19 January 2017

Critique: frog choices

The “Best of Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology” continues, with this contribution courtesy of Matthew Murphy! Click to enlarge!

This is a very successful poster on multiple counts. There is not a lot of text. The visuals are simple, with a strong but limited colour palette. The reading order is clear.

Matthew wrote:

Almost all of the elements of the poster were created using open-source graphic design software. Some preliminary work (especially editing the reference image of the frog icon) was done in GIMP. The vector images were developed in InkScape, and the whole thing was assembled in InkScape. I used an individual layer for each section.

The fonts used are Steve Matteson’s Open Sans and Open Sans Extrabold, both freely available through Google Fonts.

With open source materials, I have argued that you sometimes get what you pay for. When I saw this poster, I wondered if Open Sans had the chops necessary for the job, because I was struck by the dumb quotes (also called straight quotes) in the title. But a quick check revealed Open Sans had perfectly good smart quotes.

The problem is apparently that the open source material didn’t auto-correct the quotes, as some software (notably Microsoft’s Office products) have done for years. The solution is not difficult: you just need to know the commands for extended characters. In Windows, this is ALT + 0146 on the keypad. A more comprehensive list is here.

Speaking of typesetting, some paragraphs end in periods and some don’t. Consistency always helps.

The use of numbers in circles is a nice graphic tough and keeps the reading order clear. I personally would have started with one instead of zero, though.

You might expect me to complain about the results being before the methods, but I am not going to. First, having seen Matthew present this work, the order on the poster reflects the order he presented the material verbally. Second, some journals have taken to putting results before methods. This practice has critics, but flipping the order isn’t absolutely crazy.

Some of the material you would expect to be at the bottom is up at the top: acknowledgements and a QR code. The word “Acknowledgements,” presented here in bold and all caps, is competing with the title. I would have suggested making it smaller and more innocuous, something closer in size to the author bylines under the title.

Also, when you put a QR code, it’s a good idea to tell people what they’re getting. The upper right one does (“Summary”), but the lower left one does not.

In the context of this poster, “green noise” might be more precise, but “noise” might more readily understood.

And, much like last week’s poster, Matthew isn’t just a contributor, he’s a reader!

I actually used your blog - especially your design critiques - to get design ideas for my poster.

I’m glad it’s useful!

Related posts

Anything free is worth what you pay for it
Scripting a poster

External links

Smart Quotes for Smart People

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