There are two ways that we share our scientific findings at conferences: We give oral presentations and we make posters where we illustrate our questions, methods, and results. The poster is a great opportunity to be creative and show off your work in visually interesting ways. But not all of us researchers are good with – or have time to dedicate to – “the creative stuff," rendering many posters just ugly walls of text. That's not very enticing for conference attendees, especially in a hall of 200 posters.
But psychology PhD student Mike Morrison at Michigan State University recently caused a stir on science Twitter when he unveiled his #BetterPoster. He proposed a radically different design for scientific posters, and made a Youtube video to explain his idea. The new layout has big friendly letters in the middle that broadcast the main message. Along one side are small supportive figures. The design is bright and uses negative space to draw the eye.
It turns out that #ScienceTwitter has opinions about this new design. Some researchers think it will revolutionize the poster session, letting us visit more posters in a session by helping us find the ones we should really see. This is certainly the stance that NPR took in their coverage of the debate. Others were up in arms about the lack of actual information on Poster 2.0, with some even calling it anti-scientific to make a poster Tweetable but not very informative. And some had a lot of fun taking the design to extremes.
I totally agree that Mike's #BetterPoster has visual appeal, and that showing one big central message could make it easier to find the posters I really need to see – although perhaps not, if everyone starts using this new format. On the other hand, most of the time when we make posters it’s because we want to show our work to other experts, who will expect to see the data that we have to back up our big flashy claims. I’ll reserve judgement until I see a Poster 2.0 in the real world.