22 October 2009

Review: Scientific Poster Design

Scientific Poster Design is a PDF from LiLynn Graves at the Cornell Center for Materials Research. At first glance, its 69 pages make it look quite substantive. Unfortunately, the PDF is exported from a PowerPoint deck, with lots of one sentence pages complemented with low resolution clip art.

Fortunately, the advice is better than the package it’s presented in. There are good reminders of basic advice. Keep the text simple and large, use lots of pictures, and more.

One of the most useful features of this PDF is that there are lots of examples shown, ranging from good to shocking. They’re very low resolution, so you can’t read the text, but you can see the overall layout. The comments are one sentence summary judgments (“I’m feeling sleepy,” “Nice flow, but too metallic”), but are pretty much on the money. In fact, a poster critiqued previously on this blog shows up here, with some interesting “remixes” of the background.

On the other hand, there is advice that I disagree with. I would say that a poster is much more than an “illustrated abstract.” I’m also puzzled by her recommendation to use *.png format for graphs. The *.png format creates bitmapped graphics, and will become pixellated if enlarged too much.

One aspect I didn’t like are attempts at humour. We get pages showing scientists going to posters sessions for booze, lazy and profane grad students, and a competitor drawn as a caveman. (Have we learned nothing from caveman commercials?) It might work in the context of a verbal presentation, but on its own, it comes across as mean-spirited.

1 comment:

Colin Purrington said...

The bad humor your reference above is my fault; the Cornell PDF just plagiarized me (in many spots).

On my list of things to do is to add this blog to my poster site. Keep up the good work.