academic posters in mathematical sciences

Above is the first poster I made. Quite honestly, I can’t bear to look at it for more than 2 seconds. I have been on the listener’s end and I would not want to even attempt to read this poster. I did get some feedback but I did not have the slightest clue on how I could achieve the compactification that was suggested. After working fairly hard on the Tikz pictures I got annoyed and gave up.

However, it served as a medium for me to guage what went wrong. I felt that it would be useful to summarise the same in a short bullet-form summary.

The following are the two main questions one should ask oneself when starting to design a poster:

1. What is the role of a poster in an oral presentation?

  • It is a visual abstract of the research that is supposed to be presented.
  • It is not a textual summary.
  • Its purpose is to help the student/researcher to talk to other fellow students/researchers about their current research.

2. What are the elements of design that should go into making a poster as useful as possible?

  • Maximise white spaces as it helps the reader de-stress.
  • Select a fixed set of colours and form a colour coding scheme.
  • Colour coding should be done such that there is minimal eye strain while reading.
  • Use keywords and phrases instead of full sentences.
  • Minimise the number of elements on the poster: figures, plots, tables, equations, etc. One wants the reader to focus on what one is saying. By putting in many elements we actually distract the reader — far from making them understand what we want them to understand.
  • The poster should have a central panel which sums up the key idea in keywords and phrases. It is a bait.
  • Overall font size should be such that the poster is readable from a distance of about 2 metres (as specified by one of the conferences I went to). A quick google search showed 16 pt to be readable from about 2 metres but it is also a function of the font style.
  • Use QR codes for references instead of writing a bibliography.
  • If you have a tablet, use it to draw/illustrate stuff. It makes communication more humane and effective.

Thanks for your kind attention. The floor is open to questions now.


After much bullshitting, it seemed obligatory that I upload my creation (above). Question is if it helped. As far as I am concerned, I did not feel that I needed anymore information than present on the poster to explain my stuff. However, as far as impact on the audience is concerned, not really. (Although, people did stare at it smiling and giggling to themselves — perhaps, it was too much for the dry nerds’ mind.) None of the senior members of the community showed up. I suppose that is to do with the fact that conferences are really a sham. They say they want to encourage students but one must realise that they are only talking about those who are in the inner circles.

Bottomline: It is a massive waste of time to make posters of the first kind. Posters of the second kind suffice for conferences, but really the take away is that poster sessions are more-or-less useless unless you know a few people already.


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