18 July 2019

Critique and makeover: Biodiversity in a time of change

Today’s contribution comes from Tamara White. Click to enlarge!


This is a work in progress; it does not have references.

This feels busy. At first glance, it’s tempting to blame this on the colourful backdrop, which has four different main colours: blue, green, orange, and brown. Here is is alone:


This is a strong illustration of climate change, but so much of it is covered that I am not sure the message comes through. I think this is why Tamara has several of the main boxes partially transparent.

But I don’t think the background is the main culprit contributing to the visual clutter. In theory, this poster has four main elements: a title bar, and three columns.

There are black lines around the main columns to try to to unify them, but this doesn’t work. Each individual element is very recognizable as a separate element, only loosely connected to those around them. The text is laid out in white boxes, and each one creates an edge against the coloured background.

To show this, I removed the text. Everything that has a recognizable edge (either by a line or a difference in colour) has been given a red line around it.


Instead of four to six elements, the poster reads as 36 to 40 separate elements.If this was against a white background, the number would drop a bit, but not much.

The other issues that I see are pictures that are distorted, and lots of elements that are misaligned.

Those are the three things I tried to address in the makeover below.

First, I used the eyedropper tool to lift a light shade from the background. I made all the text boxes in each column the same colour.

I went into the image properties for each image, and made sure the amount of stretch was the same in both dimensions. No more compressed penguins, stretchy fish, and circles forced to become ovals!

I turned the paragraphs with bullets as their first character into lists with hanging indents.

I made almost all the photos and text within a column the same width.

Here’s the result:


The revision retains some of the colourfulness of the original while removing some of the visual clutter. The variation in column width is still noticeable, as is the variation in the width of the content from one column to the next. Ideally, this layout would probably be well served by dividing the columns into halves, and laying out the pictures in the left half and the text in the right (i.e., a six column grid).

I mentioned the idea of a “six column grid” to Tamara, who took it a little differently than I meant it, but the result was great.


This lets you see more of the background. In addition to having columns, you also end up with even rows that fall along the horizon line of the background. The headings pop out more.

Always be ready to love your accidents.

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