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Designing Effective Posters

Learn how to design and publish effective posters. This guide includes sections on design elements, the poster design process, and using software to create posters.

Prepare to do a poster

 Design Process

Prepare Your Poster


Decide To Do a Poster

A poster can be an effective means of presentation at meetings, conferences or in a classroom setting. By creating a poster you can communicate your main points in a succinct and visual manner, allowing you to clearly present your research to others and engage your peers in conversation.

Find Out the Requirements

Different types of poster projects may have different requirements. For instance, if you are preparing a poster for a conference, research the poster submission guidelines.  Is there a deadline for submitting your abstract? Do the guidelines include specific requirements for layout or content?

If you are preparing your poster for a class project, read the requirements on your syllabus well before your completed poster project is due.  

Choose a Topic

Choose a topic that is not only interesting, but one that you feel can be communicated well in a poster.  When choosing a topic for your poster, remember that you will not be able to fit all of your research on the poster and you should therefore choose a topic that allows you to present each of your points clearly and succinctly.

Write an Abstract

If you are preparing your poster for a conference you may be required to present an abstract in which you briefly present your concept in paragraph form.  If you are preparing your poster for a conference, check to see if you should follow a specific structure or template.

Create Your Poster

Create Your Poster


Brainstorm Content

Consider what information is necessary to communicate your message.  Remember, you most likely do not need to include all of the information gathered, so choose only the information and graphics pertinent to conveying your message.

Structure Content

Once you've decided what information to include in your poster, focus on organizing and arranging your ideas. For this purpose, you may wish to use note cards, or software such as the outliner in Microsoft Word or a mind mapping program such as Mind Manager. Organize the information you want to present into major topics (such as Background, Methods, Results, Conclusions) and subtopics.

For more information on poster content, see the Content page in the Design Elements section of this tutorial.

Layout and Design

A clear visual layout is essential to an effective poster. You may want to start by drawing a rough sketch of your poster in order to get an idea of how you want to arrange text and images. For more information on layout and design, see the Design and Layout page.

Create Your Poster on a Computer

To create your poster on the computer, you need to decide which software you want to use. We recommend Adobe InDesign, which is an excellent page layout program. However, some people have gotten good results using Microsoft PowerPoint, which is more widely available. For more information, see the Using Software section of this tutorial

Print Your Poster

Print Your Poster

Printing procedures vary depending on which software you used and where you are printing your poster. See Using Software in this guide for more information about printing from each program. 

The following are good options for printing:


UNC Print Stop and Copy Center

  • Phone: 919-962-7016
  • Cloth available


PhD Posters 

  • You can pick up your poster from this reasonably priced online service on campus or have it delivered to your location.

  • Use a UNC email address when you place your order to get a sales tax exemption. 
  • Foldable fabric available




FedEx Office Print & Ship Center
  • 114 W. Franklin Street
  • (919) 967-0790

UNC Lineberger Digital Imaging Facility

  • Poster sizes of 36" or 44" tall with any length
  • Semi-gloss paper

Additionally, your school or department may offer poster printing services. Contact them for details.


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