Bass Connections Poster Guidance

Please note: In alignment with the university’s response to COVID-19, the 2020 Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Showcase has been canceled, but we still invite teams to submit posters. Please see below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Submission and Deadlines

  • Send a PDF of your team’s poster to Sarah Dwyer ( by Wednesday, April 22 at 11:59 p.m. so she can enter it into the poster competition; please indicate whether it is okay for us to post it on our website as well. If your file is too large to email, use Box, Dropbox or any other file transfer system to send it to Sarah.
  • If you miss the April 22 deadline for judging but would still like us to make your poster publicly available on our website, email Sarah by May 2.

Helpful Resources

Guidance for Creating Your Poster

This is your team’s opportunity to share its work with the Duke community and beyond. Because Showcase attendees are a highly diverse group, spend ample time thinking about how to reach people who are not specialists in your field.

Before You Start

  • As a team, discuss what you want to communicate. What is the most important point? What do you want people to know? What can you leave out? How will you tell an effective story about your research question and findings?
  • Try using sticky notes or a white board to start organizing your main ideas.
  • Try not to use PowerPoint or another software right away. First, give yourself time to sketch out some ideas. This will allow your team to revise on the fly.


  • There are two Bass Connections poster templates; please select the slide appropriate for your theme: option 1 (download PPT file) or option 2 (download PPT file).
  • EHD teams can use the template above or the template provided by Ying-Chun Lin.
  • If you choose to use a different template, that’s fine, but make sure to add the Bass Connections logo. This is required.

Poster Size

  • The final size of your poster should be 36 inches tall by 48 inches wide (the template is already sized this way). (Note: this applies to posters that will be printed and displayed in person; because we have had to cancel the 2020 event, feel free to use a different size.)
  • To double-check the size, go to the Design tab in PowerPoint, click on Slide Size and then Page Setup.

Design Tips

Keep your design simple & decide on a story
  • Tell a single short story through your poster rather than trying to capture the entirety of your research project.
  • Make sure your poster has a clear and descriptive title and include the project team name somewhere on the poster.
  • Make your motivations and takeaways obvious from far away. Don’t hide your story in tiny text. A compelling and obvious story will draw people in to talk about more details!
  • Use large, descriptive headings to break up sections of your poster. Try using active statements that tell your story rather than standard nouns like introduction, methods, conclusion, etc.
  • Avoid big blocks of text and small fonts. Try to keep the total text to 300-500 words and limit each line of text to 45-75 characters. Use a minimum font size of 22-24 points so text will be readable from a few feet away.
  • Choose bullet points over block text when you can. The goal should be punchy statements not paragraphs whenever possible.
  • Limit text by using diagrams, images and data visualizations to tell parts of your story.
  • Incorporate white space to avoid overcrowding information and present a clear grouping and flow. It will make your poster more comfortable to read.
  • Use high resolution images and simple graphics to illustrate your points. Include credits and captions where necessary, and make sure images won’t be distorted or grainy when enlarged. (Check this by zooming in to view your poster at 400% to make sure everything looks crisp and clear.)
  • Use color to emphasize important conclusions or to draw contrast between different thematic areas or sections of your poster. (For example, try using the same color for all data points and then a different color to accent an important piece of data or a conclusion.)
  • You can’t emphasize everything, or the poster will be a big mess. It’s all important to you, but you need to choose what readers should notice first using size, contrast and color.
  • Align text to the left. Avoid centering or fully justifying text, which can be harder for people to read.
Don’t be afraid to be creative (as long as creative doesn’t mean confusing!)
  • Your poster should reflect your unique project team. Think creatively about how to organize and present your information. (For example, consider whether an infographic may be more appropriate than a traditional research poster layout.)
  • Use your data to tell a story. Keep in mind the variables in your data that are the most exciting. Find a way to highlight these.
Seek feedback
  • Before you finalize your poster, show it to as many people as you can (including your team leaders and project manager) and leave time for incorporating their feedback.
  • Interested in scheduling a virtual poster consultation with an expert? Email by April 15.
  • Interested in virtual feedback? Send a draft to by April 15. We will review your poster and send feedback by April 20.

Poster Examples Improved through Feedback and Revision

Draft Poster Revised Poster Revisions Included
Before After

Left-aligned and larger title, clear colorful headers that motivate and tell the story from far away, removed distracting header rectangles, strategic use of color to create contrast and emphasize conclusions, larger important diagram, less prominent acknowledgments and references sections, methods associated with appropriate figures

Before After Larger, more descriptive headings, takeaway still emphasized but now not dominating other important elements, added motivating statement, alternative arrangement of information tells a coherent and compelling story, clearer headings on larger visualizations, strategic use of color to emphasize conclusions, addition of QR code for more information

Additional Examples


What Worked Well

What Would Make It Better

Big Data for Reproductive Health

Ample white space, limited color palette, clear statement of problem, easy-to-scan text

Create more room for main graphic, delete too-small graphics at bottom

Rite of Passage: Determining Elephant-mediated Seed Shadows from Ground-truth Gut Passage Data

Intriguing images and graphics, clear statement of problem, minimal text Improve clarity of results section, make references and acknowledgments section smaller, delete confusing background image

Blue Devil Resistome Project

Clear organization, accessible language, good balance of text and graphics

Use fragments rather than full sentences, rework graphic of six charts for greater clarity, left-justify text

Cervical Cancer Care in Peru

Easy to view and read, doesn’t try to include too much information

Clarify problem statement and research question, use less space for background section

Supports and Barriers to Community-based Care for Children with Disabilities in Uganda

Effective use of quotes to convey perspectives and show human side of research

Reduce amount of text, use fragments rather than full sentences

Impact of Catholic Ministries on Student Human Development

Easy to understand, doesn’t try to include too much, clear presentation

Increase size of graphics for greater clarity

Creative Industries and the Urban Environment

Visually appealing, clear research question, intriguing graphics

Create more white space, minimize space used for authors, add summary and next steps

What’s in a Face?

Effective use of graphics, clear organization

Remove background graphic to improve visual clarity, use fragments rather than full sentences

Proposed Retrofit of Duke University Dormitory

Good balance of text and graphics

Make selected graphics larger and delete others, use fragments rather than full sentences, make text larger

Poster Competition

Even though the 2020 Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Showcase is canceled, we will still have a poster competition selected by judges in advance (Judges’ Selection). There will be three runners-up.


Only those posters submitted to Sarah Dwyer in electronic form by 11:59 p.m. on April 22, will be eligible for the Judges’ Selection.

Judges’ Selection

Judging for this prize begins on April 23 and concludes at noon on April 29. We will announce the winner on April 30. This year’s judges consist of selected Bass Connections and Interdisciplinary Studies staff, Bass Connections Student Advisory Council members and communicators from Duke’s university-wide institutes and initiatives. Judges will review digital files of posters and apply the following criteria on a 1-5 scale:

Clear Presentation/Articulation of Project


Visual Appeal/Organization

The poster clearly conveys the purpose or goals of the project.

The poster clearly presents the ways in which the project or question was approached.

The information conveyed through the poster is accessible to a broad audience.

The photos, images, charts and/or graphs support the understanding of the project.

The poster is visually appealing and well-organized.

1=strongly disagree, 2=disagree, 3=neutral, 4=agree, 5=strongly agree


  • $200 for the winning poster


Please contact Sarah Dwyer (, 919-684-5379).