Updated: Oct 24
Venturing Beyond Traditional Designs
I'll never forget that moment of excitement mixed with a good dose of jitters when I was informed I'd be presenting at the Data Intensive Research Conference in Minneapolis. I mean, presenting in the US had always been a big point on my bucketlist, but there was a catch. Instead of presenting my usual powerpoint slides I had used during half a dozen conferences last year, I had to design a poster. And not just any poster - my first academic poster. No pressure, right?
A Fresh Approach to Academic Sharing
While doing my initial research on poster design, it was impossible to ignore the standard trend: densely packed posters brimming with graphs, data, and text in tiny fonts. However, Mike Morrison's fresh perspective on poster design was like a breath of fresh air. The Ph.D. candidate from Michigan State University was suggesting something revolutionary: why not simplify?
The idea resonated deeply with me. Too often, we researchers fall into the trap of trying to share everything. Yet, the essence of good communication isn’t to say more, but to say it right. And so, the journey began with Canva, a website that allowed me to visualize this fresh approach. The idea was clear: Create a poster that invites people to talk about my research, by throwing the key finding directly at them.
Distilling Your Research: Crafting the Central Statement
Crafting that central sentence for the poster wasn't a walk in the park; it's a challenge to distill months or even years of research into a single, compelling statement. But it's essential because this sentence is your elevator pitch, the hook that will draw your audience in. So how do you condense all that effort and data into one line?
First, reflect on the core message or impact of your study: what is the one thing you want people to take away? Second, keep it simple and avoid jargon; your statement should be accessible to everyone, not just those in your field. Third, make it actionable or thought-provoking. Don't just state a fact; pose a question or present a perspective that encourages further exploration. Lastly, iterate. Write several versions, seek feedback, and refine until you have a statement that feels right and does justice to your hard work.
A Personal Touch & Inviting Conversations
Choosing the color palette was more personal than one might think. Drawing inspiration from the Heidelberg University logo, the university I’ve spent countless hours in, added a touch of 'me' to the design.
But more than the design, the aim was clear: kickstart conversations. I’ve always believed that research, at its core, is about connecting - with ideas, with data, and most importantly, with people. By simplifying the poster, I wanted to remove barriers and create bridges.
Research, Conversations, and the Real World
Here's a raw truth: standing beside a typical academic poster, watching folks pass by, perhaps glancing for a moment and then moving on, can be downright disheartening. It sometimes feels like all that hard work and groundbreaking findings are just...overlooked. That's not how research should feel. It shouldn’t just reside in the confines of journals or be skimmed over during conferences; it should spark interest, debates, and discussions.
As I stood beside my poster in Minneapolis, there were nods, raised eyebrows, and more importantly, genuine interactions. It was heartening to see the design doing its magic, transforming passive viewers into active participants.
In this journey, I realized that less isn’t just more. Less is powerful. Less is engaging. Less opens the door to more – more connections, more discussions, and more impact. It’s a lesson I’ll carry with me, not just in design but in every conversation I hold henceforth in the world of academia.