02 March 2017

Showing authorship on posters

More and more academic projects are collaborative. This means more contributors, and more authors to list on posters. I’ve been thinking about how long author lists might be best displayed on posters, and have a few attempts here. You can click to enlarge any picture!

This might be the simplest multi-author scenario, where there are many authors, all from one institution.

Many big collaborative projects involve people from different institutions, however. How can you show the affiliations of those authors? Many people emulate journals and use superscripts.

This gets very complicated to read and difficult to read very quickly, however.

Another approach might be to group the contributors by their institution. Let “relative contribution” or “alphabetical order” or “whatever other reason you have for deciding the order of authors” be damned. Everyone from a particular university goes together.

This chews up more space, so you might be forced to use initials for the authors and cut back on punctuation.

But if the team is that big, it is unlikely that they are all going to be at the conference. If we step into the needs of the reader for a second, what is the thing a conference goer might want to know? They certainly want to know who they might be talking to, that is, the poster presenter. They might also want to know the person behind the project, who is usually the most senior professor or staffer, and often the most recognizable “name” the poster might have.

Putting the full author list on an external link or down in find print in the corner might is harsh for the contributors. I know that. But in design, you have to grit your teeth and remember that it is not about you, or your friends. It’s about what the audience needs.

External links

When does authorship stop meaning anything useful?

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