15 July 2010

Critique: RNAi and hepatitis C

“Comic Sans? Are you serious?”

I hate to say it, because I try not to be a font snob, but that was my first reaction to this award-winning poster up at ePosters.net. Click to enlarge.

This poster features the typeface Comic Sans. Prominently. Unfortunately, this type has become synonymous for bad design. It’s made the list of regrettable tech inventions (not just fonts, or design, but all of technology). Todd Klein has an analysis of how it compares to real comics lettering.

Heck, even other scientists recognize the failings of Comic Sans.

Moving right along.

This poster is a veritable laundry list of common mistakes.

There’s almost no underlying grid. For example, there are two columns in the results, but three in the conclusions, to give one more small example. That there are boxes to act as bounds for two uneven columns gives at least faint hope of structure, but the poster feels undisciplined.

Even putting aside the previously mentioned font, the typography has too much going on. Colour changes, alignment changes, emphasis by underlining, summary statements in green boxes (both with square and rounded corners), and there’s no need for a space before a colon...

One of the more interesting mistakes, though, is in the Results section. Most of the results have a bold, underlined heading that tries to emphasize what the graphs underneath are about. There’s another bold, underlined line of text under each graph to emphasize what the graph is about. There’s bold, underlined text in the legend to emphasize important points. Then, finally, there are summary statements in green boxes, which are close enough to the next section below that it’s not clear which text goes with which graph.

When everything is emphasized, nothing is.

Having made fun of Comic Sans, it’s only fair to let the typeface itself have the last word to defend itself.

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