12 March 2020

Critique: Dirty, dirty flies

Today’s contribution comes from Gowri Rajaratnam and was presented at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting back in January. Click to enlarge!

I saw this browsing the session, liked it, and reached out to Gowri. Gowri had this to say (lightly edited):

I created this poster using a free account in Canva. It was actually inspired by the Mike Morrison better poster template. I was trying to modify my usual wordy, traditional-format poster design into something that was more appealing. Most of the time, when I attend poster sessions, I’m put off by posters with chunks of text in tiny fonts because it looks like its going to take me more time and effort to infer the key points of the poster.

I tried to do the opposite by including only the bare bones of the research project. I used the QR code to include videos and more details on the study (methods, results, etcetera) so that anyone who couldn’t talk to me at the poster session would still be able to get the whole picture.

I think it worked in catching people’s eyes. I got a few compliments on the sexy title and design.

The main graphic of the flies is an excellent entry point, showing what the poster is about instantly. And the light touch on text is always appreciated. It’s those two things that made me stop and look at the poster instead of passing it by.

The type follows the good idea of using two typefaces: one for title and headings, and one for main text. The elaborate ampersand give the title a particularly nice little flourish.

While I would prefer sentences instead of bullet points, these bulleted lists at least have consistent punctuation and spacing.

The attention to alignment is my biggest issue.

Each section has a hard, dark shadow which draws attention to the misaligned edges. The only reason not to have the two bottom sections aligned is because of the superfluous logo. Here’s a revision with the logo removed and the “Take-away” section aligned to those on either side:

The scattered placement of the data in the results is bothering me, too.

Here’s a quick revision of that:

Not perfect by any means, but I think it demonstrates a direction to head towards to clean it up. I want to put the species name above the images instead of below them, too.

I’m not sure the icons in the corner of each section are in tune with the aesthetic of the rest of the poster. They’re cartoonish, when the rest of the poster is not. I’m not sure how a brain in a jar is supposed to suggest “Background.” I’m also a little perturbed that all of the icons are in the same corner – upper right – except one.

Still, the overall effect is strong enough that it does the main thing a poster has to do: stop a viewer from walking on to the next one!

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