Anatomy of a DH Poster

Visitors to an academic conference in STEM fields or the Social Sciences might have already encountered a new kind of conference activity: the poster session. In the poster session dozens of researchers stand in front of large posters, explaining their research to passing attendees. It is noisy, informal, (often hot) and a great opportunity for scholars of all stripes to share their work in a more personal setting.

We think that poster sessions can be a good addition to digital humanities events, too. They give people an informal way to show off their works in progress, find collaborators, and brainstorm solutions.

Structure

Because the poster session is still a relatively new import to humanities conferences, there remains a lot of leeway in what you can include in them. This blog post will give you a few guidelines to make things easier. Just like a good argument, an effective poster contains only what it needs to: it should be clear, coherent, and visually catchy (simply laid out, basic colors)

A DH poster does not need to follow a strict format like a STEM poster, containing an Abstract, Hypothesis, Results, etc. BUT it should include enough information for your reader to figure out what your research is about, including:

  • an evocative title in large enough font
  • a research question
  • the data you are working with
  • tools used
  • challenges
  • questions / next steps
  • written in an appropriate font (big enough to read comfortably, clear, not comic sans, serif fonts for body, sans serif for headings)

Even though we all love reading, make sure to be brief. A person should be able to get through your poster in five minutes. Keep in mind that this person will be distracted by other posters, by their friends, by their phone, or by their plate of snacks--so keep things extra simple. Aim for 800 words or fewer, if possible.

Don’t be afraid to be creative, either! You can use some effective infographics or PowerPoint decks as a model. A simple Google search will turn up thousands of posters and poster templates--copy the ones you like, ignore the ones you don’t like. To get you started, here is the great example of Chris Church's poster on using databases for historical research. (Note, this poster is vertical, but posters can be horizontal as well).

Software

So how exactly do you make a poster? The easiest answer is the ubiquitous Microsoft PowerPoint. Most of us already know how to use PowerPoint. Colin Purlington suggests taht people seeking more bespoke solutions can check out programs like LaTex, Quark XPress, InDesign (free to Berkeley students via https://software.berkeley.edu/!), Scribus, Illustrator, CorelDRAW, Freehand, and Omnigraffle, Inkscape or Poster Genuis. These will give you more control, but might present a bit of a learning curve.

In Progress Posters

Your poster does not have to be a completed, finished, polished product. "In progress" posters are completely acceptable, These might include things like challenges (theoretical, technical, methods) to be tackled before moving onto the next stage of research.

What do I do during the Faire?

During the poster session itself, you will be expected to spend some time next to it so that you can present your findings to interested attendees.

  • Plan to stand by your poster for some portion of the faire
  • You do not need to be by your poster for the entire duration of the Faire
  • Think through some questions that others might have for your project and prepare how you think you might respond

Dimensions

Print posters should be approximately 36” x 48” (vertical or horizontal).  If you would like to demo digital components of your project, there will also be screens available.