04 December 2014

Critique: Sex models

Yes, I totally went for the gutter headline in introducing this poster from Amanda Whitlock. This poster is used with her permission. You can click to enlarge!

Amanda included this note in her email:

After reading your blog, I switched from using Powerpoint to Scribus and have become a huge convert and evangelist on its behalf.

I’m so pleased there is one less person in the world using PowerPoint for posters!

Amanda’s poster has a clean design. It starts with my favourite “hard to mess it up” layout: three columns, equal size.

I recently read an article that argued that anytime you overlay text on a picture, it should always be white text on top of the image. That message might be a good one for all poster makers. Especially when viewing this poster at a reduced size, I’m worried that the title (90% of your communication effort!) is barely visible. I tried a quick and dirty replacement of the black with white:

The edges of the text are badly pixelated because of the way I inverted the colours, but the title is more visible. Let’s try the same to the headings:

The difference is harder to see, but might be more obvious if made in the original document. The headings would also benefit from a bit of additional work to ensure that they are all evenly spaced. “Conclusions” looks closer to the bottom of its bar than “Results,” for example.

The same goes for the vertical alignment. A line that misses the letters in “Conclusion” hits letters in “References,” for instance.

While the poster has plenty of images and white space, it is a shame that the critical upper left corner is the least visually appealing part of the whole poster, with only text.

If you can’t see the title, and there is only words and data, it’s unlikely to gather any new readers who just happened to be walking by. While this poster will not make anyone cringe when they walk past it, they might just... walk past it.


Mike Taylor said...

My immediate thought on seeing this is that the white boxes on a green background look cramped without adding anything; and that having the headings also on a (slightly different shade of) green background makes the headings shrink off into the distance, so that they seem to be suspended between the boxes of actual content. The unfortunate result is that the heading are the least visible part of the poster.

I tried out a dirt-simple fix: I just removed all the green background, and here is the result. To my mind it's much cleaner: the text is easier to read, the headings pop out, the main content areas don't look cramped, and as a special bonus it's no longer necessary to change the colour of the title.

(If I were to do more to this, I would probably desaturate the remaining green around the headings, so that it's just a greenish light grey.)

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