I'm a strong believer in creating conference posters that look good. If they have a striking resemblance to printed papers, in my opinion something has gone really wrong. With that said, I have to say I had a lot of fun designing my most recent poster.
Although this image is slightly out of date from the final print version, it gives a good idea of what I was going for. You can get the gist of the research by looking at it, but it does not contain all the information a paper would. That's what the poster presentation itself it for: I will have the opportunity to discuss the work more deeply.
There is no reason whatsoever that a poster can't be both beautiful and functional, so I encourage you to see what you can come up with the next time you create a poster! If you have an example to something you're particularly proud of, I'd love to see a link in the comments.
Edit: You can now check out the high resolution PDF of the poster if you'd like.