Shocking fact: most scientific conference posters are created in Microsoft Powerpoint.
No, this is not ‘normal’. The design world uses applications like Adobe Illustrator for tasks like this. Unfortunately, the choice for Powerpoint is not that strange: it can handle vector graphics, and is easy to use. And most scientists will already have some experience with the software for creating presentations.I tried fighting it, but the only alternative software I could use was Corel Draw 9 (published in 1999!), Word, or … Paint. So now I am converted to Powerpoint as well.
After some searching (<3 Google) I found a very helpful site with tips for creating such a Powerpoint poster, which also includes some sample files: Scientific Posters at MIU (Medical Illustration Unit), Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales. It includes tips on planning, design, and graphics. The poster templates can be found here.
Our poster on BrainBasher (our BCI game) for the Fun and Games conference in Eindhoven is on the right. I’m quite happy with the end result, but one thing keeps bugging me. This is again the result of the discrepancy between commercial posters and scientific posters. Commercial posters focus on conveying one specific message and mainly use large images to do this — also for branding of course. Scientific posters on the other hand contain a lot of text, as it wants to convey the relevance of the research done. This is just a hard thing to do with one catchy phrase and a pretty visual. On the other hand, the poster does have to catch the attention of people walking by at the conference, so that visual impact is still very important. I hope to eventually find this golden middle road that meets both requirements.