Basic principles

  • A poster is a visual presentation of information and should be designed as such – do not simply reproduce your written paper in poster format.
  • It should be understandable to the reader/ viewer without verbal comment – someone might look at it while you are talking to another delegate, or while you’re in the toilet.
  • Remember what you are trying to do:
    1. catch the delegate’s attention
    2. tell them what question you were trying to answer
    3. tell them what you found out
  • If you are an LSE PhD student or a member of staff, consider attending the course Poster Presentations: an introduction for PhD students which is offered by LTI.

Creating your poster

Plan on paper first. Let the technology serve the message, not dictate it.

Once you’ve planned it, you can use Microsoft PowerPoint or Word to create your poster. These are not graphical layout applications, but they are adequate in most cases. Some tips to get you started are given below, but you might also consider attending the Word 2010: Creating Illustrated Posters course run by IT Training.

  • In PowerPoint, create your poster as a single slide. You can set the page size when you start using Design > Page Setup, so if you want an A1 poster (594mm × 841mm), you can specify this before you start (there isn’t an A1 option, but you can enter the dimensions manually).
    • PowerPoint also allows you to add guidelines to help you line up the poster elements. Click View, then tick Gridlines.
  • In Word, create your poster as a single side of A4. You can always scale it up when you come to print it.
    • Add a grid by clicking View and ticking Gridlines.
  • In both applications, you can add text boxes to the page using Insert > Shapes. This approach allows you to control exactly how text is positioned on the page.

When the poster is designed, you should convert it to PDF for printing, using PDF Creator or Adobe Acrobat. The conversion process can be problematic: edges of words and images may be cut off near to the margins, images may appear degraded or misshapen, poster elements may have shifted and become overlapping. However, by ironing out these problems at the conversion stage, you avoid nasty surprises later when you come to print it out. When the PDF looks good, you can be pretty confident that the printed version will also be OK.

Test your poster early, and regularly, by converting to PDF and printing to A4, to make sure you’re not storing up layout problems that will be difficult to correct later on.

Return to Start of the page

Images and PDF conversion

When converting your poster to PDF, take care that your images are not degraded in the process. They may look fine on-screen but then look blurry or pixellated when printed as A1 or A0.

The following process, in Word or PowerPoint, will ensure that images retain their resolution up to A1 size (provided that they were sufficiently high-resolution in the first place – 300 pixels per inch should be sufficient).

First, set the page size:

  • Design > Page setup… in PPT / Page Layout > Size in Word
  • (Word only) Choose More paper sizes… at the bottom
  • Set Width to 59.4 cm and Height to 84.1 cm (A1)

If using PDFcreator or Adobe Acrobat to convert to PDF, check the print resolution before converting:

  • Set printer to Adobe PDF or PDFcreator, and click Printer Properties underneath
  • Select Layout tab and click Advanced
  • Set Graphic > Print Quality to at least 600 dpi

Embedding fonts

Important! It is always a good idea to embed the fonts within the PDF document you create. If you do not, there is a danger that one or more of the fonts you have used will not be present on the printer’s system, and in which case the font you chose will be replaced by a substitute, and that can mess up the layout of your poster.

How you do this depends on the way you convert to PDF; instructions for PDFCreator and Adobe Acrobat are given below:

  • Acrobat: When printing the poster to Adboe PDF, click the Properties button in the Print window, and make sure the “Rely on system fonts only” box is not ticked.
  • PDFCreator: After printing the poster to PDFCreator, a form will pop up. Click the Options button at the bottom of this form, then click PDF in the list to the left. Click the Fonts tab, and make sure the “Embed all fonts” box is ticked.

Return to Start of the page

Content of the poster

  • Make sure the title and author’s name are prominent and eye-catching.
  • Remember to include contact details.
  • Tell a story: provide clear flow of information from introduction to conclusion
  • Focus on your major findings – a common fault is to try to cover too much. Few delegates are going to read everything on your poster, so get to the point.
  • Use graphs, tables, diagrams and images where appropriate. Use boxes to isolate and emphasise specific points.
  • Always follow the conference guidelines, which may be specific about what you are expected to present.
  • If you add an LSE logo, follow the LSE style guidelines for its use.

Return to Start of the page

Design suggestions

  • Use all the space at your disposal, but do not cram in the content – white space is an important part of the layout, and good use of it can make a poster elegant and arresting.
  • Use colour sparingly – limited use of a few colours is more striking than a ‘rainbow’ approach. Think about why you are using colour; it is especially useful for emphasis and differentiation.
    • Avoid colour combinations that clash (e.g. red on blue) or cause problems for people with colour-blindness (e.g. red and green in proximity).
  • Use white or muted colour background (e.g. pastel shades)
  • The flow of information should be clear from the layout;
    • if you have to use arrows to indicate the flow, the content could probably be arranged better.
  • Clearly label diagrams/drawings and provide references to them in the text where necessary.
  • Follow the conference guidelines, which may be quite specific about paper sizes, font sizes etc.
  • The title text should be readable from 6 metres away – at least 48-point text. (Note that if you are creating your poster in A4 format, to be blown up to A1 format later, the final printed font size will be approximately 3 times the size you are working with.)
  • The body text should be readable from 2 metres away – at least 24-point text
  • Choose a clear font with large inner space (i.e. the space inside the loops of letters such as ‘o’, ‘d’, ‘p’). Good examples are Arial, Verdana, Georgia or Helvetica.
  • Serif or sans-serif text? Short answer: it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s legible. See Alex Poole’s thorough article “Which Are More Legible: Serif or Sans Serif Typefaces?”, which punctures a few of the myths surrounding this subject.
  • Keep the word count as low as possible.

