10 May 2014

Critique: Crab burial

Today, I’m pleased to present an award winning poster from Emma Locatelli. This one took Council Poster Prize at the Palaeontological Association Annual Meeting in 2012. You can click to enlarge:

This is going to be a short critique, because this is a sharp, well done poster. (And I say this not just because my own research revolves around crustaceans like the crabs here!) Let’s check off a few of reasons this poster is a major successe:

  1. The poster has two clear columns, which make it completely clear what the reading order is. 
  2. The story is told with a lot of pictures and minimal text.
  3. Most things are neatly aligned with another element on the page.
  4. There is reasonable amount of white space, so that the poster doesn’t look too crowded.
  5. There’s a clear take-home message.
  6. Logos are down in the fine print where they belong!

Where might we see some improvement?

There is an implied question in the first line of the introduction, lurking like a hidden fossil:

Three primary hypotheses can explain the dearth of land crabs in the fossil record(.)

I’d state the question outright: “Why are land crabs’ fossils so rare?” This might have even been the title of the poster: shorter, punchier, and perhaps more likely to draw in curious passers-by.

The poster is set in Gill Sans, a classic typeface that I enjoy and use a lot myself. Here, though, I wonder if a more modern typeface in the same style might have made it look fresher and lighter. For example, bold Gill Sans looks a little clunky. There is a lot of bold on this poster for emphasis. I would use less bold, probably removing it from the methods completely. The more emphasis you use, the less effective it is.

While the poster does a generally good job of spacing and alignment, there are a few places that could be improved. The graph caption above “Subsurface alignment” in the results come a trifle too close to the text below it.

Similarly, it would have been nice if the figures in the methods and the results – two rows, both three to a column – were equally wide, so that the two rows of figures aligned perfectly. And there are a few other quirky spots where things that should line up or be closer to each other are not. 

There’s one tiny typesetting inconsistency. The last list item of the introduction ends with a period, but none of the other sentences in lists end in periods. This is such a small thing that if someone pointed it out to me, I would joke that it’s there to avoid offending God, because only God is perfect.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Thanks a million! I really appreciate the advice, and I'll be sure to use some of it in the poster I'm making now! I'm also so honored to be mentioned in one of my favorite blogs - I recommend Better Posters to a lot of my friends.