The Poster Conundrum

Say you’re going to a conference to present you’re work at a poster session. First, in what kind of material do you print your poster? Second, do you strictly follow the guidelines or do you have your own template? And third, how do you come about transporting it? One thing is for sure, doing things as they’ve alway been done in your research group is not necessarily the optimal way, and any slight change to this workflow can make the whole poster endeavor end up costing from as little as €20 to the incredible amount of €250 or more. So this is not something to be taken lightly.

I will not refer to the procedure of making the poster. For this depends on the software[1] you have, and the amount of time you’re willing to spend on making your poster, or more precisely learning to make a poster[2]. As regards the printing, choosing a standard paper size (like A0) seems appropriate, and from my experience reduces costs. A colleague of mine was once charged double for having a non-standard paper size. The type of paper does make a great difference, I normally go for a type they call “semi-photo”, which is not as expensive as photographic paper, but still looks good. However, these options still suffer from the now-I-have-to-carry-this-huge-poster problem. I know there are people that print their poster on several sheets of paper to something that looks more like presentation slides, but that looks way too cheap. I have considered an alternative, and that is using a decent software, like PosterRazor, for splitting the poster into a sort of collage, using quality paper, and later sticking the parts together. This solves the issue of transportation, but still it doesn’t seem like a suitable solution. Lately, I’ve been considering printing on fabric–yes, fabric. Apparently it costs more, but you can easily fold it as if it were a linen and put it inside your bag, and it looks just as good as paper. How do you print your posters?

The transportation part is a real pain in the a$$. Checking in a poster as regular luggage might not be as easy as it seems–it might be considered as an odd object and you’d have to pay extra, like if they were a pair of skis. If you’re carrying it in one of those long tubes and taking it as hand luggage, then you’re off on a tricky quest. The poster tube normally doesn’t classify as hand luggage, so you’ll probably be asked to put it inside that especial cage all airlines have these days to verify its dimensions. They already know it doesn’t fit, but still they insist. So you could end up paying extra. Either way, checking it in or carrying it as hand luggage can turn out to be an unpleasant situation that inevitably increases the cost.[3] How do you usually cope with this situation?

  1. Ok maybe a little. I’ve tried MS PowerPoint, MS Publisher, CorelDraw, and finally have settled for a LaTeX package called baposter that flawlessly takes care of formatting (font sizes, line spacing, etc.) and you’re practically left with just worrying with the content–as it should be. The best part, if you have your paper in LaTeX then the effort is minimal, and you can resize to whatever paper size you need by changing one line in the preamble.  ↩

  2. In my experience it’s best to start of with a sketch or outline of the poster. Recall that a poster is not a paper, it should have as least text as possible, and illustrate with figures and images whenever you can.  ↩

  3. If your flying in Europe, try to avoid Ryan Air if possible, they’re way to offensive about luggage specifications. It might appear as if they’re looking for different ways to charge you extra.  ↩


3 thoughts on “The Poster Conundrum

  1. This is interesting. My last poster (co-authored) was done with OmniGraffle, but Adobe InDesign I think is so much better (it’s expensive too) for such work

  2. It is interesting to try out all of these tools, however if they’re way too expensive, to me it means they’re meant for graphic designers. In my case I would produce about two or three posters at most per year, so it really doesn’t pay out. The baposter package for LaTeX is amazing and free (as in beer), if I need to produce some figures (as opposed to regular plots) I do them in inkscape, which is also free. I believe it is a fairly decent–and inexpensive–approach to producing scientific posters. If you need something a bit more complex they I would go with tools like InDesign. In some future post I could describe my poster making workflow. Could you describe a bit your poster making process with OmniGraffle?

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