19 July 2018

Critique: The eyes have it – as inspired by xkcd

Adam Stone was kind enough to share this poster from the Third International Conference on Sign Language Acquisition in Istanbul, Turkey. You’ll definitely want to click to enlarge this one!

This is the second comics-inspired poster in as many month (the first was here). I was a little caught off guard when I read there was a connection between them, as Adam explained:

I was inspired by this tweet by my colleague who saw a comic-inspired poster at LREC.

So this poster is a direct descendant of the one featured on the blog last month!

Adam continues with how he made the poster (lightly edited).

I love xkcd so I went with that. I used vectormagic.com to vectorize the stick figures so I could resize them easily. It’ll be nice to have a graphics tablet to draw more fine-tuned artwork instead of hacking it out in PowerPoint.

I added eyes to them because my postdoc supervisor and co-author Rain said, “These are deaf people, right? And it’s about eye tracking, so the characters should have eyes!” And I’m glad we did that.
 With a comic-inspired poster, you really need to get the comic panels/storyboard locked down first, then do the artwork second. I made an entire draft of the poster, complete with text and artwork. But then we had to make many not-trivial revisions to it, which was painful after all the time I had already put into it. Lesson learned!

The response to it has been phenomenal. Infant and child language/education advocates want to hang the posters in their offices/waiting rooms, and others have proclaimed that all scientific posters should be produced in comic format.

While there's room for all types of expression in science publications, I think comic-inspired posters do well in making scientific discoveries accessible to the public. Just look at xkcd or PhD Comics or many of the other science comics out there!

This poster is another great example of the power of pastiche. If you can find something that you like, design wise, imitating aspects of it helps prevent complete disaster. You’re not starting from scratch, and you have to pay attention to what are the design elements that make the thing recognizable. Even if don’t follow it perfectly, and find that sometimes, you just gotta add eyes to stick figures.

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