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Which is a better poster orientation: Vertical/portrait (taller than wide) or horizontal/landscape (wider than tall)? Assume that the content does not "naturally" fit either of these formats so as to make one choice obvious.

Are there any studies that explore the differences between these two?
If you aren't aware of any, what psychological mechanisms might underly differences in the way people perceive the research (or researcher) based on the difference between the orientations?

I'm not interested in answers that say "it's just a subjective personal style choice" but am interested in answers that detail at least some difference in what may be perceived or communicated differently as a result of a change in orientation.

If there are strong field-specific conventions, those would be good to know (because being the only person who fails to follow that structure might give an impression that this person is an outsider or doesn't understand the community) but it'd be nice to have at least some answers that can apply in a very broad multidisciplinary poster session which is too topically diverse for any field-specific orientation convention to apply.

For the purposes of answering here, please assume the two dimensions are fixed at a bit under 3 and 4 feet, but orientation is not fixed.


Related:

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    If you can actually choose between portrait and landscape, you obviously have enough space available for a bigger, quadratic poster, which is arguably the best choice, as you can give your content more room. – Wrzlprmft Apr 5 '16 at 17:45
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    Portrait makes it easier to stand off to its side and talk to someone about the contents of the poster without blocking it from passerby, especially if space is tight. – ff524 Apr 5 '16 at 17:46
  • @Wrzlprmft What do you mean by a "quadratic" poster? Do you mean "square" (which may not be an option if the limiting factor is the size of provided backer boards)? – WBT Apr 5 '16 at 17:54
  • @ff524 I think there's been some research done on the psychological effects of a presenter taking up more space (e.g. does it make the work seem to have greater impact?) esp. when space is not that tight; if space is tight does a vertical orientation mean you get even less space and wind up blocking even more of the poster as you stand there? – WBT Apr 5 '16 at 17:55
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    In my experience, the poster stands are set up before you get there, so no, you get the same horizontal space regardless of your poster's orientation. – ff524 Apr 5 '16 at 17:56
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While I am not aware of field-specific differences, my personal experience leads me to believe that landscape is likely to be better for conveying information than portrait. The reasons for this are:

  • People are much more visually sensitive to vertical than horizontal changes in position, due to the fact that we are largely surface-dwellers. You'll have a much bigger visual impact from things that are near eye-level than things that are significantly displaced up or down.
  • Posters are typically consumed in parallel, with different people arriving at different times and looking at different parts. A landscape format lets more people be close to the poster (and potentially the parts they're focusing on) than portrait format.

That said, 1) many venues restrict you tightly in the amount of space that you are allotted, and it will generally be better to use the space you've got rather than make a smaller poster with a preferred orientation, and 2) good vs. bad graphical design will vastly outweigh portrait vs. landscape in terms of impact.

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    Since you've tagged this question as a reference-request, it seems reasonable to ask that you add references for your answer. Particularly for the statements in your first bullet point. – ff524 Apr 5 '16 at 22:01
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I don't see any statistical evidence cited, so make your own stats: create two posters with same copy, font/size, and image; one portrait and one landscape, and hang them vertically side by side.

Ask 25+ people which version they prefer, note their gender and age and height. Don't allow discussion betweeen viewers. (EG dominant people may prefer one version and influence/skew the others)

Then switch the L-R order of the posters and ask another 25 people. See if the change of L-R orientation changes preferences. (Theatre folks know that a character entering from stage right (audience left) is strong and smooth; and entering from the other side is clashing, because (in the West) we are used to reading left to right. When people look at any scene, even a full dinner plate, most sweep eyes left to right (tho' I wonder about southpaws)

Put distance marks on the floor: See if one poster draws viewers physically closer. The landscape should be spaced mid-point with the portrait version's mid-point, mid-points at 58" from the floor. (paintings are oft hung too high).

Finally, invite subject to add their comments. EG, "this one feels harder to read" "this one feels fake" "the colour is warmer in this one" "this one is too harsh" etc etc.

Perhaps the only significant factor is that horizontal posters are much rarer. ====== === I invite statisticians, pyschologists and other smarty pants to improve on this experiment. This might rock at a science fair: every visitor casts their vote before reading the test results. Let me know how it goes! scripts at dennishassell * commmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

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