Digital Poster Design

Research posters are one of the many ways to present research and information at professional and academic conferences. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with poster presentation formatting and guidelines if you plan to attend a university or enter into the professional arena in the future. Posters provide an opportunity to introduce your research activities effectively and efficiently while trying to negotiate the, oftentimes intimidating, atmosphere of a conference. In addition, many academic associations hold student poster competitions and provide awards for the ‘winners’ such as travel funds and waiving costly conference fees. At professional conferences, posters can act as an ice-breaker or catalyst for networking and making professional contacts in your field.


A research or professional poster should communicate information to the viewer without the accompaniment of a speaker. In most cases, a viewer will spend only a few short minutes observing the poster, so it important that the poster conveys the most significant information or details in an efficient manner. This is why it is essential that the poster is clean, well-organized, and concise.

The excellent poster to the right presents findings from ecological research conducted in Glacier Bay National Park by students and faculty at the University of Alaska. Consider the attributes that make this a successful poster.

Right away the title of the poster conveys a significant amount of information. We know immediately that the research addresses the sleeper shark, and that the shark is a potential predator of the harbor seal. We do not need to look for the researcher’s names, and the inclusion of a photo of the researchers give us additional, albeit superficial, information about them. The University of Alaska and National Science Foundation logos tells us about the hosting institution for the research and their funding sources.

The logos are an excellent example of the way that an image can provide a more effective means of communication information than words, especially under circumstances with limited space such as a research poster. The poster makes great use of graphics to communicate research data, pinpoint the location of research on a map, illustrate the environmental setting, and capture a moment in the research process. Images are a great way to break up text so that it does not overwhelm the viewer.

Too many words, or dense text, and disorganization will discourage the viewer from attempting to read and digest the information in your poster. This is why it is important to ensure that the elements on your poster are clean, clear and well-organized. In English reading cultures, most people read from left to right. It therefore makes sense to organize the elements in your poster from left to right beginning with the introduction and ending with the conclusion. If aesthetics and design is not your thing, there is no need to worry. Programs such as Powerpoint include a wide range of templates that you can download for free. In addition, many universities publish templates with tips such as this template provided by the University of Minnesota. To download a Santa Fe template, visit:

Keep in mind that it is not necessary to include everything from your papers. Think of the poster as the movie trailer to your country. It should only include significant tidbits as a way to bait and hook your viewers and compel them to conduct their own research about your selected country (starting with the references that you included in your poster) and thereby opening their mind to African Humanities.

It does not matter which program you use to produce your paper, provided you can save the image as a jpg. Powerpoint, Microsoft Publisher and Prezi are simple and powerful tools to use. (Prezi has a bit of a learning curve.) Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop can produce amazing posters, yet they are not easy to learn within a short amount of time. Given the limited amount of time available to produce the poster this semester, it might be best to stick with a program you are already familiar with.  Click on the icons and/or links below to watch one or more poster-making tutorials.


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 Georgia Southern Website with Powerpoint Tutorial

Microsoft Publisher

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After you have decided on the program that you will use, review the assignment description on the Final Project webpage to be sure that you include all of the expected elements. Use the checklist below to ensure that you do not forget anything. Every semester at least one student forgets to include their name – one of the most important elements. It is also important to include the date. By now you should know that cultures are dynamic and always changing – yet your poster will remain the same. By including the date, you are referencing your information to a particular time and will enable your poster to remain useful for many years to come.

Final Poster checklist:

  • Title & Subtitle
  • Case Study: Introduction / Overview
  • Background: Socio-Historical Context
  • Expressions
  • Challenges
  • Conclusion
  • Graphics (maps, charts, graphs, images, video, etc)
  • Citations, References
  • Name (photo optional)
  • Institution (Santa Fe College) and major
  • Class (African Humanities) and date