31 July 2014

Link roundup for July 2014

Posters need not just be paper. Louise Hughes made good use of her 3-D printer. This picture by Sam Barry, with a hat tip to Biochem Belle.

More than a few conferences have restrictions about photographing posters. Richard Pearse has something to say about it. The society seems to support him. Hat tip to B. Haas.

This Nature news article about the drafting of a consensus statement on Earth’s tipping point for politicians. It unexpectedly takes a turn that highlights the importance of design:

(California governor Jerry) Brown wanted it classic looking, not flashy or cluttered. They went back and forth on formatting, even where to put the signatures. And the font was key. Brown wanted a simple clear font, Franklin Gothic, with the words ‘scientific consensus’ highlighted in red.

Hat tip to Aerin Jacon. Franklin Gothic image from here.

Terry McGlynn reflects on how to have conversations at conferences. His take home message (his emphasis):

A conversation should never be a mere placeholder.

SlideProof claims it “Spots any kind of inconsistencies. SlideProof identifies wrong font types, sizes or colours. It checks for alignment, margins and bullet types and even detects of wrong page numbers and many more.” is Given how many people create their posters in PowerPoint, this piece of software might be valuable. Hat tip to Chris Atherton.

Although Apple has tended to get the most acclaim for its attention to type, Microsoft and Google have both done a lot of very interesting work over the years. Google’s most recent type project is an overhaul of its typeface Roboto. Hat tip to Ellen Lupton.

(T)ype has become one of the hardest working elements in today’s interfaces, which have been stripped of ornamentation in order to create breathing room for the increasingly complex functions they have to perform.

The case against the bar graph and other summary statistics. The summaries of the data below are the same, but the distribution is quite different. This is the same argument made by Anscombe’s quartet.

If you want to make a cool poster, first, you must know what is cool. Hat tip to Garr Reynolds.

  1. Cool is a social construct.
  2. Something is only cool compared to something else.
  3. Cool is positive.
  4. Cool is unconventional.
The article further explores that last one. You have to be different, but not too different.

24 July 2014

Critique: Immune cells

Matteo di Bernardo reached out to me on Twitter to ask for feedback on this poster (click to enlarge):

My first and fiercest reaction is, “Ditch the abstract!”  Shorter text and a visual may entice people more than a big block of small text, which sucks away energy like a tombstone in a graveyard.

Likewise, the conclusions seem to have a lot of writing for only a couple of data figures. The conclusions are written as a long list of bullet points. An alternative is to turn the first level of bullets into subheadings. Then, there are a few short bullet lists instead of one massive list.

I had a hard time figuring the main take home message of the conclusions. The poster shows a bunch of evidence, but doesn’t make a single definitive statement that ties it all together. (Matteo replied that the data was not very conclusive, making a punchy concluding statement difficult.)

Speaking of headings, the underline should be removed from the headings. Bold does the job.

I am never crazy about logos bookending the title, although this is not the worst case I’ve seen.

The references are chewing up a lot of space, so I would look for ways to abbreviate them. Perhaps they could be shortened with an “et al.” instead of a complete list of every author, or omitting titles or articles. Remember, the point of a reference on a poster is to allow someone to locate a citation unambiguously, and you don’t need every piece of information in a journal reference to do that.

The figures would benefit from captions. Currently, I have no idea what those images mean.

I would also try lightening the dark box around the western blots. The line could be thinner and more subtle, perhaps with a gray instead of a hard black. Similarly, I might try removing or lightening the horizontal lines in graphs, and changing the red in the bottom graph to something in the blue/green palette the rest of the poster is in.

Matteo asked, “Does the color scheme work? Seems a little bland to me...” I replied, “You want bland. Or, if you prefer, subtle. Colour is very, very easy to overdo.” It may be better to use colours in the images on the poster, rather than bringing it on the background and text.

I do like the ample space on this poster. The use of space is done well enough that I would remove the three boxes around the columns, and just let the margins divide the text.

17 July 2014

Critique: a poster about posters

This was up at this year’s annual American Association of Law Libraries conference: a poster about a poster (click to enlarge).

I like the idea of this, but I don’t see it as a terribly well designed poster. Too many colours, and too few elements are aligned. The reading order is chaotic, starting with a column, then flipping to rows.

The big red suitcase dominates the poster, but it seems to be one of the less important points of information.

Some of the content is also weak. “Choose software for layout,” for example, has little indication of what software is better than others, or why. Why not use Microsoft Word? (At least, I’m guessing that is what they are trying to convey with the barred red circle.) Further, I have no idea what the middle two icons are.

The poster is 41 inches high, and the (sideways) text on the right suggests that it couldn't be carried on several American airlines. Most of my posters are 42 inches tall (width of our plotter printer in our building), and I’ve never had to check my poster tube.

The fabric poster shows why I still prefer paper posters: fabrics are hard to get to hand as cleanly as paper posters.

Hat tip to Megan Lynch for drawing my attention to this, and to Sarah Glassmeyer for taking the picture.

10 July 2014

Your title is 90% of your poster

I’m riffing off of this post by Randy Olson (click to enlarge):

In today’s short attention-spanned world, headlines are about 90% of your communication effort (the text is just a bunch of stuff to justify the headline, meant only for people with a lot of time on their hands).
If someone were to read just your poster title, would they know what you wanted them to know?

03 July 2014

Lessons from Facebook: use more photos

People like photographs. Here’s some evidence from Social Bakers. This graph shows the most popular posts on Facebook: overwhelmingly, they’re photos.

That wasn’t because 87% of Facebook posts are photographs, either: only 75% of Facebook posts are photos.

You can also check out how Google Plus users use that network. Watch how photos get more and more popular.

This suggests that if you want people to stop at your poster, you should work hard to find relevant photos. Make those photos big and prominent.

And I do specifically mean photos, not just pictures. Graphs probably are not going to have the same attention grabbing impact.

Hat tip to Joanne Manaster.

External links

Photos Are Still King on Facebook 
10 Significant Things You Likely Didn't Know About Social Media But Should

Photo by Marla Elena on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.