The web-site is now in readonly mode. Login and registration are disabled. (28 June 2019)

Research poster design

Designing effective research posters

Cloud created by:

11 May 2010

This cloud contains general guidance on designing a research poster.

More specifically, it is linked with training by the Research school at The Open University provided in preparation for the university's annual poster competition. Winners of the OU competition go on to compete in the Midlands Hub regional competition organised each year by Vitae.

The OU Posgraduate Research Poster competition 2010 will take place on Friday 11 June. Posters should be understandable by a member of the general public and will be displayed on the Mezzanine floor outside the Berrill Lecture Theatre. The seven best exhibitors will go on o represent the OU at the Vitae Midlands Hub competition at the University of Nottingham on 5 July 2010.

Extra content

These are live blog notes of a seminar on poster design run by Lee Johnson and Andy Lloyd for the Open University Research School.

  • Start by doing a thumbnail sketch to give an idea of what will be on your page and how the text will be arranged.
  • On an A1 page headers can be 30-40pt. Avoid using types smaller than 16-18pt
  • Aim for your poster to stand alone, without you being there –  although ideally you will be there to supplement it.
  • Make it clear where viewers should start reading.
  • Avoid trying to cram an entire thesis into one poster poster.
  • Balance academic and graphic elements.
  • Consider your audience and how likely they are to be familiar with your subject
  • Balance explanation with visual engagement.
  • Work at the final size of your poster (841 x 594mm) – even though this involves more scrolling and scaling up and down. This gives more of an impression of what your poster will look like.
  • Drafts are useful because posters can look different when viewed at actual size.

Ask yourself

  • Does your poster represent your research in a clear concise manner?
  • Does it clearly convey the potential, purpose and outcomes of your research? Does it convey why you are spending three years researching this subject?
  • Does it avoid the use of complex graphs and diagrams?
  • Is it clear what to read first, next… last?
  • Can you read it in five minutes from five feet away?

Poster layout

  • Make your design consistent, simple and legible.
  • Decide on an ‘invisible grid’ – are you working with two, three or four columns?
  • The Open University brand typefaces (Arial and Times) are clear and accessible
  • Use different weights and sizes to emphasise headings.
  • Align text to the left; justifying it may make leave too many gaps
  • Make sure line spacing (leading) is neither too tight nor too gappy

Colour choices

  • The Open University offers researchers a set of brand assets (link below)
  • The OU colour palette can be used to add contrast and emphasis
  • Aim to use a maximum of three expressive colours
  • Neighbouring colours on the OU colour wheel are good, harmonious combinations
  • Any of the neutral greys, and black can be used alongside these.
  • Remember that white is also an important design element
  • Choose colours that complement pictures as well as themselves.

Getting the size right

  • An A1 poster measures 841 x 594mm  – set your page to this size when you start designing
  • 300dpi – dots per inch – is the recommended resolution for print images
  • Screen images are generally 72dpi – this can be a problem when sourcing images from the web

Other considerations

  • Include contact details
  • Print and distribute A4 handouts of your poster
  • Check mounting arrangements and materials in advance.
  • Plan a brief talk for interested viewers
  • Be able to answer questions about your poster – enthusiasm helps viewer engagement

Recommended software

  • PowerPoint works well. Can be set up to dimensions of A1. Easy to move things around and resize, Easy to use. Other options are Adobe InDesign and Quark Xpress
  • Recommended software for illustrations includes Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and Macromedia Freehand

Printing posters at The Open University (Milton Keynes)

  • Large-format printers are available in the OUBS, KMi and MCT.
  • If you do not have access to these, use the printer in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science. This can print up to a metre wide. If you use this printer:
  • Your department will be charged for ink, paper and time.
  • Drafts on cheaper paper are not charged for
  • Satin paper costs £50 per metre
  • Allow plenty of time for printing (days, rather than hours or minutes). Space is limited for laying posters out and drying them
  • Dark backgrounds take longer to dry because they use more ink
  • Save your poster as a PDF – this ensures that mathematical symbols and unfamiliar characters appear correctly.
  • Poster can be sent to the printer via CD, memory stick or the public folder Posters


Rebecca Ferguson
10:17 on 12 May 2010

Embedded Content

Printing your poster at The Open University

Printing your poster at The Open University

added by SocialLearn


Contribute to the discussion

Please log in to post a comment. Register here if you haven't signed up yet.