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Are hand assembled posters acceptable in Academia?

When I say academia, I mean formal presentation settings such as conferences and symposia.

I ask because I am preparing for a symposium and came across Colin Purrington's guide to conference posters found here.

On his site, Purrington writes:

If you’re crafty, a handmade poster is far superior to anything that you could make with a poster printer. Plus you’d be the highlight of a meeting.

My field is engineering by the way.

I couldn't find this anywhere else and every academic research poster that I have seen is printed. I can print my poster, I am just wondering, would there be any issues with presenting a professional looking hand made one?

On my hand made poster, all text would be printed, it would just be assembled on the board without a template.

Thank you.

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    Ah okay. I don't know engineering, so I won't answer but unless it was exceptionally well-constructed, I would probably assume your poster was lost somehow on the way to the conference. – Azor Ahai Mar 18 at 21:06
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    Some examples of critiques of hand-drawn posters 1, 2, and 3 – Cecilia Mar 19 at 1:00
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    Till 2000 the vast majority of posters was printed in pieces. I would say if one is flexible and talented tgere in no difference at all. – Alchimista Mar 19 at 9:17
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    Whatever else, the claim by Colin Purrington is extraordinary and, I think, objectively wrong. Most (even exceptional) handcrafted posters could be made at least equally well using computer aided design and a printer, and with less effort. Case in point: the example poster given in the blog post has nothing that couldn’t be done in software. – Konrad Rudolph Mar 19 at 10:34
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    If I understand correctly the handmade posters Purrington refers to are posters that are drawn by hand. They are not posters pieced together prints of a smaller format. – user2705196 Mar 19 at 12:29
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You should present the best poster you can make

It is far easier to make a professionally looking, high quality poster using LaTeX or any other software than by hand-drawing it.

However, there are some really good artists out there who can manage to do a hand-drawn poster that looks better than a printed one could.

So don't use hand-drawing as a way to save time or money. A good hand-drawn poster is more work than any printed one.

If you are 100% certain that you can get your message across better with a hand-drawn poster, then go for it, otherwise use a printed one.

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    +1 for not using it to save time or money - that would indeed be a bad motivation. I however can see how hand crafting can save you from travelling with a tubus, which is IMHO a notable plus. – Martin Modrák Mar 19 at 11:54
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    I just saw someone give a speed talk (so content similar to a poster) with handmade slides that were great---they had great penmanship, formatting, diagrams etc---which would have been hard to do in TeX. – Kimball Mar 19 at 15:24
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    @MartinModrák I hear that getting it printed on fabric is the way to avoid that. – user3067860 Mar 19 at 16:00
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    @Kimball In TeX maybe (because TeX is utterly unsuited for the creation of graphics-heavy contents, despite frequently being used for it) but in a graphic design application, maybe coupled with a visual presentation tool (PowerPoint, Keynote, …)? – Konrad Rudolph Mar 19 at 16:57
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    @leftaroundabout Uhm. No. – Konrad Rudolph Mar 20 at 11:49
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I am two days away from a poster presentation. I opted to write mine in Latex because a poster in Latex looks professional.

If you are totally confident that your content is so striking that no-one will pay attention to the graphic art, then write your poster however you want.

The risk in a hand-made home-crafted poster is that it will stand out for the wrong reasons: the medium will swamp the message.

The answer to your question is that such posters are acceptable in academia, but if you want to take that route make sure that your content is really, really good.

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    If no one is paying attention to the graphical content of your poster, then you are using the medium all wrong. – Nuclear Wang Mar 19 at 12:58
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I have seen "handmade" posters from time-to-time in the past few years. It is a little surprising whenever I see them and reminds me of my younger days. Usually they are A4, sometimes A3, (8.5"x11" or 11"x17") sheets of white paper glued/taped to a slightly larger piece of colored cardboard. Sometimes the title is printed on a large format poster printer, other times the papers are taped together carefully. It is most definitely easier to travel with a poster like this. I have never seen anyone make a really nice poster like this or do things that you cannot do in LaTeX, PowerPoint, or Illustrator.

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    A personal anecdote: this was my poster at a minor CS meeting last year: twitter.com/modrak_m/status/1040590435528388609 . I got a lot of attention and overwhelmingly positive feedback. Easier to travel (brown paper bought at the spot), also not spending much money on something that is discarded shortly after. Can recommend. – Martin Modrák Mar 19 at 11:51
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An academic poster should just tell the story of a study.

