18 March 2010

Top down: Solutions for unused spaces

Just as there are decisions about whether you should align a column of text as ragged right or fully justified, you should also think about the vertical justification. (As usual, click any figure to enlarge it.)

The top of your poster is like your left margin of your page. Everything should align. Ideally, there should be a heading at the top of each column. Not always easy to do, because results often take up more space than anything else.

The bottom of your poster is like the right side of a page. You’ll often be left with white space at the bottom, particularly if you’re trying to get everything aligned at the top. It’s okay if the bottoms of the columns don’t align. The example below is probably okay as is.

There are limits, though. Wildly different column lengths are worth trying to fix.

It’s not a good idea to try to get the bottoms to align by messing with either the spacing between the lines or paragraph, which will create big gaps in the text.

If you want to get everything to align on the bottom to achieve grid nirvana, you have three good bets.

First, try adding or removing text. If that doesn’t work, try changing the size of certain clearly defined sections. The methods, funding acknowledgements, and references can literally be the fine print of the poster, and set slightly smaller than the main text.

Second, adjust the size of any existing figures. Crop your photos or change the proportions of your graphs.

Third, you can use a little bit of “filler.” Sometimes I’ve put in a related cartoon, picture of a field site, or lab, or something related to, but not essential, to the story. Although I’ve whinged about university logos on posters before, I have put logos down in empty space at the bottom of a column, as below. There, they don’t mess with the symmetry of titles, and they can actually improve the symmetry of the grid overall.

Just like horizontal alignment, getting the top and bottoms of columns to look attractive is mainly a matter of how much time you’re willing to spend tweaking.

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Love my justify

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