10 February 2011

Tone and personality

I’ve suggested before that you should limit your poster to two typefaces. Typographer Tim Brown would seem to agree. The most relevant stuff to posters starts about 7:37 and goes to about 13:00. Brown is not an energetic presenter, but there is good information there. I’ll sum up here if you only have a minute.

In his talk, he put it this way.

Body text sets the tone.

When considering body text, Brown advises using text that is as close to what will appear in the space as you possibly can. “Lorem ipsum” is good in a pinch, but the closer you can get to what you actually write, the better.

For instance, if there is some key word that repeats over and over, you might find that word looks better in some types than others. Key words with lots of descending letters (g, p, y), or technical one that incorporate numbers, might be particularly good ones to check.

If you don’t have the text of your own ready, use the text from related paper in your field, or an old paper of your own.

Headings, captions, and other markers give text personality.

You don’t want to go too wild with the main body of your poster, but you more freedom with headings. Here are a couple of examples (click to enlarge):

The colour of the heading was set to match a picture in the poster. The wide calligraphic curves were there just to be different.

I would never use a big slab type for the main body of a poster; this particular one doesn’t even have lower case! The colour and type selection here were more deliberate; this poster concerned beach ecology, so I wanted something that would evoke a feeling of sand. So I used that sandy brown and slightly imperfect type.

With headings, you can use those exotic display typefaces and colours without compromising the readability of the main text. That’s a place where you get to play!

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