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Poster Design

This guide is intended to help SNHU students use basic design principles to creating professional, academic posters. This guide also provides poster templates and instructions for printing posters at the Innovation Lab & Makerspace.

Layout - Content Patterns

The content pattern, the way information is organized and "flows" on the poster, is important because it effects how your audience absorbs the information you are presenting.



Text and visuals on your poster should be arranged to take advantage of the way that people typically absorb visual information. If your poster includes columns, readers may tend to look at your poster from top to bottom and from left to right. For example:

Image of z layout on a poster

Poster Layout - T to B, L to R

However, there are other patterns to consider. If your poster includes boxes or other elements beyond basic columns, eye movements often fall into two design layout patterns: the F-pattern and the Z-pattern.



The F-pattern refers to a viewer tendency to first scan a horizontal line across the top of the screen. This is why websites often include a long banner or navigation bar across the top of pages. Next, the viewer may often look left, vertically, for keywords, graphics, subsections, etc. at which point their eyes naturally tend to move horizontally. For example:

Image of a Poster with arrows indicating the F pattern layout

Poster Layout - F Pattern



The Z-pattern refers to a viewer tendency to start by looking in the upper left area of page, followed by the upper right area, then back down to the left just below the area where they started. This is similar to typing, when the text flows from left to right, then down to the next line, etc. This creates a triangle, which can continue as a Z-pattern (or a zig zag) all the way down the poster. For example:

Poster showing z pattern layout

Poster Layout - Z Pattern

In any pattern, whether the audience is reading top to bottom, left to right, or following the F or Z pattern, the top left area of your poster will be one of the first places your viewer looks. This area is often where you want include the most important information or what you want viewers to begin with when they're looking at your poster. Assume that your audience only has a few seconds to look at your poster--what do you want them to see and take away in those few seconds?

This content should be eye catching (e.g. a an interesting graphic) and/or include the first information you want them to see (e.g. an introduction):

Image of a poster with star in the upper left area

Poster Layout - Key Area for Introduction or Eye Catching Graphic