How to design a winning poster display

Written by joan collins
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How to design a winning poster display
Make an winning poster display (flower cutouts poster image by robert mobley from

Poster displays promote products, activities and work-related results. Contests, like science fairs, and promotions, like safety awareness, require quality posters to win a prize. A good poster engages the viewer and/or acts as a picture of your work. In your absence, the poster explains your procedures and results. Presenting your work in a simple, straightforward poster effectively communicates your ideas. Done well, your design becomes a potentially award-winning display. Apply these suggestions to increase the possibility that your poster display becomes a winning entry.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Data
  • Ruler
  • Photographs
  • Poster board
  • Coloured paper
  • Stencils or letters
  • Markers or poster paint

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Follow directions. Judges look for posters that follow the rules, especially those regarding size and content. Beyond the rules, judges look for organised, succinct posters that are attractive. They look for pictures and illustrations that have good exposure and are well-composed. They look for originality and creativity. In science fair posters, clear, easy to understand steps and results are expected.

  2. 2

    Determine the purpose of your poster. Purposes range from entertaining, instructing, informing or sharing. Develop your poster around a single theme or subject that reflects your purpose. Carefully chosen words and pictures illuminate the chosen theme and increase the viewers retention of your subject. The U.S. Department of Labor says visual aids, like posters, increase retention from 10 per cent to 35 per cent. Know your audience and create a poster that will appeal to the viewers or judges.

  3. 3

    For work displayed at a science fair or fair booth, choose a tri-fold, free-standing poster board. A wall poster requires a simple, flat poster board sized to meet contest specifications.

  4. 4

    Draw a mock-up version. Pre-determine placement of the pictures and the words. Decide where you want colour and where white space will benefit the appearance of your poster. White space refers to the amount of space not covered by words, pictures or designs. The white space should direct the eye of the viewer to your key points and, according to the AAMC poster site, should not cover more than 20% of your poster. Do not overwhelm your poster with information.

    Check the spelling on all of the words that you plan to use. Poor spelling affects your score. Finally, choose the type or types of font for your lettering. Vary your lettering font. Use three different form; use one for titles, one for subtitles and one for content.

  5. 5

    Pick a catchy title and apply it to your poster with 2-inch to 3 1/2-inch lettering. The title will be with first thing your audience sees. Create a title that will captivate the interest of the viewer while introducing the subject matter at the same time.

    Use colour, alone or in a combination, to attract the passersby. Use complementary colours. For example, black on white or navy blue on yellow create an attractive combination that encourages viewer to spend more time with your work.

  6. 6

    Create your poster. Remember that simplicity is the rule. You have a few seconds to capture the viewers passing by your booth. Follow your mock-up design to avoid a cluttered poster. A well-designed poster with a mixture of information, photographs and white space draws viewers in to take a closer look.

    Make your poster clean and clear. Use a ruler to draw light, straight lines for your lettering. Use stencils or pre-made lettering. Place your pictures on the poster and view it before you glue them on. Back up pictures with a mat to make them visually pop out from the poster.

  7. 7

    Provide your poster with a presentation that encourages viewers to remember your display materials. The U.S. Department of Labor says that the retention of materials from oral and visual presentations goes up another 30% to 65%. Your well-designed poster encourages your audience to stay and learn from your presentation but, if you can't be there, your poster will speak for you.

Tips and warnings

  • Avoid using all capital letters throughout your poster.
  • Choose easy-to-read fonts. Fancy fonts detract from the overall look and are hard to read.
  • Think outside the box and design a creative poster.
  • Misspelled words detract from a well-designed poster.

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