16 January 2014

Critique: Behaviour 2013 conference poster competition winner

This poster won the competition at the Behaviour 2013 meeting back in August. (Yes, cleaning out some draft posts...) Poster competitions are usually judged on a mix of science and graphics, and I am only paying attention to the latter here. Alas, I almost feel this poster is a “Greatest Hits” of things I warn against.

Click to enlarge:

I like the monochrome colour palette, which seems to reflect the colours of the jackdaw, whose picture provides a nice entry point for the reader. On the downside, this poster seems to get darker near the bottom, and I worry about this being too dark. Maybe that’s just the lighting it was photographed in.

The headings are very large, which helps guide the eye through the viewing order at a glance. However, I dislike that they are actually bigger and bolder than the title, which violates the expected hierarchy. Nothing should be bigger than the title. The title is also fighting with an author picture, yet another institutional logo, and it isn’t centered on the page. The author credits are far too close to the line dividing the title and the text.

The figure in the middle is useful in making it clear that this poster is meant to be read in rows, but I badly wish that the rows and columns were even. I would even be mollified if the space between the “Introduction” and “Methods” wasn’t noticeably wider than the margin between the “Results” and “Conclusion.” For goodness sake, please use grids!

And there are boxes around the text. At least there is only one level of boxes... But honestly, there is one place where I think a box might have helped. There is also a clear mismatch in colour between the next box and the rest of the background. That it looks like an attempt was made to match the two makes the mismatch all the more annoying. I might have tried to put a box around the nest on the theory that if you can’t hide an edge, make it a definite one.

This is representative of the state of the art in conference posters, which is disappointing.

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