02 February 2012

Critique and makeover: Minty

Last year, I had the opportunity to help a colleague with her poster before she went off to the conference. Here is a version of what she sent me, with all identifying text removed at her request (click to enlarge).

My first concern was that the gradient fill would make this poster too dark and unreadable around the edges. This is particularly noticeable in this small version.

The right half of this poster had two interlinked problems.

When I hit the figures in the Results, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to read them across in rows, or down in columns. My instinct was to read across, because the two upper graphs were so similar to each other. This made me think their placement was deliberate so that I could compare them easily. I thought they were Figures 1 and 2, but looking at the legend showed they were Figures 1 and 3.

The other problem was the wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide column for the Conclusions and Acknowledgements sections. Most books on typesetting recommend pages or columns have about 10-12 words per line; this was more like 20.

Here’s the makeover:

First, I lightened up the background. (My colleague called this background colour “minty,” hence my post title.) We had some back and forth on this, but I think the final printed version had a green background of some sort.

Second, the right half of the poster got split into two distinct columns. This removed all confusion as to the order the graphs were to be read in, and made the conclusions much more readable.

I justified the text to make the columns sharper, and removed some of the extra horizontal lines in the table.

One of the distinctive touches on this poster was putting the logos and animals into a sidebar on the left. I had not seen this before and liked it. We had a bit of back and forth about the possibility of putting the mice pictures up in the corner instead of the institutional and funding agency logos. I thought that the mice in the upper left made for a better entry point.

My colleague was very pleased with her final poster, and I was pleased to have helped.


Joel Kelly said...

I see what you did there with the author names! Err, at least I think I did. I'm sure Jason Collett and Leslie Feist would be glad to contribute their musical talents to this poster.

Al Dove said...

I reckon there's still room for improvement. I would start by making the fonts on the graphs larger to make them more readable, and try to make the table data into a graph or figure. I would try to cut down the Introduction too, so people can get to the good bits (results) faster. Of course, this is all armchair quarterbacking, but I think there are things we can do to make posters better. Love what you're doing here.

Zen Faulkes said...

The graphs are not the originals; I plunked in dummy graphs as part of the removal of identifying information. The original graphs were a bit bigger and bolder than my substitutes.

Mike Pascoe said...

Vast improvement.

Not sure I would leave funding source logos in that top left margin, I would just mention them in the text of the acknowledgements section.

Kevin Vaughan said...

Nicely done. I really like how you segmented the content by putting all of the images toward the center therefor splitting the text into two columns. I think giving the poster the added "white space" makes it more readable.

Bryan said...

I understand why you changed the color but instead of making it "minty," which comes off as really pastel, why not add a semi-transparent white box behind the text? That would preserve the original green color while highlighting the text. I do this frequently with my own posters.