02 August 2012

Critique: Dinosaur necks

Today’s poster comes from Mike Taylor, who blogs at SV-POW!, along with co-authors Matt Wedell and Darren Naish (though Darren mostly blogs at Tetrapod Zoology these days).

This is a poster trying to be a short paper. The text is foremost. The good news is that it is entirely self-sufficient. I can read this and understand the entire thing without anyone there to explain it to me.

The headings are choice. Rather than using the standard IMRAD headings, each one makes a key statement that is unpacked in the following paragraphs.

But those paragraphs are the poster’s main weakness. This is so text heavy, I might not be inclined to stop and read it if there wasn’t someone there to talk to. I would have tried to cut as much of the main text out as possible, and make the headings bigger.

I’m not crazy about using pictures for backgrounds. This one has the disadvantage of only covering ¾ of the poster! I will give credit, however, for not doing what many would have done: stretching the picture wider until it fit. The background picture is undistorted. But the white left hand column feels tacked on, disconnected from the rest of the poster. This could be addressed in a few ways.

In my graphics editor, I used the eyedropper tool to find the most prominent colour on the left side, along the boundary with the white right hand column. Then, I used the fill tool to drop that colour in, replacing the white on the right side:

This “quick and dirty” fix makes the poster fell a little more like a unified whole. Perhaps even better would have been to center the background image, and do the same match for the “tan” on the left hand side. Or, use one of these tricks from John McWade.

There are also a few other layout tweaks that could be made. Aligning the tops of the columns and evening up the column widths would help tidy things up.

While this poster could be better (as any poster can be), I give it complete credit for passing one important test: I was never confused while looking at it.


Darren Naish said...

Hi - thanks for your discussion of our poster. I suppose how much text is appropriate for a poster displayed at a technical academic conference is arguable - there is indeed a lot of text on our poster, but I personally think that this is ok. The right hand section was indeed meant to look 'tacked on' as it was sort of an aside that needed inclusion, but was supplementary to the main text. The MAIN reason for the size and shape of the poster, however, is that we deliberately designed it to take up the whole of the space of the board provided for this particular meeting.

Zen Faulkes said...

"The right hand section was indeed meant to look 'tacked on' as it was sort of an aside that needed inclusion, but was supplementary to the main text."

Ah! I see. That helps clarify the intent. I did something similar on a recent poster, and should have a post about sidebars up eventually. I think why it wasn't clear that it was supplementary for me was that the references were underneath it, which made me think it was part of the flow of the text.

Mike Taylor said...

Many thanks for for running the rule over our poster. I have to admit your criticisms are fair. I suspect that more wordiness is par for the course in palaeo in a way that it may not be in other disciplines, but even so looking back on the poster with a bit of perspective, we could have done more to trim it.

I like your background-colour tweak, by the way. I can't really agree with Darren that the right column is a sidebar to the main text: I think that fig. 5 that it includes is really the punchline to the whole study.

"I was never confused while looking at it" makes me happy.