‘Ten top tips’ for designing a research poster

Rebekah J White (she/her) is an evolutionary biology and genetics PhD researcher in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Exeter. Her current project involves exploring the genetic basis of ageing, late-life disease, and lifespan extension in nematode worms, using a range of laboratory-based techniques. Her previous work has included emerging zoonotic diseases and transmissible cancers. Rebekah has a passion for communicating research both to the public and to researchers in other fields through many mediums, including podcasts, social media, and interdisciplinary conferences. She co-delivers the Designing Effective Research Posters course for the Exeter Doctoral College. Twitter: @rebekah_jwhite

Shahan Choudhury (he/him) is an Applied Linguist and a postgraduate researcher in Education. His PhD focuses on children’s and teachers’ understanding of English grammar in reading and writing contexts and how grammar is used. He is a part-time lecturer in Academic English at Anglia Ruskin University. At Exeter, he co-delivers Designing Research Posters, Writing Journal Articles and Academic Writing. His aim is to help others improve their reading and writing through the understanding of grammar.


If you are considering designing a research poster, get started with the ten top tips below developed by the Designing Effective Research Posters skills training leads.

  1. The key aim of a research poster is to summarise research results in a concise and attractive Always keep this point at the forefront of your mind during the design stage. Totally stuck for ideas? Have a look at some research posters online, or perhaps stroll through some University buildings which sometimes have them up, such as the hallways of Hatherley or Washington Singer on Streatham.
  2. One of the most important stages is planning and thinking things through. Ask yourself the following questions – having clear answers to these questions will help you throughout the design process.
    1. Why am I doing this poster?
    2. What is my core message?
    3. Perhaps most importantly – What do I want to achieve (e.g., sparking discussion, networking, attracting funders)?
  3. Try and first design a draft outline of your poster. Start with a blank sheet of paper/open up a new PowerPoint slide and jot down the following titles, along with bullet points on what will be included in each section: Background/ introduction, Aims, Methods, Results and Conclusion. Make sure you include…
    1. The university logo (and funders’ one, if applicable), which you can access from here: https://www.exeter.ac.uk/departments/communication/communications/design/downloads/
    2. Your name with an asterisk, and others that contributed to the project
    3. Contact information of all contributors
    4. References
  4. Adapting your message to your audience: If your audience is all within your discipline, how would you change what you say, for example for an interdisciplinary conference? Think about things you would need to do to make it accessible for each audience.
  5. Think about language. This will depend on your audience – will it be interdisciplinary, field-specific, or industry-based? Spending time on what you write is just as important as you are looking to communicate your research in an easy-to-understand manner. Do think about:
    1. The words you will use. How much / what jargon is appropriate?
    2. Sentence length – short is preferred!
    3. Keep it formal
    4. Keep explanations as simple as possible
    5. When using images and diagrams, are they self-explanatory, or is a little annotation needed?
  6. Looks matter: How will your poster look? Make sure to check on specific conference requirements for layout or size (if there are any). Take care with the design, making sure that:
    1. Font is clear and legible
    2. Images​ are appropriate and relevant
    3. It is not over-crowded
    4. It is not text-heavy
    5. You use colours that complement each other
  7. It takes time! Give yourself plenty of time to work on it – it is fun but can take longer than you think.
  8. Reuse your templates! If you have done steps 1-3 above, you should be well on your way to designing your personalised template. Remember, you can re-use it each time you do a different poster.
  9. The extra flair: Give your poster an edge by adding ORCiD, QR codes, or even a link to a video!
  10. And finally: show your poster to a friend, colleague and family member even, asking them what they think of it – you might be pleasantly surprised at how much you learn by getting other peoples’ views!

We hope this helps. Enjoy getting started with your research poster!