06 November 2014

Critique: The data flow dragonfly

Today’s poster is from Marianna Rapaport, and is shown with her permission. Click to enlarge!

Marianna writes:

The poster presents my masters thesis, the general area is programming language research.The only illustrations in my thesis are graphs and math formulas. I wanted to add some graphics to the poster that would attract people (and not scare them away with math). My dad told me that my graph looked like the wings of a dragonfly, so that's where that big insect comes from.

I would also like to acknowledge the invaluable help of my friend Erica Dufour. She helped me to arrange the text boxes and came up with the idea of the gray background that helps the reader understand the order in which to read the material. She also helped me understand how to use Adobe Illustrator and InDesign.

Finally, I used the same font as in this poster on which you also have a critique on your blog

I like this a lot. It’s clean, and has a strong visual impact. The dragonfly is a nice design touch. The use of the contrast colours orange and teal to highlight is consistent, and subtle enough not to be garish or overwhelming.

The one thing I question is the reading order. The "Result" box is not where I would expect it. Based on headings, I would go:

  1. Summary
  2. Intro
  3. Goal
  4. Problem
  5. Method
  6. Result

But based on its position on the poster, “Result” would slot in at position number 4, not 6. Marianna replied:

I agree that the reading order is still unclear. But I don’t even know what could be done about that without changing the whole poster layout.

Regarding the “Result” box, I read somewhere (maybe even on your blog) that it’s a good idea to put the results right in the beginning; in a way, it’s a replacement for the abstract. I thought that in my case, the results are in the beginning and at the same time in the end. But maybe that doesn’t make sense because it’s impossible to understand the results without reading everything else, so you’re right there, too.

Having the results up top, as here, is not horrible. The approach I might have taken would be to think of that top row as the “take home” messages, and the second row as being “for the aficionado.” The trick then becomes distinguishing the two.

The gray band on the second row signals this a little, but it might have been stronger if there was a second cue to signal that the second row was less important. For example, a slightly smaller point size for the text might have helped.

Alternately, perhaps using different way to highlight the “Results” box, instead of the same gray as the row below, would have broken the connection between them, and emphasized that “Result” was meant to stand on its own, as a conclusion. 

Still, the overall effect is quite lovely.

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