21 July 2016

Critique and makeover: Landfill bacteria

Today’s contribution comes from Patric Chua, who gave me permission to post this. Click to enlarge!

Patric had this to say:

Better Posters has been my guide for poster designs (Aw, thanks! - ZF), and I've followed the many ideas for this poster. I understand that PowerPoint is not the best tool, but I hope it will suffice.

The design of the poster is inspired by infographics - I did not want it to conform to the IMRAD template. Each section can be read independently and has its own method and results. However, I’m afraid that I’ve falling into the trap where I’ve placed too many information in. I also think that the poster lacks a strong entry point.

The piece de resistance is probably the bottom right corner where I followed the advice on Inviting interactions post. I plan to attach cardboard boxes and place comment cards in the first box to make it easier for the audience.

The amount of work that went into this is impressive. I’ve opened the file and seen just how many individual elements are incorporated into this poster. To work with that many parts in PowerPoint is a nigh Herculean effort.

The poster has a strong sense of organization. Although Patric says it isn’t doesn’t have to be read in a linear way, the poster leaves no confusion if you choose to go that route.

I agree with Patric’s own assessment: this poster has a lot going on.

The use of icons is a double edged sword here. Although they certainly add visual interest, I’m not sure they always make it easier to understand what’s going on. Icons should represent simple nouns, and here they seem to be used in several ways, sometimes seeming to represent steps in a process.

Even without changing any of the words, a few subtle design changes can help calm the visual noise and make it a little less intimidating.

Here’s the makeover. Spot the differences!

If this were a classic newspaper “Spot the difference” puzzle, I’d have the two side by side, and the answers printed upside down:

Here’s the side by side:

And thanks to this site, I can (almost) duplicate the fun of reading a print newspaper!

  1. ˙ɹɐq sʇᴉ uᴉ ɹǝʇʇǝq sᴉ ɹǝʇuǝɔ oʇ ǝlʇᴉʇ ǝɥʇ ɟo ƃuᴉuoᴉʇᴉsodǝɹ ʇɥƃᴉls ɐ s’ǝɹǝɥ┴
  2. ˙(ǝnlq puɐ ploƃ) oʍʇ oʇ (ǝnlq puɐ 'uǝǝɹƃ 'pǝɹ ʞɔᴉɹq 'ploƃ) ɹnoɟ ɯoɹɟ uʍop ʇnɔ uǝǝq sɐɥ suɯnloɔ ǝɥʇ uᴉ sɹnoloɔ pǝɹnʇɐǝɟ ɟo ɹǝqɯnu ǝɥ┴
  3. ˙ʇuoɟ ᴉɯǝp ɐ ɹo 'lɐɯɹou ɹǝɥʇᴉǝ oʇ ploq ɐ ɯoɹɟ uʍop pǝddǝʇs uǝǝq sɐɥ sƃuᴉpɐǝɥ puɐ sǝɯɐu s’sɹoɥʇnɐ ǝɥʇ uᴉ ǝɔɐɟǝdʎʇ ǝɥ┴
  4. ˙ɹǝuuᴉɥʇ ʎllɐᴉʇuɐʇsqns ǝpɐɯ ǝɹǝʍ suoɔᴉ ǝɥʇ punoɹɐ sǝuᴉl ǝɥ┴
  5. ˙pǝuoᴉʇᴉsodǝɹ ʎlʇɥƃᴉls puɐ ʞunɹɥs ǝɹǝʍ suoɔᴉ ǝɥ┴

Okay, okay, here’s an easier to read set of answers:

  1. There’s a slight repositioning of the title to vertically center it in its bar.
  2. The number of featured colours in the columns has been cut down from four (gold, brick red, green, and blue) to two (gold, for the start and end, and blue, for the main text).
  3. The typeface in the authors’ names and headings has been stepped down from bold. The type is now either normal, or a demi font instead of a bold font.
  4. The lines around the icons were made substantially thinner (from 6 point to 1 point, which might be too fine).
  5. The icons were shrunk and slightly repositioned.

Any individual one of these is not that a big of an improvement. But I think the sum total results in a poster that is a calmer on the eyes overall.

Here’s how the poster looked on the day of presentation:

And here’s a close up of the “Comments section”:

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