Poster making for academia


While I was doing my PhD (in sociology) I was never asked or expected to create a poster, but it seems like they are either gaining ground or as my disciplinary focus has changed I’ve begun to encounter them more often. Whereas presenting and producing conference papers clearly relates to the rest of an academic’s job, i’m not so sure that posters do. Is it reasonable to expect academics to be decent graphic designers?

I was recently asked to put together a poster for my SCORE fellowship and this was the first time that I’ve been asked, even though I was recently a judge at Durham University’s poster competition for phd students. The poster will be used by SCORE (and me i guess) to help promote my project, and this is no bad thing.

I think that producing good posters require quite a specific skill set, one that I don’t really possess, and I’m not even sure one that is particularly relevant to an academic career. I’m no graphic designer and that’s pretty obvious with my finished poster, which still took the best part of a day to knock together.


My poster

 As you can see it’s pretty basic looking. My first thought was actually to use old fashioned cut and paste (a collage, which is vaguely relevant to the topic) but this quickly became a fuss, so i tried to use MS Paint and that was too difficult so ended up using PPT, which i’m sure shows. I’ve kept the hand drawn arrows in as a nod to the homemade original idea.

I wonder what software other people use to create their posters? i’ve seen some great posters (and plenty of not so great ones), so I’d be interested to see what other people are using. Although the bigger question is should an academic really need to have graphic design skills to get ahead? I doubt this poster will find its way onto my CV, so why exactly have I opened up myself to ridicule!?



About digitalscholar

I am a sociologist with an interest in new technology. Previously I’ve worked on a number of projects at Lancaster University and the Open University looking at the use of new technologies and social media by researchers. I was also a social sciences teaching fellow at the foundation centre at Durham University teaching sociology and anthropology. I am now a senior lecturer at the University of West London's Institute for Teaching, Innovation and Learning where I oversee the foundation provision and support retention. I'm sure I'll still be interested in, and occasionally blog about, tech related things. I use this blog to post thoughts about using new technologies in my professional academic life and wider thoughts and links relating to technology more generally.
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3 Responses to Poster making for academia

  1. Hi Nick,

    I use OmniGraffle for drawing diagrams, (Mac only):

    There are whole stack of stencils from the community too which make tech diagrams quite fancy:


    • does look good, but another piece of software? and a 100/200 dollars? [i won’t even mention mac only 😉 ]

      i worked on a collaborative bid with a top university (won’t name them tho in case this embarasses them) and they had an inhouse graphic designer! i think s/he was mainly for their web stuff, but they knocked up some good looking diagrams for our bid. And i think companies have teams to tart up powerpoint slides etc?

      I think i’d even pay for graphic design stuff personally (or at least include the cost in funding apps!).

  2. I think your poster looks OK. I don’t think mine would be usually regarded as a ‘top university’ (although it depends what metrics you use 😉 ) but our Faculty does have a graphic design person. He does also have other roles but re poster production – I think staff can basically just give him the material and he will put posters together. He also maintains an extensive web resource on poster production for students/anyone who wants to do it themselves. I am with you though, have never had to do this but seems to be becoming a ‘normal skill’ expectation especially for postgrads; I run a module where this will now be the assessment strategy. Maybe I should have a go…

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