09 May 2013

Critique and makeover: Healthcare

Today’s poster comes from reader Chris Skedgel, and is shown with permission (click to enlarge):

Chris wrote:

I recognise that it is heavy on text, and although I appreciate your advice to think of a poster as a business card rather than a condensed manuscript, I am loathe to hang a poster that I believe doesn’t sufficiently explain what I'm doing or my results. My compromise was to use a font large enough to be read at a distance, with some whitespace to avoid the dreaded “wall of text.”

The tension between completeness and readability is very real. Some of the earliest posts on the blog were about the decision to “writing down everything” and “write very little.” It takes a lot of practice (and ruthlessness) to cut, and cut, and cut, and say the most important stuff in the fewest words. Academics don't always get the most practice at being concise. Usually, comprehensiveness is valued more than concision.

Chris continues:

I also know your thoughts on logos, but I stuck with the institutional template rather than rock the boat. It does crowd out the title a bit, but I also think it looks sharp.

This is one case where I actually like the logo. First, that the white box bleeds off the page. That makes it clear that it’s a deliberate design element, not slapdash addition. Second, there's a single logo, rather than the usual bookends. No duplication. The logo makes its point once, and is done with it.

Here’s a makeover, with some mild chances to the text.

First, the underlined text went away. You almost never see underlines in professionally typeset text. Bold or italics do the job. When I showed this, Chris replied, “I see your point about underlining – it does look a lot cleaner now.”

Speaking of emphasis, I removed the bold from the Conclusions, and the "read more". The less bold, the more punch the remaining bold has. When everything is emphasized, nothing is.

The title, authors, and institutions looked far too crowded; I opened up some space between them. Because the logo was offset and only on one side, centering the title in the remaining space at top made little sense because it didn’t line up with anything below it. The difference is not huge, though. Likewise, I removed the shadowing from the title, but I don’t mind it with the shadowing. Just trying alternate looks.

Personally, I find the font for the main text to be a little fussy and doesn’t read terribly well from a distance. It does have a bit of personality, so I didn’t change it, not wanting to mess with the poster’s style too much.

I tweaked the placement of the uni logo very slightly to align with the edge of the main text box.

One thing I could not do with the file Chris sent me, but would like to, would be to make the font in the graphs the same as the rest of the poster.

Update: At the suggestion of Mike Taylor in the comments, here is a version of the poster without the frame:

1 comment:

Mike Taylor said...

Interesting. I came to this one via your tweet which was couched as a challenge -- so I made notes of what I would change before looking at or reading about your makeover.

Here's what I came up with.

1. Reduce the size of the logo and move it to the right, so it's not in the top-left hotspot that makes it the first thing we see.
2. Lose the centering of the title.
3. Lose the fussy drop-shadow from the title.
4. Lose the underlining from the headings.
5. Using a serifed font for headings and sans-serif for body text is unusual -- the opposite of the usual convention. It's not wrong but I would avoid it unless I had a specific reason.
6. The colours of the table headings and footer seem arbitrary. I would seek to tie them in with colouring of related concepts elsewhere in the poster.
7. Bolding key points within the body text is helpful; but underlining other parts is confusing. There's no obvious way to guess what different concept of highlighting is intended by the two styles.
9. Bolding the entire conclusion is unnecessary, and makes the other bolding stand out less.
10. The blue border around the poster makes everything else look cramped. I would get rid of it, and space things out a bit more.

When I read your critique, I saw that my points 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8 matched your analysis, but not the others. (And of course you picked up on other things that I missed.)

The more I think about it, the more I think that point 10 is the key. The border really adds nothing, and that extra bit of space would allow everything else to breathe.