Wednesday Workshops: Design for Impact

Meaghan Dee shared tips from the visual arts to help workshop participants with poster and slide design.

Presenting research can be just as important as the research itself. Colors chosen, the grid space used, or the amount of white space are all things that can make a good presentation slide or poster into a great one.

As the chair of the visual communication design program in the School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech, Meaghan Dee knows the importance of simple changes for a researcher’s project presentation.

“I know I’m a graphic designer, but I also love science,” she told her audience at a Center for Communicating Science workshop March 28, 2018.

Impactful design can depend on context, and a scientist must be aware of not only the information they’re presenting but also their target audience. Variety exists in design so that it can help convey the right message in the right setting.

“When I’m starting a design I’ll often start an adjective list,” Dee said. “What is the design? Who’s it for? What colors should I use? There’s a whole bunch of tools out there to help.”

“There’s a hierarchy to design,” Dee explained. “Grasp what is most important for your presentation. Don’t get carried away and use tons of styles, fonts, and point sizes.”

The principles for any design are available for students and professionals to access through tutorial sites like and Dee stresses to start simply first, especially if you aren’t yet comfortable using the tools.

“Don’t overthink it,” she said. “You know more than you think you do.”

By Nicole Elbin, Center for Communicating Science student intern

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