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4 Design Tips, For Awesome Research Posters

Today’s guest blog post is by AAA member, Ashkuff.

Name’s Ashkuff, and I’m a business anthropologist. Part of my job involves conducting solid academic research, and presenting it in a slick and business-savvy way. I honed my design skills while running the marketing committee at UF’s Office of Multicultural & Diversity Affairs, and I learned about poster presentations through trial-and-error at various conferences. After my poster presentation at American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) 110th conference in Montreal, AAA invited me to guest blog about anthropology and communication. Shortly afterward, colleagues started asking me to help them design their research posters, giving me the chance to perfect my designs even more.

Based on that experience, I want to offer anthropologists four design tips for research posters!


Have one clearly-defined goal for your poster. Vague goals make themselves difficult to pursue. Multiple goals overwhelm each other. Instead, decide upon one specific goal that would make you feel successful, even if all else failed. For example: “I want passersby to stop and discuss my research with me.”


Have a straightforward call-to-action. Marketers have long understood that, if you want something from your audience, you need to make it clear and convenient. Think of infomercials ending with: “CALL NOW! 1-800-EXAMPLE.” Likewise, if you want passersby to discuss your research with you, your poster should ask them to! Heck, for their convenience, try including a list of suggested discussion topics.


Keep it short and simple! You’re presenting a poster, not a paper. Passersby don’t have time or patience for lots of reading. You’ll be lucky for one minute of a passerby’s time, and people read around 300wpm. Also, drop jargon that your audiences won’t grasp. For example, imagine presenting “The Biokinesic Anthropology of Parkour” at an anthropology conference. Your audience will probably grasp general anthro jargon, but tune out biokinesic-specific or Parkour-specific jargon.


Start with a template, and customize it to your liking! Your research and adventures probably keep you too busy for details like margin alignment and padding width. So don’t start from scratch.

— Ashkuff | http://www.ashkuff.com | Bored with reading about others’
adventures? Burning to venture out yourself? Let this applied anthropologist remind you how.

Anthropologists Write For The Huffington Post

Have you read what AAA members are writing about on The Huffington Post? There are more than 40 AAA members who are contributing to the AAA Huffington Post blog throughout this year on a variety of anthropological topics.

Here’s a sample of what has already been written:

Lifestyle Design: Parenting while Single

(0) Comments | Posted May 14, 2012 | 5:42 PM

Applied & Visual Anthropologist Gia M. Hamilton IS The Off The Grid Socialite

The Off the Grid Socialite, is a socially and ecologically conscious individual, she is a mother who cares about her children’s environment, health and wellbeing, she also enjoys intellectual sparring, arts and cultural events, a good medicinal…

Albania: The Gay Movement You Never Imagined

(12) Comments | Posted May 11, 2012 | 10:33 AM

By Mindy Michels, Ph.D.


Not exactly the place that comes to mind for most people when they think of hotbeds of gay activism. But in fact, this small, formerly communist nation is currently exploding with advocacy and public debate about gay issues.

Next week Albanian activists will…

Defending ‘Traditional’ Marriage? Whose Definition? What Tradition?

(124) Comments | Posted April 30, 2012 | 4:04 PM

By Richard Feinberg

After years of argument a half-dozen states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. Several more, including my own, are considering it. Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidates, right-wing columnists and talk show hosts, evangelical pastors, and recently even Pope Benedict have called upon Americans to halt…

Why Societies Fail: The ‘Other’ Consequences of Debt

(6) Comments | Posted April 30, 2012 | 11:17 AM

By Richard H. Robbins

We will be hearing a lot about debt between now and the U.S. presidential election. What will likely be absent in the debate, however, is any consideration of the relationship of debt to the requirement for perpetual economic growth and its role in the dramatic

Should Animals Be Soldiers?

(1) Comments | Posted April 24, 2012 | 11:01 AM

Written by Jane Desmond

Steven Spielberg’s latest heroic film, War Horse, is ultimately a sentimental love story between a young English man and his horse — a magnificent chestnut thoroughbred named Joey. Both man and horse go off to battle in World War I, get separated and barely survive the…

On Ending Racial Profiling in America

(1) Comments | Posted April 17, 2012 | 2:54 PM

By Jason Silverstein

On Tuesday, April 17, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a hearing on “Ending Racial Profiling in America.” It is the first panel hearing on racial profiling since 9/11.

