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How to repurpose your scientific poster after a conference (with examples!)

Scientific poster being repurposed into a variety of different items like dresses, bags, scarves, or given to other institutions

Imagine the end of your favourite conference. Leaders in your field are giving the final talks, the room resounds with a big applause, and the conference doors open up — calling you to go out there and make a difference in your field of research.

These are times you’ll remember in your research career.

And with those memories in mind, the finale of any epic conference can leave you with feelings of inspiration, awe, and amazement for science and the academic community.

But it can also leave you with some… “excess baggage”.

Your scientific poster.

After the conference, chances are that your posters will stay wrapped up for an eternity in a storage tube, or folded up with unsightly creases in your extremely packed suitcase. 🧳

Woman frantically packs her luggage and struggles to close it
Packing your luggage for a 6 am flight home be like this ☝️

But that’s no way to treat a masterpiece that you proudly presented at the poster session!

And you’re definitely not going to reuse outdated research materials at another conference.

So what can you do to repurpose your old scientific posters and breathe new life into them?

Well then, let’s get creative shall we?

But first, some preamble!

Your poster will undoubtedly be printed in one of two materials:

  • Paper: which you’re likely packing away in a tube. This means it’s less likely to have some wear and tear, but is less versatile of a material.

  • Fabric: which you’re likely packing away folded. While convenient for storage, this can introduce creases which may or may not be able to be ironed out.

The material you choose will affect how best to repurpose your poster.

Let’s check out some examples.

1. Display your poster in your research environment

Compatible with: Paper or fabric posters

Posters make for a fantastic wall decoration for any research area, whether it be a laboratory or an office. So, designing them well can really pay off in the long run to impress visitors or colleagues walking through your workplace.

Displaying them also allows you to showcase the proud history of your research group, with the titles of their studies and names of authors being celebrated in the halls for years to come.

You’re essentially creating an art gallery of scientific discoveries.

Two guys critiquing a piece of artwork GIF
The new lab recruits looking at your work in the corridor.

And who knows, you might even inspire someone else to design their poster with similar ideas in mind!

Give your posters a second chance to be hung up and displayed (without presenting them at another conference) — you definitely owe your work that much. 🙂

Here’s some examples of research facilities decorated with posters:

Research facility hallways decorated with scientific posters

2. Carry your poster with you as a tote bag!

Compatible with: Fabric posters*

If your poster is all creased up and you wouldn’t mind some additional wear-and-tear on it anyway, it’s time to give it a second chance at life.

Reborn as an epic custom scientific tote bag! 🤯

Guy carrying a totebag which was created from a scientific conference poster

You heard that right! Some academics have decided to repurpose the fabric of their posters to create reusable and more sustainable tote bags to use at their next conference, or for their everyday shopping needs.

All you need is a pair of scissors, a needle, thread, (or alternatively a sewing machine) and the ability to follow a very simple pattern to create a tote bag. It’s the simplest SOP ever, but you can always enlist the help of a tailor.

But if you’re looking for the perfect Sunday crafts activity for yourself or your family, look no further. 👇

Sewing pattern for a tote bag made from a scientific conference poster

Here’s some examples of researchers who are tote-ally rocking their posters as everyday bags! 🤪

Tote bags made from scientific posters

*Note: Paper posters can also work fine to make reusable paper bags which can be glued together instead of sewn. Though they may not be very durable for a long time!

3. Upcycle your poster into a piece of clothing or an accessory

Compatible with: Fabric posters

On the topic of completely repurposing poster fabric, there’s BIGGER and BOLDER ways to craft your poster into something completely different.

If you know a talented tailor (or are a master of the sewing machine yourself), allow them to fashion your poster into an eye-catching piece of clothing!

Got more than one poster? Then go for a whole OUTFIT. 👇

Assoc. Professor Rolf Hut making a bold fashion statement with a stunning poster suit. Tailored by Sandra de Vries.
Assoc. Professor Rolf Hut making a bold fashion statement with a stunning poster suit. Tailored by Sandra de Vries.

