Qualities of Effective Poster Design
An effective poster is:
  • Focused. It has one, central message. Text and graphics exist to support this message
  • Graphic. It draws in the audience and encourages them to ask questions. Text is minimal and graphics relate to the central message.
  • Ordered. The sequence of the poster is obvious and easy to follow from a few feet away.
 Basic steps for designing a poster:
  1. Understand the requirements. What things do you have to include? Is there a size requirement? Where will it be displayed?
  2. Create a sketch. Sketching a layout will help you get an idea of how things will look and it will help you understand what things need lots of room versus what things don't. 
  3. Define your message. What is the most important thing you want your audience to understand when they walk away from your poster? What details are absolutely essential and what can you leave out? Edit your text very carefully, as any mistakes will be magnified by the size of the poster.
  4. Choose your weapon. There are a number of options for designing posters, but Powerpoint is the most common on campus. Make sure that you set the size of your slide as the very first thing you do BEFORE YOU START DESIGNING!
  5. Get feedback early and adjust as necessary. One first step could be printing a copy of the poster on standard size paper and critiquing it yourself. You'll be surprised what you notice when it's on paper rather than a computer. Then you should have a friend or teacher take a look and make sure that everything makes sense and there are no errors in the text.
Resources
Here are some other great places to get help designing a poster.

Colin Purrington has a great website on poster design the covers everything from the basics of designing posters to how to present a poster.  

This website from North Carolina State University has loads of practical tips for how to design a poster including some information about formatting and printing. 

Here's a great Prezi full of small tips and tricks that will make a big difference in the end result. 

And finally, this video goes step-by-step through the process of making a poster in Powerpoint. 

Subject Specialist