13 June 2019

Critique or makeover? I forget

This week’s poster comes from Hanna Isotalus. Click to enlarge!

This is a project that might be better served by a talk than a poster. With over a dozen complex graphs and images, this poster does not advertise itself as a quick read.

Hanna wrote:

There are a couple of blips I’ve already noticed. Mainly that the result figures go from A to B to D (who needs C anyway!). I would have the top two figures in B the other way around as this would have made more sense when presenting.

As it happens, Hanna put the headings (like “Result A”) in such light colours that they are hard to see anyway. I think the idea was to make the summary statements for each result “pop” more and be easy to find. But headings are high in the poster’s text hierarchy (second after the title), and the light colours de-emphasize the headings so much that they are pushed way down the visual hierachy.

Graphically, the poster’s strongest suit is the sophisticated use of colour. The colours work together. They are subdued, but even when the poster is shrunk down, their are light and dark areas and colours visible. It doesn’t all dissolve in a mush.

Hanna uses colour coding to represent different concepts. “Encoding” is blue, and “consolidating” is green, for instance. But with four concepts, it’s hard to know if it’s a helpful mnemonic.

What makes me a little crazy is the inconsistency of the alignment.

Hanna has a two column format, and it looks great. I’ll even forgive that the column widths are not even. I’ll even forgive that there are a whole bunch of boxes, because the boxes are drawn in light dashed lines and don’t draw a lot of attention to themselves.

But inside those boxes, it’s anyone’s guess as to what’s going on

The text blocks are sometimes centered, sometimes left justified.

I could forgive graphs in different boxes being unaligned, but even when you look at graphs in the same box, the tops don’t align. The bottoms don’t align. The widths are not consistent. The side edges don’t align.

The overall effect is that the boxes’ interior look chaotic, in contrast to the obvious care taken to create the individual graphs within them.

Here’s the “Results B” section.

In the image below, I drew lines along the edges of elements to see if any of those lines intersected with edges of other elements.

Only the bottom axes of the top left and center graphs align along the horizontal. I literally cannot find any other edge that lines up with anything. The highest point of the Y axis comes close to aligning with the text block on the right, but because it misses, and has a misaligned graph between them, it’s frustrating rather than hopeful.

What I would like to see is something more like this. Now, this is a very ugly revamp if you click to enlarge, because this was done just by stretching individual parts of the image.

This could no doubt be better by revising the size and position of the axis labels. But the key point is that when you are placing graphs, line up the X and Y axes. Because the axes form lines, they automatically create a strong sense of a directional edge, much more do than the axes labels.

External links

Archived poster on Open Science Framework

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