Here we have a fairly utilitarian bra. It has everything needed, but no more. It does its job, and but clocks in at 9:00 am and clocks out at 5:00 pm precisely. It does what is needed of it and no more.
Here is a poster equivalent, spotted on my campus recently:
Like the bra above, about the only thing you can say in its favour is that leaving the space uncovered might be more embarrassing. At least it’s covered.
Here we have the sort of bra that is close to what I was talking about. This is a bra that puts in a little extra effort. Someone has made some decisions about fabrics, colours, scalloped edges. It is pretty. And it’s pretty because someone thought about the details. As I wrote a few weeks back:
Lesson 3: Detailing. Most bras are very similar, when you come down to it: cups, straps, and snaps. Sure, strictly speaking, you don’t need that little rosebud here, that extra bit of lace there... but what a difference it can make to the overall impression it leaves. It’s the details that make the difference between boring and daring.
On a poster, the details can be things like the choice of typeface, paying attention to aligning text on the page, picking complementary colours. Most of the posters I show on the blog are at least trying to make an effort in this direction.
But don’t confuse detailing with decorating.
This bra is covered in diamonds. It is something that nobody can use in day to day life. The cost of diamonds make it completely impractical for anyone to wear outside of a runway costume. You can’t afford the insurance to wear it.
Then there’s that big dangling thing in the middle, which seems like it would catch on any clothing worn over top. Bras are generally undergarments, after all.
That’s not detailing. That’s decorating. It is overkill. It is pursuing the aesthetic so hard that it stops being something that anyone can use.
The equivalent on conference posters are things like 3-D effects in graphs and gaudy colours:
Photographic backgrounds and an overabundance of typefaces:
Sure, you might think it looks attractive in theory, but when you actually get it out into the field, it’s like you suddenly have a big dangly diamond thing under your cleavage that is catching on your shirt. It won’t actually work in real world conditions.
And here we have decoration...
...that is just very odd.
Lessons from lingerie
Communicate, don’t decorate