Return to Start of the page

Getting it printed

Although LSE Reprographics only has facilities to print up to a size of A3 (42cm x 30cm), they can send work out to be printed by an external bureau. If you have a budget code, this is the simplest option. Prices are competitive with those shown in the table of local bureaux below.

If you’re in a hurry, you might need to use an external printing bureau. There are several close to the LSE, listed below. Most companies will accept your poster as a PDF file, which you can deliver on a CD or a USB drive, but check first to see if there are any particular requirements. Posters will be ready within 24 hours except where stated.

The cheapest option is usually to use an online bureau, but you do have to wait for delivery. Online bureaux are listed in the 2nd table below.

Whatever bureau you use, you may be asked what weight of paper you require. Typically, weights around the 170gsm (grams per square metre) will be sufficiently high quality.

Printing bureaux close to LSE

Name Address/map Telephone Price for A1 poster*
Kall Kwik 186 Fleet Street
020-7583-5207 £42.00
Captain Cyan 124 London Road
020-3005-4495 £15.00
The Color Company 114 Strand
020-7632-8820 £36.00
KWT Printing Services Ltd. 80 Long Acre
020-7240-2062 £24.00
London Print Company
Note: Takes 2-3 days
212 Shaftesbury Avenue
020-7497-2862 £28.80
Service Point 81 Endell Street
020-7836-9422 £24.00
S.S.Graphics Ltd 21 Museum Street
020-7637-0371 £30.00

* Prices include VAT at 20%. Quotes obtained by telephone on 18 May 2012.

Online printing bureaux

Name URL Price for A1 poster*
Captain Cyan £15.00 (satin or matt) + £4.00 postage = £19.00
PWA UK £14.40 (silk or gloss) + £6.00 postage = £20.40
Supersize Print £13.79 (matt) + £3.99 postage = £17.78

* Prices include VAT at 20%. Paper weight 170gsm in each case. Quotes obtained online on 31 March 2014.

LSE Reprographics

  • LSE Reprographics is based in G28, Old Building. Open 9:30 – 13:00 and 14:00 – 17:00 daily, phone 020 7955 7986.
    • Check with your department before approaching Reprographics, to establish budget policy and code.
  • Deliver your file by uploading it to the EPrint system which is available through LSEforYou. See Reprographics’ How to use EPrint guide for details.
  • Encapsulation (i.e. laminating the poster to make it durable and weatherproof) is also available, at a cost of 43p per A4 sheet and 74p per A3 sheet.
  • Your poster should be ready within 3 days.
  • Contact Reprographics to discuss your print requirements (and prices).

Return to Start of the page

Further reading

Nichol, Adelheid A M and Pexman, Penny M. Displaying your findings: a practical guide for creating figures, posters and presentations. (2003) American Psychological Association. ISBN 1557989788.

This book has a chapter on poster presentations and is available from the LSE Library.

Gosling, Peter J.(1999) Scientist’s guide to poster presentations. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. ISBN 0306460769.

Includes a good overview of the process of creating and delivering poster presentations.

Return to Start of the page

Web resources

There are lots of useful resources on the web with information about how to create posters. Much of the guidance below is quite general: do remember to read the criteria specified by the conference you are hoping to attend very carefully.

Sources of images

Don’t rely too much on google (or duck duck go, or bing…). Although google might be your first port of call for images, it is worth checking out these alternative sites, especially for finding images that are licensed for free (non-commercial) use.

These sites are full of  copyright-free images to use in your posters:

  • The Creative Commons search allows you to search Google, Yahoo, Flickr and other sites for material that is licensed under the Creative Commons. Many of these allow you to use them without charge in a non-commercial context. Find out about creative commons licenses.
  • Google Creative Commons Images. The advanced google search using the ‘usage rights’ filter at the bottom yields usable images as per creative commons licenses.
  • Flickr Creative Commons – images for which the owner has specified a Creative Commons licence
  • Wikimedia Commons – archive of free multimedia content submitted by Wikipedia users.
  • MorgueFile – probably the best single source of free high resolution digital stock photographs.
  • MediaPlus – A service delivered to the UK higher and further education community in association with Jisc, bringing more than 100,000 videos, images, and sound recordings to your screen
  • A collection of free photographs for private non-commercial use.
  • Image*After – large, free photo collection, with images free for any use.