Research Poster Building 101: Make an Impression
After several months of hard work in the Larimore Lab investigating the efficacy of the endosomal pathway in neurodevelopmental disorders, we were ready to call in all creative juices for poster making. While it may seem as though the poster-making phase of research is the easiest part of the process, it is actually quite the art form. A few major pointers to consider when creating a research poster:
1. Layout: will the poster information flow horizontally or vertically? Either works , but one must take into account the contents they intend to include on their poster. With this in mind, what will create the least amount of clutter while minimizing white space? In the case of our poster, a vertical layout was best considering the format of our figures.
2. Sectioning: Once you’ve established the general layout of the poster, how should each section of the scientific method be presented? As advised per my PI, chronological order is usually best along with the most important part of your research being at the poster’s center. The following are sections you should consider including on your poster:
- Title (Explaining your research is very much like telling a story and what would a story be without its title? Be sure the title highlights the premise of your research and its findings, for example Vesicle Trafficking Mechanisms Disrupted in Mecp2 Deficiencies.)
- Introduction (Background information that briefly introduces diseases/systems/pathways/etc. of interest; any previous research driving current studies; the problem(s) you have chosen to investigate and why.)
- Methods (This section is optional mainly when the techniques/assays used are already very well established. If any new technology developed by your lab was used or it is a relatively new approach, then this section should be included. Try using images to explain the experiments.)
- Results (Minimize text as much as possible by maximizing amount and/or size of figures; include figure legends. If these results are where you want to steer your audience’s attention then place this section in the center or make it as large as possible.)
- Conclusion (Major takeaways; implications; next steps; future studies. Always be sure to address the “so what?” questions to explain why your research and findings matter.)
- Acknowledgements (It takes a village, maybe even an army, and certainly loads of brain power to conduct research, so take this time to thank everyone who helped you along the way *especially those funding your research*.)
3. Aesthetics: Organization will make or break you, in my opinion. You don’t want to steer your audience away with an unorganized, carnival-themed poster. Keep bright colors and text at a minimum and only use them if absolutely necessary to highlight or explain key elements. Although images are favored over text, refrain from overloading your poster with images – too much is also a thing! Side note: I admit, I like adding a colored theme to my posters, but I try to make it as subtle as possible to be sure my color scheme does not turn any attention away from my content.
For Society for Neuroscience 2019, I had the immense responsibility of refining and redesigning our poster. Taking all the above pointers into consideration, I ended up minimizing as much white space as possible. Also, having felt a bit bold, I incorporated a subtle, sophisticated purple color scheme. My PI was happy with the turnout (end result below) and the Larimore Lab received the most attention we ever had in the history of our Society for Neuroscience attendance!