.

Create or edit graphics in a separate program or file, then import into your poster design program

For a list of design software available at Tufts for installation on personal or work computers, see Tufts Technology Services software page:

For a list of design software available on the Hirsh Health Science Library's computers, see our software page:

I found an image online, can I use it on my poster?

Try not to use clip art or generic graphics.  Consult our image reuse tool to determine if you can use a graphic that you did not create:

If you do use a graphic that you did not create, then you must cite it.

What resolution and format should my images be?

Use images with a resolution of 200-300 pixels per inch (ppi).

Use vector images for logos and illustrations.  Vector images do not lose their definition when you increase their size.  Raster images are used for photographs.  Raster images are composed of pixels, and therefore become blurry when you increase their size. 

  • Vector formats: AI, SVG, EPS, PDF
  • Raster formats: GIF, JPG, PNG, PSD, TIF

Vector versus Rector

Image Credit: Carey Christie in "What is the Difference Between Vector and Raster Graphics"
Source: Dever Designs

Choosing a Design Program

There are several software programs that you can use to create a poster.  When choosing a program, consider what software you have access to, what you are comfortable using, and whether or not you are willing to learn a new program.

Here are a few programs that you can use to make your poster:

MiMicrosoft Publisher iconcrosoft Publisher

Microsoft's program for page design and layout.  Not as sophisticated as InDesign, but may be easier to learn how to use due to general familiarity with Microsoft products.

Microsoft PowerPoint iconMicrosoft PowerPoint

PowerPoint is easy-to-use and probably already installed on your computer.  Can be used to make posters, but not the preferred program.

Design Software Available at Tufts

Printing Your Poster

Before Your Print

  • Do a test print!
    Print a color 8 ½ x 11" draft of your poster.  This draft will help you find errors and assess the layout, colors, fonts and graphics of your poster.

Ask a friend or colleague to review the content and design of your poster.

  • Confirm the size parameters for your poster

Hopefully, you did this before you started making your poster.  However, it is a good idea to verify the dimensions of your poster prior to sending it to the printer.

  • Save your poster in the appropriate file format

Save your poster in the format of the design program that you used (.indd, .pub, .pptx) and as a PDF. Your printer may prefer a PDF file, and conference organizers often require presenters to submit a PDF of their poster prior to the event.

Where to Print

Learn More About Poster Design

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