25 May 2023

Think visually

Lazy blogger this week, so I just have a quote of the moment:

No matter how exact and minute the verbal description may be, it will always be less clear than a good illustration.

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Advice for a Young Investigator, page 132.

Hat tip to Jay Hosler

External links

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the Young Artist Who Grew Up to Invent Neuroscience

Link roundup for May 2023

Visually communicate your science

Miranta Kouvari is giving an online course titled, “Visually communicate your science: a design toolkit forintuitive, accessible, and engaging scientific graphics”. It will run in October 2023.

October feels like a long  way away, but trust me, it’ll be here before you know it!

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Many readers know about QR codes. But are you ready to try augmented reality on your poster? I’ve seen it once, I think.

Kurniawan and colleagues look at the obstacles to using augmented reality for posters, and concludeyou can’t just “throw it on” and expect people to know what it is.

AR web-based access instruction with combined text and icon is needed for the best feedback from audiences.

Kurniawan A, Utoyo AW, Aprilia HD, Kuntjoro-Jakti RADRI. 2023. Visual communication analysis of poster design with web-based augmented reality as additional content. AIP Conference Proceedings 2594(1). https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0109115

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The Hello PhD podcast did an episode collecting people’s advice for their posters from the floor of the American Society for Cell Biology. Check out episode #187!

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Later this year, watch out for The Little Guide to Giving a Poster Presentation: Simple Steps to Success by John Bond. I learned about this during a recent interview with Bond on the New Books Network. I’ll review it when it comes out.

• • • • •

Another paper reports that talks are more likely to be published than posters. Again.

Podium presentations were more likely to be published than posters (59.6% vs. 47.2%, p<0.001).

Issa TZ, Lee Y, Lambrechts MJ, Reynolds C, Cha R, Kim J, Canseco JA, Vaccaro AR, Kepler CK, Schroeder GD, Hilibrand AS. Publication rates of abstracts presented across six major spine specialty conferences. North American Spine Society Journal (NASSJ): in press. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.xnsj.2023.100227

This pattern has been demonstrated so many times that I am reaching the point where I am tempted to say, “No further research needs to be done.”

• • • • •

Thanks for joining me again! Conference season starts now!

18 May 2023

Konferenzplakat auf Deutsch, or: Conference poster in German

One of my goals for the blog recently has been to showcase posters that are not in English. Today, I am thankful to Lennert Böhm for sharing this work. Click to enlarge!

Poster in German titled "Availability of palliative medicine resources in German emergency departments – an online survey"

Roughly, the poster title translates to “Availability of palliative medicine resources in German emergency departments – an online survey.” Lennert wrote:

I tried to use as little text as possible as I feel survey results lend themselves well to infographics.

Survey results often do lend themselves to a few large numbers, which you see down in the bottom section of the poster. If you have simple binaries, a percentage works better than a pie chart.

I like the high contrast colour palette using that favourite colour scheme of movie posters, orange and blue. 

Personally, I would have liked some of the elements more aligned to a grid.

Now, one of the reasons I am asking for posters not in English is to have a chance to think about different design problems that arise from working with different sorts of text. German is similar to English in terms of the alphabet and text layout, but there is a difference

Famously, German words can be long. You’ve probably heard people joke, “Isn’t there a German word describing this exact but oddly specific situation?” (My favourite German word is “Backpfeifengesicht”: roughly, “A face in need of a punch.”)

These German compound words can create a problem with typesetting. It’s harder to get even line lengths with all those lengthy words, which I suspect means there is more incentive for good hyphenation.

I bet most poster makers don’t even think about hyphenation. For one, PowerPoint, the default graphics app for academics, doesn’t hyphenate text. It’s just not there. This is just one reason I love Microsoft Publisher: because it has basic hyphenation tools. This article describes some of the problems around hyphenation, and has some comments about hyphenating in InDesign.

The second reason that I think most academics don’t think about hyphenation is that many will just set text as “ragged right.” This is fine, but lots of long words might mean that even ragged right text might be improved by hyphenation.

If you do decide to hyphenate, do check the appearance of your columns yourself. No auto-hyphenate feature written by software can cover every situation, and you may need to add or remove a hyphen or two.

Related posts

Love my justify

External links

German compound words explained with examples

German placeholder text generator

Book design basics: Use hyphens for justified type 

Hyphenation for print books

Schlimmbesserung: A German word that academics need to add to their vocabulary

04 May 2023

Review: Academic Posters – A textual and visual metadiscourse analysis

Cover to "Academic Posters" book.
One of the downsides of working in a small, niche field is that the literature is scattered and easy to miss. So with this, I apologize for not recognizing that a very relevant book was published several years ago.

Academic Posters is only the fourth book I know of that is specifically devoted to posters. But it is different than the other three. Rather than being a “how to,” D’Angelo’s book is an analysis of posters.

D’Angelo analyzes forty posters each from physics, clinical psychology, and law for their linguistic and graphic style. She also interviews about a dozen practitioners in each field to see how different fields use poster presentations.

The analyses and comparisons here are useful, but getting to them takes time. Maybe it is another difference in fields – me coming from science, D’Angelo working from the humanities – but I kept thinking this useful information could have been presented in a much more compact format.

You have to have introduction and methods. But some sections like, “Principles underlying corpus design” start with very generic considerations of selecting work to analyze that feel more at home in an introductory textbook than presenting new work.

It takes 150 pages to get to the results in Chapter 5. When we get to the results, the results of each field are discussed separately, then there is another section that compares the three disciplines, which requires repeating much of the information we just read through.

Another sixty pages of the book at the end are raw data. As much as I am in favour of archiving raw data for reuse, archiving raw data online in CSV files somewhere would be much more practical than trying to extract the data from printed pages.

Even the index seems protracted. Instead of showing a range of pages (“5-9”), the index lists each page individually (“5, 6, 7, 8, 9”). There seem to be little omissions (the listed sources of physics posters doesn’t add up to the 40 analyzed?) and errors (one figure has the Microsoft Office “hey, there’s a spelling error here” red underline still on the page). 

The entire volume would have benefited from more engaged editing and book design.

I recently published an analysis of poster designs that is similar to the analyses in this book, and I appreciate that extracting data on poster design and writing is difficult. The level of analysis on the language and graphics is detailed, and are a useful preliminary snapshot of academic poster styles.

See also Rowley-Jolivet’s review of Academic Posters.

External links

D’Angelo, Larissa. 2016. Academic Posters – A textual and visual metadiscourse analysis. Bern: Peter Lang. 367 pages. ISBN 978-3-0343-2083-2. https://www.peterlang.com/document/1053534

Rowley-Jolivet E. 2016. « Larissa D'Angelo, Academic Posters – A textual and visual metadiscourse analysis », ASp, 70: 141-145. https://doi.org/10.4000/asp.4858