12 February 2016

Critique: Autotune

This week’s poster from Chris Cummins (used with permission) is not about correcting pop stars who cannot sing on key. This was presented at the computer science conference HiPEAC 2016. Click to enlarge!

My first reaction when I opened the file was, “A magazine cover!” The title band, the big graphic central graphic surrounded by short bursts of copy all look like a magazine to me. The biggest visual clue was the “5X speedup!” circle is very reminiscent of the sort of thing you see on magazines all the time. You can see this on this MacUser cover:

I enjoy the overall appearance of the poster so much that the tweaks I might suggest are fairly small.

The red highlights in the text are dark and potentially difficult to read. While it doesn’t do it in this case, red on blue together can cause an effect called stereopsis:

I tried lightening the textual highlights (“expensive,” “automate,” “Omnitune” just a bit to match the red in the “5X” circle:

The difference is subtle, but the reds aren’t vanishing into the dark blue behind them quite as much as before.

There are at least four fonts in play on this poster, which is more than I normally recommend. It works, though, as the you often see a lot of play on fonts in magazine covers.

The subheadings seem to be set in Impact. I might have tried looking for a different font, because Impact has been used so much in recent years that it’s starting to look a bit tired. Worse, Impact is almost universally used in LOLcats and memes, so that font might signal silliness more than serious scholarship. On the other hand, memes do say “Internet and computers,” so that might not be a bad thing for a poster on computation.

Like last week’s poster, this one doesn’t treat authors equally. Instead, it emphasizes who is the presenting author in two ways. First, it uses colour. Not only is the presenting author’s name in a highlight colour (red), the other authors’s names are put in alight gray, rather than white. Second, it uses contact information to emphasize who you should send questions to: only the presenting author’s name gets an email address.

Like a good magazine cover, this poster is great at saying to conference goers, “Hey you! Yes you! Come across the hall and read me!” The potential problem is that in a magazine, you can flip into the covers to find more depth and details in the actual articles. A poster can’t provide that. It’s difficult for me to tell whether an aficionado has the key details that he or she would like.

Stereopsis slide from here.

No comments: