22 June 2010

The acid test for graphics

PowerPointNinja is on to something with these two words.

  1. Relevant.
  2. Unique.

Those, he says, are the key factors to deciding whether an image is worth including or not. Now, as you might guess, the blog post is about slides, but the principle is a good one for poster presentations, too.

As an example, let’s examine a few graphics you often see on posters.

Logos bookending the title. They are of questionable relevance. They are often not unique, in that you may be a conference where many of your colleagues are presenting. And a lot of those university logos look pretty much alike (coats of arms, etc.).

Funding agency logos: Low relevance and even less likely to be unique.

Data graphs. Highly relevant, but often shaky on the uniqueness criteria. One bar graph looks much like another. In a way, this can be a strength rather than a weakness, since people can understand standard graphs better than unusual graphs.

Photos: Particularly if you take them yourself, you score well on both counts.

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