Others have done dresses and suits, but what about scarves and ties? The possibilities are endless! So next time you come to a conference, and you REALLY insist on bring your old poster along… well, these are but a few ways to do it!

And no doubt will it start all sorts of fascinating conversations! 😂

Turning a scientific poster into a tie or scarf or another article of clothing
Making a simple piece of apparel like a tie or scarf is an easier point to start from!

What other kinds of apparel do you think you can fashion out of old poster fabric? We’ll let you do the rest of the creative thinking. 😉🧢🩳

Here’s some more examples of researchers who are dressed to impress:

  • Rajika Kuruwita’s dress

  • Veronica Ch’s skirt (with pockets!)

4. Donate your poster to an educational institute

Compatible with: Paper or fabric posters

Alright, alright, if you’re not a fan of completely taking your posters apart, let’s reel our imaginations back in and give our posters a new place to live.

At an an educational institute.

Lisa Simpson looking for the perfect place to start a new life

Whether its a local school or even your university, a place of learning is a great spot for your poster to be appreciated by newer audiences. But to be completely appreciated, it’s even more VITALLY important that your poster is written in a way that’s accessible to a wider audience (keep this in mind when you design your posters!).

So once your poster has outlived its conference days, why not reach out and see who might have interest in some scientific decor?

You may to have more success in finding interest for your poster if:

  • You donate them to the University you studied at, or are affiliated with. Tell them you’d love to donate some work from an alumnus or existing researcher. If you work as a researcher in a hospital, you may have luck displaying it there too.

  • You donate them to your old high school, where it can be appreciated as a piece of work by an alumnus that could be displayed in Science classrooms.

At school and university, I would sometimes see posters hung up in libraries, random hallways, and in areas that weren’t necessarily next to labs. So there’s definitely a hallway out there just for you!

Here’s a few examples of open displays for posters:

Hallways with scientific posters

Find that special place where your poster will be appreciated for ages to come.

5. Share the digital version of your poster on ResearchGate

Compatible with: Any posters, but also posters that you might not have anymore!

For those of you who may have already laid our posters to rest in the paper shredder…

Paper shredder GIF

… I’m very sure you’ve still got the .PDF version tucked away somewhere.

That .PDF is exactly what you can use to immortalise your poster on your personal scientist website or on ResearchGate.

“Why would I do this?” — you may be asking. 🤔

That’s because every poster presentation you ever did can also be added to ResearchGate’s listings to add more bulk to your profile. Uploading your posters ensures that your research, from that point in your career, remains accessible to those who might be looking for it after the conference.

Screenshot of poster uploaded to ResearchGate
This was my first ever conference poster presentation, now forever immortalised on ResearchGate!

And if you’re not completely comfortable with your poster being freely downloadable all the time, you can make it so that it’s a “Private file” only available to those who contact you directly for permission.

Proud of your old work? Then archive your poster the right way online! 📝

Honourable mentions

While not quite as bold or practical as some of the earlier suggestions, here’s a list of other creative ways to repurpose your poster that we just needed to share with you!

  • Posters as wrapping paper: Perhaps best when wrapping gifts for a great supervisor, co-author, or labmate!

  • Posters turned into cushions: Now you can sit on any insignificant p-values and forget that they ever existed. That’s the P in Personalised for you!

  • Poster collages: Got lots of old posters? Cut out the best parts and create an abstract collage of all your old work as an art project!

Doing some forward thinking for your next poster?

Perhaps you’ve got a conference coming up and now you’re adamantly thinking about your poster’s lifespan beyond your presentation! So it’s time to design one that looks good (just in case you wanna make a tote bag out of it) and communicates the right messages!

But how do you accomplish both of those things in a poster?

Our online course “How to Design an Award-Winning Scientific Poster” teaches you everything you need to know about posters: from writing to design, and from printing to presentation! ✨

Check out our course and we can’t wait to hear from you in class!

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