Last week, we looked at the four pillars of design in our post on Designing Student Posters. This week, we move onto creating a Poster for students using PowerPoint!

From time to time, we deliver poster design training to students and different things crop up. This is one of those tasks we still use PowerPoint for as it’s a versatile tool. Before creating anything, make sure you have a layout design in mind. Think about where the poster will appear. Is it to be displayed digitally or printed?

Is the poster to be tall or wide? How many columns do you need? And, how many visuals need to be added in. Are these inline with columns or do they span across two or more columns? This is just to get your thinking about placement of content.

Always design for output! This will impact some of your design decisions.

Let’s get started!

Creating Posters in PowerPoint

Once you’ve decided on a layout and drafted it on paper. When opening PowerPoint, choose a blank slide (i.e., choose a slide layout with no content holders).

The next step is to create a slide at size A0. To do this, go to the Design tab, Slide Size and Custom Slide Size:

PowerPoint - slide size
PowerPoint – slide size

From here, enter the height and width for A0: 84.1cm x 118.8cm. Here, we’ve opted for a landscape (wide) poster:

PowerPoint - slide size
PowerPoint – slide size

At this stage, you’ll see what looks like a blank page:

PowerPoint - Master Slide
PowerPoint – Master Slide
Using PowerPoint for typesetting

Remember, PowerPoint is not the best tool for typesetting. However, it’s our intention to populate this blank page with content boxes to hold the poster content. We have options but want to show you the most logical option.

Go to the View tab and Slide Master. Look at the top slide on the left hand side, the move down the sub-slides until you find a two content holder slide. Duplicate this (as seen below):

PowerPoint - Master Slide
PowerPoint – Master Slide

Click the first main content holder and find out it’s height/width by going to the Shape Format tab. Here, we have a width of 50.49cm:

PowerPoint - height / width
PowerPoint – height / width

Ideally, we want four columns of equal height and width. We’re going to make the width 22.5cm and increase the height to 60cm. That will result in decreasing the height of the title content holder but should leave space for acknowledgements at the bottom.

Evidently, if you decide on more or less columns for the poster, this will impact the width figure.

To add in new content holders to the Master Slide, go to the Slide Master tab, Insert Placeholder and choose Content:

PowerPoint - Amending Master Slide Template
PowerPoint – Amending Master Slide Template

Adjust these to the same height/width as the first two columns. Repeat until you have all four columns inserted:

PowerPoint - Amending Master Slide Template
PowerPoint – Amending Master Slide Template
Aligning Columns

From here, ensure column one and four line up with the outer edges of the title content holder. Then select all four columns, go to the Home tab, Arrange, Align and Distribute Horizontally. This will apply equal spacing between the text columns.

PowerPoint - Aligning Columns
PowerPoint – Aligning Columns

Lastly, insert a place holder for the poster acknowledgements:

PowerPoint - Aligning Columns
PowerPoint – Aligning Columns

Currently, you might think this a bit crude but remember, we’re just getting a template layout created. From here, it’s choosing font types, sizes, colour, etc., for title, sub-headings and body text. Remember, printed posters need to be legible from 10 feet away. This will impact the size of font and the size of font you use.

Also consider the word count (300-800 words) and visual content. The more words you need to insert, can decrease the font size. The columns can be selected and the font type, size, alignment and spacing applied for consistency.

Once you have the initial template set up, it can be reused again and again. Just save it as a custom design.

Remember we said PowerPoint is not the best typesetting tool? Please do consider that when adding text in the first column, it will not flow into the second, third or fourth columns. This is a manual process of copy and paste.

Keep text left aligned, consider 1.2 or 1.5 line spacing and make sure there’s good contrast between the text colour and the background colour.

Then there’s the inserting of visual content. This means you will have to manually create spaces in the text columns for the visual content to be placed into. Place your cursor where the visual content should appear and use the return / enter key on your keyboard to make an appropriate sized space.

Considerations for adding visual content

Firstly, what is the visual content? Is it solid images like photographs or images like infographics which would benefit from a transparent background? And, what is the background colour of your text columns?

Will you use JPGs or PNGs? And, what’s the difference?

JPGs image formats are ‘solid’ and these file types do not support transparency. If using JPGs, it’s better to apply a small consistently coloured stroke (frame) around the image to ‘inset’ it into the column.

PNG image formats do support transparency. These can be compared to window stickers. For example, you have a graphic on a clear sticky sheet. When the stickers are placed on a wall, the wall colour can be seen through the clear part of the sticker. This is the same for PNG graphics with transparency. They can be placed anywhere on the poster (or indeed, web page) and the background colour will show.

Secondly, some visual content may need to sit across two or more columns. Ensure the graphics are of high enough quality. By this, we mean when the images are sized up, the sharpness of the image does not degrade or look ‘soft’. This can impact people’s impressions about presentation.

Here’s an example of our poster template:

Example poster template
Example poster template

Finally, do not distort the visual content. If you have an image which is 20cm by 10cm, when you scale that up to fit a column at 22.5cm wide, ensure the aspect ratio is locked and both the height and width scale in proportion. There’s nothing worse than viewing visual content which has been stretched. And, if the visual content is a graph or close up shot of microscopy, potentially skewing the image can change the meaning of the data. Be careful.

Considerations for saving content

For digital presentation, the PowerPoint format of PPTX is fine.

If you need to send the poster for printing, the printers may specify a JPG or other file format. To save your PowerPoint in a different format, go to the File tab, choose Export, Change File Type and JPEG File Interchange Format (as seen below):

PowerPoint - saving as a different format
PowerPoint – saving as a different format

For more information on printing, see Information Services Printing and Poster Printing Large Format Plotting.

If posters are printed, how accessible is the content?

Here’s an idea. Upload a copy of the poster online and provide a QR code. Ensure this can be accessed by anyone. When scanned, audience members can interact with a digital copy of your work using the assistive and immersive technologies on their devices. An additional benefit, audience members can view the poster content after the event.

Increase audience engagement.

Next time

Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read our blog. We appreciate it.

Next week, we’ll be looking at colour vibration. This is something we see in PowerPoints a lot and we’ll be using PowerPoint to demonstrate this.

Remember, the DigiKnow blog posts are released at noon on a Monday.

Please do join us then to learn more and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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