28 May 2015

Link roundup for May 2015

I love this deep meditation on pixel-based art from video games. Even though it’s slightly off-topic for the blog, this is my “must read” of the month. It’s revelatory to read someone who know details of animation and art show the pros and cons of using pixels. The comparison of two takes on the Street Fighter character Chun-Li is wonderful:

When they see SFIII or KOFXIII, they don’t see the unbelievable craft that went into it, or if they do, they have to first reconcile what they see first, which is the magnified image above. They have to pay the pixel tax.

Here’s the rub, and a lesson that applies to conference posters:

Nobody owes us their time or attention. As such, when someone gives us their time, an implicit agreement is made and we are now in debt to that person. We owe it to them to deliver value for their time, and to deliver it efficiently. ... Speak in a language people can understand so that they can actually see what makes your work great without a tax.

Hat tip to Jeff Alexander.

A fairly good one sheet from Elsevier. Hat tip to Mike Taylor:

StressMarq Biosciences has a twelve point guide to making a poster. I agree with about 10 of those points. Their template is too busy, bullet points are rarely better than short paragraphs, and I don’t know why they recommend the PNG format for pictures. It’s still a pixel-based image; vector images are always better.

What can scientists learn from designers? Quite a bit:

Scientists need to remember that they are deliberately designing a product for an end-user.  This focus on an audience may seem obvious, but it is surprising how many scientists forget about their target audience.  We say “it is time to submit the paper to the journal,” or “we need to make a poster for the conference,” and we often forget that we are really creating products for people.

Jonathan Owen wants to help you decide when to use quotation marks. Hat tip to Mike Taylor.

“Once you understand the design of flags... you can understand the design of almost anything.” This nice TED talk makes a reasonably convincing case for that thesis, and there are lots of lessons for poster design, too. Hat tip to B. Haas. This gives me an excuse to show this flag, because it’s well designed, celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, and is my nation’s flag:

Compare to the flag of Milwaukee:

Far too many posters look like the Milwaukee flag.

Laura Bergalls talks about what a walk in the wood taught her about getting attention.

You may have heard that making something hard to read makes it more likely you will understand it. One fancy way of saying this is “cognitive disfluency.” Turns out... not to be the case. Hat tip to Emily Willingham , Janet Stemwedel, and Aatish Bhatia.

Mad Max: Fury Road and Captain America serve as reminders: some things are visual media. John Wick explains (original emphasis):

Watching (Mad Max: Fury Road) made me think of that meme going around with Captain America lecturing Spider-Man. It’s nearly three pages long and it’s just Cap quoting from a book. Quoting from a book.

Not only did this bore me to tears, but it also stunk like a burned out writer looking to fill page count. Now look, I’m a huge Alan Moore fan, so I’m used to verbosity in comics, but Moore understands that comics is a visual medium. This kind of exposition doesn’t belong in a visual art like comics or films. Moore gets that. So does George Miller. Everything in this movie communicates in such a powerful way that dialogue is almost unnecessary. Cap is a man of action, not a man of lecture.

Conference posters are also a visual medium.

I often use other people’s images in my posters. A new source of of high resolution public domain images can be found at the State Library Victoria. Many of these are old vintage black and white photos, which can give them a lot of visual interest. This pic of Wendy the Wombat is proof. This post is better because it has a picture of a wombat. Hat tip to my mate Ely Wallis.

Designing a new typeface is a challenge, and Japanese particularly so. Here’s a peek into a Japanese type foundry, where they are still designing each character by hand. (Original article, with images but paywalled text, is here.) Hat tip to Garr Reynolds and John Meada. http://t.co/QIiNl2N4Cm

Devony Looser on the joys of academic conferences. It includes tips:

Do not write or revise your paper or poster at the conference. I’ve seen junior and senior colleagues make this tactical error all the time. You must have your paper finished before you come to the conference... You do not earn any points with anyone by saying, “I can’t go because I have to go to my room and finish my paper.”

On the flip side, we have Christy Wampole, who is tired of conferences.

Academic conferences are a habit from the past, embraced by the administrativersity as a way to showcase knowledge and to increase productivity in the form of published conference proceedings. We have been complicit.

But... counterpoint! David Perry replies to Wampole and argues we should save conferences:

Everything I have ever published has direct origins in one or more conferences, a lineage I can trace through my CV, mapping the formal and informal ways that academic gatherings have shaped my work. And I know I’m not alone.

The book How Posters Work by Ellen Lupton is coming out soon (and you better believe I’ll be reviewing it!). Here’s an article about the exhibition the accompanies the book:

“Posters are the only genre of graphic design that is explicitly created to be stuck on a wall,” Lupton told me in an email. “Many people are more comfortable displaying posters in their own homes or work spaces than they are with more formal or serious works of art. Posters are part of everyday life, so they feel approachable and real.”

Here are 27 jokes for graphic designers. Hat tip to Garr Reynolds.

An even better joke for graphic designers is the #DrunkTufte hashtag on Twitter.

In last month’s link roundup, I pointed to an article about the perils of bar graphs. This month, I’m pointing to a round-up of the reaction to it.

Quote of the month from Lindsay Waldrop:

That thing where you said you’d do a poster and then completely forget about it until the day before you leave. o.O

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