Balance of Text, Graphics, and Whitespace

Make sure your poster looks f-i-n-e!

Much like color, people won’t notice good balance. And very much like color, they will notice, very quickly, poor balance. Though this is a lesser point, it is still important. When designing the layout, try to make sure that any one area of the display isn’t all pictures (including graphs) or all text. If it is all pictures, it seems like nothing is really going on, and if it is all text, well... it is a daunting task to have to read through an endless amount of text (affectionately known as a “text wall”).

Avoiding Textwall

Textwall is a surefire way to keep someone from reading your poster. Posters should be summaries: people don't want to read a novel, they want to find out what you have to say as quickly as possible. Follow these simple tips to keep your information readable:

  • Bulleted Lists: Like this one, bullet points break up long paragraphs into readable segments.
  • Big font: Using a larger font will not only make your poster more readable, it will force you to remove non-vital information.
  • Paragraphs: Don't go more than 3 or 4 lines without making a new paragraph. People will get lost.
  • Whitespace: Put a blank line between paragraphs to visually divide pages into smaller bites.
  • Sentence Fragments: Can help get your point across in fewer words. Complete sentences are not always necessary!

If you notice that your poster print-outs are going to have too high a concentration of text, try a couple of these tips and watch your poster become more readable!

Here is an example of good balance. Notice all the pictures and text are evenly spread out across the layout. This gives the eye a chance to move about from one idea to another easily without getting lost in information.

Now, here is an example of poor balance. Notice how the display is lopsided and ugly.

White space is all the space on the board that isn’t used. Try and avoid having large areas of blank space as it makes the project look unfinished and rushed. If there is too much white space, the easiest remedy is to make the text larger. Failing that, get some more pictures. However, too little white space can make the display too busy.

Pictures/Graphs

Pictures and graphs are a vital part of the display and can get across a great deal of information at a glance. (a picture’s worth a thousand words right?) However, too many pictures and people won’t know what’s going on. Pictures and graphs should never account for more than 50% of the display. If they don’t all fit within this constraint, make them smaller. If they still don’t fit, print off all the charts and place them in a book and only put the most important ones on the display. Remember, there is much information that needs to be written down that cannot be expressed in picture form, like the hypothesis, procedure, safety, and many others. Only data can be expressed as pictures.

See also