15 May 2014

Critique and makeover: Zen microbiome (no relation)

Today’s sharing come from Jenna Lang, and is used with her permission. Click to enlarge:

This poster has a different goal than most of the posters here. It’s a recruiting tool, not a research report. I’ll let Jenna explain (slightly edited):

I am a microbial ecologist. Historically, members of our lab all attend the same conferences and interact with the same people. Lately, I’ve been doing things a little differently.
This poster was presented at a gathering of partners in a big network of seagrass researchers (see zenscience.org). These people work at sites all over the world, they speak many different languages, and English with many levels of proficiency. They are marine biologists, and spend their days on boats and in SCUBA gear, and thinking about large-scale ecological questions. They know NOTHING about what my lab does.
I attending this conference because I want to know what kinds of microbes are living in their seagrass beds, and I want them to send me samples. Sample collection is super simple (something I want to emphasize) and the role of microbes in seagrass beds is entirely unknown (although we assume it will be important.) I wanted to keep this poster free (as much as possible) from jargon, to present just enough data to show what types of things we can learn, and to provide a few figures that I can reference when talking to them about the overall goals of our project and to the diversity of seagrasses at their sites (thus the phylogenetic tree and the illustration of various seagrass types.) I also had some props with me (a water filtration device and some collection tubes and a storage box.)

When I presented this poster it went over very well. People are very excited to work with me and very willing to send me samples. I look forward to presenting this “recruitment tool” at other conferences in the future.

Despite the title, the original poster didn’t have much of a Zen aesthetic. There was just a little too much going on. There were a lot of lines and thick boxes. The credits were fighting for attention in the title. Some sections were centered, others were left justified, for no apparent reason.

In editing, I tried taking out the trash. Mainly, this meant removing, or at least lightening, a lot of the lines in the boxes. Let the colour differences define the space, rather than heavy lines.

I think lightening up the poster helps.

A recruiting poster has a goal of bringing in those who know nothing. That “We need your help!” is visible, even at this reduced size, helps achieve that goal. But I am still concerned that this poster may be a little too complex and intimidating to bring in casual onlookers.

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