12 November 2015

Critique: 3D sound

Today’s poster comes from Erlend Magnus Viggen. Click to enlarge!


Erlend had a few notes on this creation.

Since the article is about a computational method that we developed, the poster is a flowchart of the method.

The flowchart works reasonably well, although the reading order of the “Propogation” box in the upper right is a little tricky. If there was a little more room, I might try placing “Sound processing” slightly lower than the text block flanking it. That way, the “Source sound” and “Propogation” would sort of funnel down into “Sound processing.” But this poster has a nice balance of text and margins, and you couldn’t move “sound processing” down without messing with that.

There’s no introduction. I’m not sure to which degree an introduction beyond the title is useful on a poster in any case, but in this case our method is far more relevant for our conference audience than our motivation is. Our use-case is basically outside the scope of the conference.

Smart move, and an excellent example of how designs are often improved by taking things away.

I like how subtle colour gradients are used to distinguish blocks of text instead of heavy-handed outlines.

I’m particularly interested by Erlend’s comments about using institutional styles. I’ve been wary of institutional style guides, because they often prioritize advertising the institution over the content that a poster viewer cares about. Erlend, I think, takes a sensible approach:

I tried to follow the guidelines of my research institute: use a grid, use the official typeface (though I only used it for headers as it’s more of a display typeface), and use colours from the official scheme. While there are more colours in the official scheme, the dark blue one is our main colour and the light gray-brown is the only bright-ish colour among our “main” colours.

Erlend isn’t slavishly following a template, but looking for ways to use elements of the institution’s style. Institutional colour schemes are usually closely examined by professional designers, so you end up with palettes that are harmonious, and maybe a little conservative. The colours should work in lots of different conditions. And you don’t have to use every official colour.

I did something similar recently, when I made a new logo for my homepage. I deliberately wanted to harmonize it with my institution’s logo:


Like Erlend’s case, my university has navy blue and green as secondary colours, but I didn’t use those. I used the same primary colours and font (Caecilia), and customized a swishy capital:




By using the institutional typeface for headings, you evoke the institution in a subtle way. It’s got more finesse than just shoving a logo somewhere on the page. And if you do put in a logo, you avoid having a lot of different fonts fighting each other.

I'm not too happy with not having more pictures, but unfortunately we just don't have any more that would fit well.

Alas! I agree that more graphics and a little less text would be more appealing. Nevertheless, this poster has enough space on it that it doesn’t become an indistinguishable block of grey from a distance.

Related posts

Misplaced priorities on institutional templates

1 comment:

Erlend Magnus Viggen said...

Hey, and thanks for the kind words! I'm both happy and slightly surprised that you didn't have too much to pick on. I was particularly expecting some more negative comment on the use of gradients. (There are some things considered no-nos that I honestly quite like, such as subtle gradients like this and subtle drop shadows on photos in PowerPoint to make them stick out.)

I see the point about the flow being a bit confusing since there's information coming from the left and right towards the middle. Your suggestion of moving the middle box down would definitely help with that, but as you say it would mess with the margins and also the strict grid. Maybe mirroring the entire layout of the poster would have worked better; since the "Propagation" box is bigger than the "Source sound" box, mirroring them may have led to a more intuitive reading flow.