26 April 2011

Critique: HSV-2 oncolytic virus ΔPK

Thanks to Angela Alexander on Twitter, I have three posters to critique from the AACR poster competition. I’ll be critiquing all three in separate posts, purely on their graphic design, before the contest winner is announced on 29 April.

Let’s start off with an entry from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, “The HSV-2 oncolytic virus ΔPK induces multiple death and inflammatory programs associated with inhibition of melanoma tumor growth.”


  1. More than half the poster space is taken up with graphics.


  1. Institutional logo bookends.
  2. The authors’ credits cutting into the results.
  3. The varying column widths, particularly in the top left, where it’s not clear at first if you’re supposed to read across or down.
  4. Most headers in blue... except for the ones in bright green.
  5. Boxes.
  6. The sudden transition from white to blue background in the last box.
  7. Tiny credits sitting outside boxes, messing up bottom alignment.

This poster is average at best. Will the next one fare any better? Come back tomorrow for another critique!


StellaBee said...

I apologize if this has been addressed, but how do you recommend displaying logos that your employer/school/funding agency/etc. require? I end up stuck in the bookend trap because I don't want to give up content space by putting the logos in the "body" of the poster.

Zen said...

I suggest not putting institution or agency logos on the poster. My reasons are:

1. They're not relevant to the subject. People are reading a poster for the science, and that should be the focus. See here: http://betterposters.blogspot.com/2010/09/poster-venn.html

2. Not a lot of people will recognize them. This is particularly true for institutional logos, which tend to be very similar - lots of circles and coats of arms.

3. Logos almost always end up duplicating text. Typically, people write at the top of the poster the title, the authors, and their institution. So why put an institution logo? Likewise, if your funding agency is in the acknowledgements, why put the agency's logo?

I will sometimes put logos in unused space at the bottom if there is room left after everything else is laid out. See here: http://betterposters.blogspot.com/2010/03/top-down-solutions-for-unused-spaces.html

I thought I had done a specific post on this, but these comments have been woven into a bunch of other posts. This will probably become a longer post of its own.

katiedid said...

Hm, my university also requires the logos. I had to convince my PI that it was okay NOT to put the abstract on my poster... convincing the uni to not require logos is impossible.

Zen said...

Requires? Seriously?

Who checks? And what happens if they're not there?

Do you just get fined? Or could you do hard time in the slammer?

Sorry, but the notion of "poster police" simultaneously fills me with a little awe, a dose of dread, a pinch of wonder, and great heaping gobs of "WTF?"

Gareth said...

Supposedly, in my last job I should have used the (foul) official design templates that are consistent with the university's visual identity. For talks as well as posters. Actually, no-one who cared was going to notice so I never bothered. But I could imagine that some institutions could be quite pushy on this. And if they're paying for the conference and you're printing the poster in house, then it's perhaps better not to antagonise the administration. They paid a design consultant a lot of money to choose an official font and colour scheme.
I don't mind an institutional logo, because it makes it easy to see where a poster's from, and therefore (in small fields) which group it's likely to be. But I do see a lot that are intrusive.

Blogger said...

Yes, I would say that a lot of universities (even departments w/in or consortia) are trying maintain their brand (or establish it) and really do "insist" on the use of logos and/or a consistent visual look. When a number of people from the same group go to smaller conferences it can make a big impression. This is perceived as important in the biomedical sciences in which the big NIH funding mechanisms (U01, P50, etc) are bringing together scientists from diverse fields to tackle a common scientific problem.

katiedid said...

I'm sure they're not going to police the posters but my PI makes sure we have all the relevant logos before we print our posters. Honestly, I like logos on posters because, like Gareth said, it makes it easy to see at a glance where the poster is from.

Zen said...

Blogger: I see the value of creating a consistent look for posters from an institution. I think there are better ways to tie them together: consistency in colour, type, and layout.

Katiedid: I'm impressed that you can recognize to all those different institutional logos. Of those on the three AACR finalists, the only one that I can tell anything about at a glance is the MD Anderson Cancer Center, because their logo is just the name in large text. The Standford and Maryland logos mean nothing to me.

My own institution's logo features UTPA prominently, so in that sense, it could be readily recognizable. But few people know what the institution is. I still have to answer, "Where's that?" The logo means little.

Logos can work. I just see them done gracelessly so often that many posters would be better without them.

Full blog post coming on this!

StellaBee said...

My employers and funders also all require logos, so I have a minimum of two and usually more like 4 to deal with. I usually have coauthors at all of the funding agencies/groups so they get to okay the poster before I print it and they definitely make sure that logo is on there!

FWIW I work in government not academia so that might be the reason so many groups are adamant about their logos being displayed and the reason I get stuck with a handful of logos.

I look forward to the full post!