It should be clearly and briefly presented.

In principle, it does not matter if it is printed on paper or canvas, displayed on an electronic screen, printed on multiple A4 papers, drawn by hand, or sculptured, etc.

Non-traditional, creative presentation of a poster (may) attracts more attention (my own experience).

  • Supporting anecdotal evidence: i once saw someone give a talk using hand-drawn overhead sheets (in 2004, it was already archaic). It was a CS talk, attended by students and faculty and a few people from a bank. The industry people were impressed with the content of the talk and cards changed hands. – Ivana Mar 18 at 23:57
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I have seen a lot of creativity in poster sessions. For instance, I saw someone bring a sheet of plastic that allowed them to use dry-erase markers, and then they basically gave a chalk talk to anyone who came up. I've also seen people just print out slides of a talk and staple them to the poster area. The former was good, the latter was not. Personally, the most I ever did was use velcro strips to mount a small Android tablet where I showed an animated figure.

I think doing something "non-standard" can be a great way to attract attention and even present things that a traditional beamer/Powerpoint/Illustrator poster can't (my motivation for doing an animation). However, you have to know what you're doing first, in my opinion. Don't do it because it seems more straightforward or allows you to avoid learning the software tools you're expected to be able to use.

Like in a lot of places, the key thing is that you should know the standards very well before you break them, and that if you do so, you have to do it very well.

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Yes, of course, it is permitted. As you cited, it may even be the best way to get your ideas across. That is what is valued, not just "production values". You are a scholar, not an advertising guru.

At CS conferences, student posters are fairly often hand constructed, rather than professionally printed.

Just Do It, if it is the best way in your opinion.

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    Re "At CS conferences, student posters are fairly often hand constructed, rather than professionally printed. " - that's curious. What do you mean by "hand constructed"? I've never been to a CS conference, but the closest thing I've seen was someone just putting up a bunch of A4 printouts together. – tomasz Mar 18 at 23:38
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    @tomasz, imagine something that requires layers or something multi-dimensional for proper effect. – Buffy Mar 19 at 0:57
  • I see. That's interesting. – tomasz Mar 19 at 2:30
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    At a poster presentation your primary role is indeed advertising guru, whether you like it or not. This is literally the point of a poster presentation. – Konrad Rudolph Mar 19 at 9:31
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It really doesn't matter as long as it's readable. The content is far more important than the presentation. You are overthinking this.

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    I've had to downvoted this because it's simply wrong. Presentation absolutely matters and, in the case of a poster, is in fact paramount. – Konrad Rudolph Mar 19 at 8:55
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    I absolutely agree with @KonradRudolph - clearly the content is important, but a poorly presented poster gives a poor first impression of the work. Maybe if someone's had time to read the paper in advance and found the work interesting, they might see through it, but realistically the poster is your first point-of-contact with the majority of the community and should present the work in a good light. – n00dle Mar 19 at 11:17
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    "Readable" is too low a bar for a poster, it should be effortless to read. I have never seen handwritten text or figures that were easier to read than computer-generated ones. Even typewritten text can become unreadable when standing several feet back in a crowd, that will only happen more easily with handwritten text. – Nuclear Wang Mar 19 at 13:02
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    @KonradRudolph: ... in fact, it's even called a poster presentation... The presentation medium transports the content, so if that medium fails, the content is unfortunately lost to the audience as well. – cbeleites supports Monica Mar 20 at 23:09
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I've seen probably 8000 conference posters in at quantum information theory conferences, and I can't even remember which ones were hand-printed, so I'd say the content is much more important than the presentation. (The hand-printed ones are in the minority, but maybe 1 of 20 are that way.) I do remember one funny poster some years back that was just a big pad of paper, with a little sign saying "Ask me anything you want". The presenter went on to be a very successful professor.

In other fields the presentation may matter more. I remember a math professor telling me a funny story of philosophy conferences, where the presenters stand up at a podium and read carefully-prepared speeches word-for-word. We both sniggered at this, and he said that a philosopher had explained to him that this was because the phrasing and word-choice was very important, which made us both laugh.

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