Poster sessions are increasingly common at academic conferences, particularly those with a digital humanities focus. This resource guide provides some tips for how to create a poster, along with some options for printing it.
About poster sessions
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. Poster sessions give people an informal way to show off their works in progress, find collaborators, and brainstorm solutions.
Structure of a poster
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
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).
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 necessarily have to be a completed, finished, polished product. Depending on the event, "In progress" posters may be acceptible. These posters might include things like challenges (theoretical, technical, methods) to be tackled before moving onto the next stage of research.
What do I do during a poster session?
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 most of the event
You do not necessarily need to be by your poster for the entire duration
Think through some questions that others might have for your project and prepare how you think you might respond
The following printing services have been used by members of the digital humanities community. Inclusion on this list does not constitute an endorsement by Digital Humanities at Berkeley:
Spoonflower can print posters up to one yard (36" x 42") on fabric, starting at $15.75 plus shipping. If you need expedited turnaround (~1 week), a poster will be around $50. Fabric posters can easily be scrunched up, ironed and reused.