05 October 2023

Critique and makeover: I love that word, “Reform!”

In my new job as Program Director of DORA, I didn’t think that I would have many opportunities to scratch my itch for poster making. 

I was delighted when one of our colleagues, Alex Rushforth, said he was presenting a poster at the International Conference on Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (STI) conference in Leiden last week. It’s an early look at DORA’s next major project, Reformscape.

This is what he emailed (click to enlarge):

Draft poster for Reformscape

Alex admitted that he didn’t have a great artistic eye, and invited other members of the Reformscape team to help out. Little did he know that one of the members on the team had literally written a book on the subject of conference posters!

It was very clear what Alex was trying to do. He had tried to lay out a straight forward two column poster in portrait orientation. The problems were simple but easy to solve: the boxes weren’t aligned, the rounded corners were awkward next to the rectangular graphics, the title didn’t pop, and the colours were not working.

And I... perhaps got a little carried away.
In very short order, this is what I emailed back to the Reformscape team.

Revised poster for Reformscape

Being consistent

What made this a quick revision was that I had been working on a style guide for DORA and Reformscape. A style guide is just a document that spells out common visual elements like colour values, fonts used, and so on.

The existing DORA logo and website led the way on the look. The DORA website uses a lot of black, white, and gold. (You can see that in a website screenshot in the lower left corner.) Those colours get used again in Reformscape and in the poster. The website mostly uses the Lora typeface (freely available), and that was also used in the poster.

Columns, not boxes

To simplify the poster, I made the implied two column layout an explicit two column layout by consolidating the boxes. I threw in a thin gold dividing line just for a little visual interest.

Giving the title punch

I had designed a wordmark for Reformscape, which Alex hadn’t seen yet. 

Reformscape wordmark

Again, it uses the DORA website colours and fonts. “Reform” is in Rutan, and “scape” is in the aforementioned Lora.

So it made sense to include that and put it up at the top, big. The institution logos were at the top, next to the title. They were drawing too much attention, so they got moved down to the bottom and shrunk slightly.

To distinguish the authors from the main body of the poster, I made that gold. I rounded the upper corners just to provide a break from the rectangular shapes on the poster.

I try to keep decorations to a minimum, but there was enough space in the upper right corner for another visual element that will be used for Reformscape. Our partner, the TRAFIK design team, had created a graphics that were based on a glowing gold version of the DORA logo.

Reformscape wordmark over glowing orange DORA logo

I love 😍 them, so I put one in.

Alex Rushforth presenting Reformscape poster

Luckily, the rest of the team liked the impromptu revision! 

P.S.—Reformscape will be launching before the end of the year! If you have questions about it, email reformscape@sfdora.org!

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