Six Uses for Old Posters

With the Annual Meeting behind us, thousands of ASCB posters are now floating around the world. If my colleagues are representative, most of those posters are now either in a recycling bin somewhere or keeping scientists toasty at a “lab bonfire.” But what if they could be used for something more interesting? Here are some ideas for giving your posters a second life.

1. Keep it above your desk (and out of the poster graveyard)

Poster2Abandoned posters in the wake of the
ASCB Annual Meeting.

Even if you don’t want to lug your paper poster tube around after the conference, it’s probably worth 20 minutes of your time and $5 of postage to send it back to your lab via USPS. It’s handy to have a poster ready to go at all times—especially for spur-of-the-moment local meetings and poster competitions. At a minimum, you’ll keep it from contributing to the colossal sadness of ASCB’s poster graveyard.

2. Hang it up on the walls outside your lab.

Poster3Photo by Biologyze.

The ease of doing this is dependent on the layout of your building and your department’s culture, but I’ve definitely made useful connections this way.

3. Use it as wrapping paper.

Poster4Photo by amyrhoda.

If you have a paper poster you certainly won’t use anymore, use it as gift wrap to delight your recipient (proportional to their nerdiness). Among my friends, it’s the most popular usage for old posters.

4. Make a useful papercraft.

Especially fun if your poster is festooned with large micrographs. Consider protective book covers, a paper wallet, or envelope liners.

5. Sew it into a bag.

Poster5Photo by comofaz.

Most fabric posters printed in the US utilize a fabric that’s too stiff for apparel, but would be nice for tote bags, pouches, pencil cases, etc.

6. Wear it as a scarf.

My favorite. You will need to have a fabric poster printed on a lightweight knit fabric, like Spoonflower’s performance knit, which is sold as an apparel fabric. At the Annual Meeting I learned that similar fabric is used by academic printers in Asia, too! Hopefully this will become commonplace in the US, but for now, you can order a poster like this for around $25 with a process detailed in a previous article. You could of course make almost any article of clothing out of it—like a t-shirt, skirt, or dress—but I think the real benefit of wearing it as a scarf is that you don’t need to cut it up at all. Thus, you can reuse it for a poster presentation anytime you want—whether that’s at an upcoming meeting or a bar. Protip: if you unfurl one of these things dramatically when people casually ask what you work on, point to the coolest image and provide a two sentence description, not your 20 minute poster run-through.

Impromptu poster session.
Photo by Christina Szalinski
Because of the dimensions of the poster, I think the best way to wear it as a scarf is to fold it into a triangle by grabbing diagonal corners and draping it around your neck, like this. The right side is pretty garish, but if you wear the reverse side facing out (like in the lead photo), the print will show through slightly for a subtle effect that’s much more wearable.

Another benefit of the performance knit: stain resistance. I’m not totally clear on what’s in a toxic baby, but I can tell you it washes out in seconds under cold water in an exhibit hall bathroom sink. If you find something more stubborn, you can machine wash this material cold.

Did I miss your favorite used poster application? Leave it in the comments!

About the Author:

Jessica Polka is director of ASAPbio, a biologist-driven nonprofit working to improve life sciences communication. She is also a visiting scholar at the Whitehead Institute and a member of ASCB's public policy committee.