ECRAG meeting summary · Poster & PowerPoint design

Notes from ECRAG meeting: Mar 20th 2014

Our last ECRAG meeting was on the 20th March which apparently was the first day of Spring. We certainly all had a spring in our step and shared our favourite things about this season; unsurprisingly colourful flowers and longer days topped the list.


Given the topic, this meeting was always going to be a big hit. Freelance graphic designer Sarah Brubaker gave a really interesting and informative talk on communicating through simple and effective design. Sarah has worked on a huge variety of projects from wedding magazines to creative media at our very own Birmingham University. It was great to get practical tips and tricks that we can use straight away to enhance our posters and PowerPoint. Sarah emphasised that the main aim is to ‘communicate your message fast’ and here’s how to do that:



– The size of your poster will determine the information you can include and the format

– The biggest elements, text or picture, will attract the most attention so should be the most important information

– Smaller text should contain supporting information

– Use text size to create a hierarchy- there should be a natural flow from big to small which will lead the audience through your work

– 90-60-30 text size rule: title size 90, sub-headings size 60 and main text size 30 i.e. incremental steps down in text size



– Use colour to organise elements, this will help with the flow of your message

– Colour creates the tone and can bring emotional appeal e.g. pastels for a light impact, darker colours for sophistication

– Keep it simple: 2 colours- main colour for important text, secondary colour for highlighting information (try colours opposite from each other on a colour wheel)



– Contrast can be used to show relative importance

– Dramatic changes in colour/text tells your audience something is different and requires attention

– Change from a dark to light background to quickly separate the title from the main layout



– This creates a border between elements e.g. separating two columns of text or creating a complex hierarchy

– Use a grid to achieve this

– Keep it simple

– Keep separate modules of information in line with each other

– Use alignment to show the audience how the information interacts with other elements which creates a better flow



– Keep it clean and simple

– Use a max of 2 fonts- one that stands out for your title and a simple one for the main text

– Font must be easy to read- avoid fancy fonts and CAPITALS

– High resolution images are essential (if in doubt go for an image that is kilobytes in size)

– Only use images that emphasis the content, not just for decoration


Take home message:

Effective visual communication is about organising information in a usable, accessible and logical way not crazy graphics or intricate design.


So there you go, no excuses for a messy poster with too much information!


Next ECRAG meeting:


Next month we will be building on another skill which is essential for a career in academia: small group teaching. Even if you don’t want an academic career, teaching develops many transferable skills and can be very rewarding. See you then.

“Getting involved in Small Group Teaching”- Thursday 17th April, 2014 in Primary Care 12.30-1.30pm (room 223)


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