21 April 2016

Critique: Red ware

This week’s contribution comes from Scott Van Keuren. This poster recently graced the halls of the Society for American Archaeology meeting.Click to enlarge!

This a poster that has the right ideas, but doesn’t go far enough.

The title is excellent. It’s big, clean, and clear. I appreciate that this carries through the author listings, which are simpler than many posters. The logos are sensibly placed, unobtrusively, in the fine print section of the poster.

There are excellent photographs of physical objects, particularly in that critical left hand side. I would have like to have seen fewer, bigger pictures, even if that meant reducing the size of maps somewhat.

The headings also show consideration for the reader. Instead of the standard “IMRAD” headings,we mostly get questions that make it extremely clear which section of the poster is. If anything, I would like to see them bigger and more prominent. And that’s particularly valuable, because the rest of the poster sometimes leads you on a merry chase.

In the picture below, the red lines traces the order sections are meant to be read in, as I understand them:

The first column is very simple, but things take turns for the worse in the next two sections. Wrapping the scatter plots around the “What are results?” section particularly disturbs the reading flow; you have to jump a graph to get to the text, then back up to look at the scatter plots. In fact, the more I look at the poster, the less sure I am that the intended order is what I put above.

While the headings are so useful in guiding the reader, the amount I would have to read to get an answer to each question is a little intimidating. Even though I realize intellectually that the writing is not that much if it was an article, my eyes would glaze over in a poster hall.

Cutting is hard. You need to be ruthless, and you need to practice. But being concise is almost always the right way to go.

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