09 April 2009

The importance of alignment

If anyone learns just one thing from this blog, I hope it is this:

Make a grid.

Let’s look at this award-winning poster, found at Creating Effective Poster Presentations. (Click to enlarge.)

There is much to like about this poster, but the layout could be better. Let’s look at it with a few gridlines superimposed. For best effect, click on the image to open it at a larger size. I’ve added these gridlines by hand to try to align to what is actually on the poster, and not put on a mathematically regular, even grid. A few arrowheads call attention to some of the errors that pop once the gridlines are added.

The Introduction and the Objective paragraphs don’t align. The histological pictures don’t align with their column’s text. The Conclusion and Acknowledgments paragraphs don’t align. The tops of the three columns don’t align. The top graph in the middle column is wider than the one below. The right column is wider than the left.

This poster shows every indication of being created in PowerPoint. I’ve seen it many times before. This sort of poor alignment is a typical outcome of using PowerPoint to make posters, because it does not provide a simple way to create new grids apart from those provided for projected slides.

Lining things up is at the core of typesetting and layout. It is the heart and soul of the craft. Failing to do so makes a poster scream, “Amateur hour.”

Related link

Designing with Grid-Based Approach, from Smashing Magazine

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