How to avoid the icebergs: Reflections on what a learning technology project could teach smart people about effective poster design

Mark Campbell,

eMedia Interactive Ltd.

Determining how to design your conference poster at the start of your research career can be a daunting prospect. Even though you may be able to identify sequences in the human genome or calculate the logarithmic differentiation of a complex mathematical function – the idea of laying out your scientific ideas in printed A0 format for public display can frequently become an overwhelming challenge for those us without a degree in graphic design. Where does all the text fit, what size font should I use, how come my choice of colours look terrible? Why won’t the printer return my repeated and increasingly panicked phone calls?  Really smart researchers are not all graphic designers. So who invented the conference poster to thwart us? Being an expert in one’s research field today also necessitates new media skills – not only in predominately textual formats, but also in visual communication skills.
This pecha kucha session aims to deliver a short, focused, quick-fire presentation on a project that aimed to employ digital media to produce an informative learning resource for early career researchers, to help design an effective conference poster. So how do you teach a group of really smart people something about graphic design? Well, you start by asking them what they need to know. Irish eLearning company, eMedia, engaged with a group of PhD students from NUI Galway, and ran a series of focus group sessions to determine what areas researchers felt they needed more support. This resulted in a list of key areas of concern. Next, this group were asked to participate in a paper-prototyping exercise, and finally a draft version of an online support tool was developed. The resulting online course is now available online (

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