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Lesson Navigation IconOnline Guidelines for Academic Research and Writing

Unit Navigation IconThe academic research process

Unit Navigation IconOrganization and project management

Unit Navigation IconLiterature research and application

Unit Navigation IconWriting an academic paper

Unit Navigation IconHow do I create a good poster?

LO Navigation IconThe poster-a special form of presentation

LO Navigation IconAdvantages and disadvantages of posters

LO Navigation IconWhat should a good poster look like?

LO Navigation IconStructure and types of posters

LO Navigation IconTools

LO Navigation IconPresenting posters

LO Navigation IconAssessment criteria for posters

LO Navigation IconFurther reading

Unit Navigation IconPresentation skills

Unit Navigation IconLearning techniques and exam preparation

Unit Navigation IconBibliography

Unit Navigation IconMetadata

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What should a good poster look like?

Before dealing with creating a poster, you should think about what a good poster should look like. Additionally, you should check which software and visual material (photos, graphs etc.) can be used. Before you start creating your poster, make sure that you know its main message, why it is important, what is new about it and how you are going to support this message.

Like a cook, prepare everything you need before you start writing and drawing.

  • A good poster presents reduced information while getting to the point of what the audience should remember.
  • It is appealing to the eye while inviting to read.
  • What is most important can be spotted right away.
  • It invites to ask questions while sparking a debate.

A good poster should say:

  • Look at me!
  • Read me!
  • Ask me!


Having considered what you want to say, make a sketch for your poster.

actLook for posters
Search for an appealing poster around you before asking why it does attract your attention.

Look at me!

In order to be read at all, a poster has to attract the observer's attention, just like an advertisement. One second must be enough to get the viewer's attention, fifteen seconds to understand the main message.

Its title should be readable from a distance of 5 m while presenting the shortest summary as possible, in other words, its «take-home message». This title should be special, to the point, and significant in order to attract attention. It is not always easy to find a good title. The following steps can be of help:

  • Make a summary of the poster's content using only five sentences
  • Condense these sentences into one sentence
  • Select keywords and key terms
  • Then finally combine these words to form your title

Avoid hanging titles (title: subtitle):

  • Not: «Great sorcerers of Middle Earth: Gandalf and Saruman»
  • Rather: «Gandalf and Saruman, Middle Earth's great sorcerers»

Do not use capitalization in titles:

  • Not: «Climate Change and Biodiversity in the Arctic»
  • Rather: «Climate change and biodiversity in the Arctic»

The overall impression should be appealing. The rule that 50 % should be used for images and the other 50 % for text is not always applicable; however, it can serve as a guide when preparing a poster.

A clear structure is as important as a good choice of colors, which can even be provocative.


The poster's heading is also its take-home message.

Look at the examples (OLwA_poster_lookatme_1.pdf and OLwA_poster_lookatme_2.pdf) while thinking about the aspect «Look at me!» and try to find out what is appealing and what is not.

Read me!

There should only be as much text as necessary on a poster, what needs to be known but not what would be nice to know. Reading running text is generally more time consuming than listings; it is therefore advisable to make only little use of running texts.

Legibility is guaranteed by using a large font size. A poster in A0 format should contain characters that aren't smaller than 7 mm (references can be smaller). You can check this when scaling down the poster to the A4 format; its content should be readable from a distance of one meter.

Use italics or boldface instead of underlining for emphasis and use hyphenation if you chose justification to avoid gaps between words.


Everything should be readable from a 1 m distance.

actDIN format
What is the basic principle behind ISO 216 sizes? (Source: en.wikipedia.org. User Sven, accessed 02.05.2015) (OLwA_poster_DIN_sizes.pdf)

Images (photos, graphs, tables, etc.) should be self-explanatory and contain titles as well as references. Background images are an exception (as regards titles), since their purpose is only illustratory.

A good structure is achieved by using offset blocks with headers. In addition, these blocks should be clearly ordered to avoid an impaired reading fluency: «Don't fight reader's gravity!»

When selecting your texts, you should brave the gap and omit less necessary things. Depending on the context (audience, room, space) the size of a poster can differ. An A0 format is quite common today.


It is not necessary to present everything; less is often more.

actLook at me and read me!
Look at the example (OLwA_poster_struktur_3.pdf) while considering the aspects «Look at me!» and «Read me!» before trying to find out what is appealing and what is not.

When choosing between portrait and landscape, you should go for landscape since it is better suited for human viewing patterns. However, such (printed) posters are not very common because they require more space. It is therefore important to check beforehand which dimension and orientation are accepted. More and more posters are only projected digitally, requiring the landscape format (unless communicated otherwise).


Landscape is better suited for human viewing patterns; portrait is more common.

Ask me!

Ideally, a poster delivers food for thought and sparks a debate. This can be achieved by surprises or uncommon comparisons; however, it is important to stick to the facts. Question marks, used literally or figuratively, can also stimulate a discussion.

It is important that posters are related to the audience while using appropriate vocabulary. Abbreviations should be avoided unless they are common and well-known.

Sometimes it makes sense to provide handouts; interested persons can then rely on this information and contact the author at a later date.


Ideally, a poster stimulates thoughts as well as discussions.

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