Supporters of racial profiling argue that it helps identify criminals, protect innocents,…

How to Listen and Talk to Iran

(16) Comments | Posted April 13, 2012 | 3:35 PM

written by William O. Beeman

The United States is about to enter into another round of negotiations with Iran. Previous attempts have been limited and unproductive. One major difficulty is that Iranians and Americans after 40 years of estrangement have forgotten how to talk to each other.

Americans often miss subtleties of communication in…

Afghan Women, Culture, and Development

(2) Comments | Posted April 9, 2012 | 5:55 PM

written by Melissa Kerr Chiovenda

A recent report from Human Rights Watch describes the situation of Afghan women who are jailed for committing “moral crimes.” These women are accused of running away from abusive husbands or of committing adultery, while others were raped or were forced into prostitution….

The Syrian Regime and the Opposition

(2) Comments | Posted April 2, 2012 | 12:28 PM

Written by Faedah M. Totah

If one side is bad does this make the other side good? The number of civilians killed by government forces in the past year since the uprising began has exceeded 8,000, including infants. Thousands of Syrians have been forced from their homes and…

Troops Out, Now What?

(4) Comments | Posted March 29, 2012 | 2:42 PM

Written by Jose Vasquez

March 19th marked the sad anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Nine tumultuous years after “shock and awe,” the people of Iraq struggle to rebuild their society while dealing with the aftermath of a disastrous occupation. When the last combat brigades pulled out in December…

Trayvon Martin’s Death, Racial Tensions and Anthropology

(16) Comments | Posted March 28, 2012 | 3:36 PM

By Ashkuff

Many years ago, during my first biological anthropology class, I faced a major revelation: much of what we call “race” is culturally imagined, not biological fact. Of course, that’s easily forgotten after tragedies like George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin. Indeed, I’ve heard a lot of…

Why the Cultural Conversation Should Never Stop

(6) Comments | Posted March 26, 2012 | 11:52 AM

by Melissa Rinehart

How can the work of anthropologists can be more meaningfully accessible to those outside the profession, yet maintain scientific rigor? I’ve asked myself this question for years. Working as a Native Americanist (a cultural anthropologist working with Native American communities), I’ve been especially troubled about the disconnects…

The Anthropology of Mad Men and Women

(3) Comments | Posted March 16, 2012 | 5:43 PM

By Robert J. Morais

In season four of Mad Men, Pete Campbell and Don Draper read The Chrysanthemum and the Sword by famed anthropologist Ruth Benedict in preparation for a pitch to Japanese Honda executives. Given their mining of anthropology for insight, a look at the show through an anthropological lens…

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What Anthropologists Do, and What They Do Wrong in Business

Today’s guest blog post is by AAA member, Ashkuff. Read more posts on Ashkuff’s blog: http://www.ashkuff.com

Put simply? Sociocultural anthropologists specialize in describing one group of people, to other groups of people. Obviously, with such a broad yet elegant specialization, sociocultural anthropologists should find themselves awash in more political, business, and consultancy opportunities. So why don’t we?

We sometimes get lost in communicating with our research subjects, and forget how to communicate with our audiences. Unsurprisingly, research creates little opportunity, if nobody understands it. Take, for example, the communication habits of American sociocultural anthropologists (abbr. “anthropologists”) versus mainstream American businesspeople (abbr. “businesspeople”).

Anthropologists communicate via thick description and comprehensive ethnographies, based on extended field research. By contrast, businesspeople communicate concisely, in terms of deliverability and value generation (i.e. “the bottom line.”) Although businesspeople certainly need “other” groups explained to them — foreign labor forces, new market segments, multiculturalism within their own workspaces, et cetera — businesspeople usually cannot process what anthropologists have to say about those other groups. Therefore, it’s on us job-seeking anthropologists to understand businesspeople just as deeply as we understand our own research subjects, and communicate our research accordingly.

Remember, of course, communication breakdowns between anthropologists and businesspeople are only one example. Anthropologists also communicate with politicians, lawyers, jurors, grantors, activists, home viewers and readers. I urge anthropologists to prioritize communication with any audience, just as they prioritize communicating with their research subjects.

— Ashkuff | www.ashkuff.com | How to venture out of “armchair” scholarship and into action? One anthropologist tackles business, occultism and violence! He gets spooked and roughed up a lot.


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