PSA 2016: Instructions, Samples, and Tips for Cons


PSA 2016: Instructions, Samples, and Tips for Constructing Posters

The most important thing to keep in mind is that a poster is not simply a paper or abstract transferred to a different presentation medium. A poster is a way to start a conversation about your research project, teaching experience, outreach endeavor, or grant project, which is represented in the poster itself though not in its entirety. Therefore, you must make decisions about what to include and what to exclude from the poster. Less is more. The event is described as a “Poster Forum” because it is intended to be a meeting where ideas and views on particular issues in philosophy of science can be exchanged. We recommend that you seek feedback on drafts of your poster from colleagues (as we seek feedback on drafts of papers). This is one way to see whether it is a good conversation starter and to practice your oral presentation (see below under ‘Presentation’).


All posters should be 36 inches in height by 48 inches in width (or ~92cm x ~122cm). Posters deviating from these specifications may not fit in the allotted space provided. Most people create posters in PowerPoint or similar presentation software. Online, one can find a number of free templates for posters. Here are three examples:

Note: PSA does not endorse any of these sites and only supplies these URLs as examples of places online where individuals can download poster templates.

Posters should be printed in advance of arriving in Atlanta. Most universities have printing services that will do these kinds of jobs, especially because the sciences use them regularly. Tubes to protect posters in transit are available from many different outlets. PSA will not print posters or be responsible for the cost of printing posters; this is the responsibility of poster authors and co-authors.

Organizational principles

A few key principles should be kept in mind when preparing your poster: (1) be concise, (2) make information accessible, and (3) ensure that your central ideas, questions, and/or arguments are comprehensible. Several design elements contribute to these principles being fulfilled:
(a) Logical layout: most posters are intended to be read from (top) left to (bottom) right, usually by adopting a column format. This is the best way to make the information readable and makes it easier for many people to read your poster simultaneously.

Although not necessary, many people begin with an abstract or summary, which makes it possible for readers to quickly glean the core ideas. It is important to clearly state the problem(s) or question(s) being addressed so the poster is well motivated, as well as provide necessary background to the topic. Glossaries of key words can be helpful sometimes with technical terminology. Make sure the conclusions or implications are easy to ascertain; sometimes bullet point lists help accent them. Typically, a small set of references and acknowledgements appear at the end (i.e., bottom right).

(b) Font size: Your poster should be readable from a distance of ~6 feet (2 meters). Sans serif fonts (e.g., Arial, Helvetica) are best for titles and headings, as well as body text. Serif fonts (e.g., Times New Roman) should be used for body text only (if at all). Do not use less than 24-point font. Here are standard recommendations: title (72-84 or larger), headings (36-48), and body text (28-36).

(c) Choice of title and headings: people often “skim” posters before deciding whether to zoom in on the details. Therefore, it is to your advantage to have a title and headings that clearly signal what you are talking about and, where possible, have a hook that attracts the reader.

(d) Create “flow”: cue the reader on how to process the information in your poster. There should be no ambiguity in where next to go as one reads. Think about telling a story and drawing the reader into a narrative arc. Your aim is for them to want to continue reading. The logical layout can assist with this but does not constitute it. Arrows and numbering can be helpful as well.

(e) Proofread: this may go without saying, but a typo at 84 point font on a poster looks worse than a typo at 12 point font on a sheet of paper. We recommend you have someone else proofread your poster at some point during its preparation and (for sure) before you send it off to be printed.

Aesthetics and Design

Posters allow for a variety of creative design choices and viewing an aesthetically pleasing poster is a real treat. To that end, keep in mind that a sharp contrast using 2-3 basic colors works best (e.g., blue, black, and white). Using no colors will mean your poster doesn’t garner attention; using too many colors and too bright of hues will make it difficult to read and discourage individuals from stopping to try. Three standard approaches to color choice using a color wheel are:
(a) Complementary (use two or more colors opposite one another, potentially varying shades and tints)

(b) Monochromatic (use different shades and tints of one color)

(c) Analogous (use three adjacent colors, potentially varying shades and tints)

Remember that some individuals cannot see particular colors and contrasts. Consider using a website such as Vischeck ( to determine if these issues are present in your poster.

Even though most philosophy is textually rich, too much text can be a distraction in a poster. Therefore, we recommend the incorporation of at least some imagery. Images are especially useful for balancing your poster with different elements. You can give credit for sources of images but do not need to worry about copyright unless you plan to upload your poster online, which would constitute “republishing.” Use captions for images so they can be understood apart from the text. For any graphs, make sure axes are clearly labeled.

When using images, they should typically not be smaller than 5-6 inches (13-15 cm). JPEG (.jpg) is the best image format for poster creation because you get a high quality image with a relatively small file size. Make sure to check the resolution of your image file. Resolution (in relation to digital imagery) is the number of pixels per square inch on a computer screen. The higher this number is, the greater the quality of the picture. Use images with a resolution of at least 300 dots per inch (dpi); most web images are 72 dpi. This will give you the most flexibility when resizing your images on the poster. Avoid low-resolution images because these will appear pixelated when printed large. (Note: logos for institutions and/or grant funding agencies can deviate from these rules as they typically appear at a much smaller size on the poster.)

Try not to use more than 1 or 2 fonts throughout the poster (e.g., Arial for titles/headings and Times New Roman for body text). Too many typefaces will make a poster appear disjointed. Dark text on a light background usually works best. Avoid fully justified text because it can affect readability.

You can fulfill the organizational principles of being concise and making information accessible by confirming that blocks of texts have adequate cushions of space (“white space”) and that line spacing is not too crowded. A poster should probably not exceed 2,000 words, though there is no strict cutoff. Just remember, less is more.


Although a poster should be readable without the author present, the Poster Forum will be a time when the presenting author will engage participants directly as they browse different posters. Here are some tips for facilitating productive exchanges:
(a) Prepare a concise statement of your question or problem to begin your presentation

(b) Practice three versions of your core monologue (30-second; 2-minute; 5-minute)

(c) Consider the audience background and anticipate questions. Give listeners an opportunity to ask questions of clarification.

Don’t forget the basics: introduce yourself, smile, show enthusiasm, make eye contact, and welcome those who join the discussion midstream. Stand to one side of the poster so you can point to particular items and others can read while you are talking.


It may be helpful to see a few examples of posters from philosophy of science and other fields. Here are several that we think instantiate many (though not all) of the guidelines and tips described above (many other examples can be found online).

Poster Example 1; Poster Example 2; Poster Example 3; Poster Example 4; Poster Example 5

Final Note: there are many websites devoted to academic poster creation. We hope the above information is sufficient for creating your poster for PSA 2016, but we encourage you to investigate additional ideas and tips since we have only covered basic items here. To get started, you might want to check out a nice discussion over at the Daily Nous (