29 September 2016

Link roundup for September 2016

Quote of the month:

A conference poster should be readable in 3 minutes, from 3 metres away, after 3 beers.

The tweet is from Torsten Seemann, but It think he’s quoting Matthew Wakefield.

Michael Skvarla has a nominee for the best poster title of this year’s International Congress of Entomology:

Hat top to Megan Lynch.

“There is  no substitute for a scatterplot, at least for relatively small sample sizes.” Also, stop plotting standard error of the mean (SEM).

Conference organizers, watch out for bias.

I’m not sure if I’ve linked to the Junk Charts blog before on this blog, but here it is, just in case. I know I haven’t linked out to this list of five great design blogs, though. Hat tip to The Old Reader.

24 September 2016

Avoid the tenuous touch

There are two good choices for placing objects on a page. You can separate them.

Or you can overlap them.

But it’s a bad option is to have two objects almost touching...

Or just barely touching.

Of course, it can be worse. Having sharp edges and round edges almost touching creates a discomfort to your eyes that you can almost feel. You’re just waiting for the balloon to pop.

You get the same effects with the rectangles you see more often on posters. Having objects very close, but with neither clear separation or overlap, feels much less comfortable

Than clear overlap...

Or distinct separation.

Unless you are going for visual tension, make a choice. Split them apart or have one cover the other. Don’t have any tenuous touches. To sum up:

15 September 2016

Critique: Dynamic relationships (of amino acids)

Inna Nikonorova is today’s kindly contributor, who let me share this on the blog. Click to enlarge!

The poster is clear and readable, but I do think it could be improved.

I like that the Introduction tries to provide a more organic look to some of the headings and images in it. But if you’re going to go that route, you have to commit to it. That weathered look isn’t anywhere else on the poster, so it looks a little odd. I would remove it to make the weathered paper and blackboard and the like to make the Introduction visually consistent with the rest of the poster. Of course, you could go the other way, and make the entire poster look more antique, but giving the rest of the poster that blackboard appearance will be harder and take longer.

I would generally try to widen the margins between the text and the boxes they are in. It looks like this is only have a fraction of an inch between text and line in some places. It’s particularly noticeable in the Literature Cited section.

Speaking of the Literature Cited, it is left aligned, as is the rest of the text in the poster. But because the text is so dense in the Lit Cited section, it makes the centered text in the Acknowledgements stand out like the proverbial sore thumb.

The INSPIRE logo isn’t centered in its box. Neither is the Rutgers logo, come to think of it, but because the Rutgers logo is an irregular shape, it’s less noticeable.

The mouse in the Methods might be flipped so it’s facing in, not out.

Related posts

Look into the poster: Gaze and graphics

08 September 2016

Reading gravity

Great minds think alike; fools seldom differ.

I recently learned that something I’ve called “the Cosmo principle” on this blog is an actual thing that proper designers talk about, except they have a different name for it. They call it “reading gravity.”

The picture above is sometimes called a “Gutenberg diagram.” Apparently it was given that name by newspaper designer Edmond Arnold (interviewed here, where he refers to the “Gutenberg principle”). I’m not completely sure about this; need to do some more reading.

What this image calls the “primary optical area,” I’ve usually called the “sex story,” because that’s invariably what occupies that position on every cover of Cosmopolitan magazine. The “terminal area” is usually what I’ve called the “take home message.”

What I find usually ends up in the lower left corner, or “weak fallow area” as its called here, are my methods section. And that’s fine, because those are usually only of interest to the afficiandos.

This diagram is worth thinking about as you lay out your poster. Is the most important stuff in the most important places? Too often I see critical material in the bottom, or the terminal area crowded up with references and acknowledgements. I’ve done the latter myself, but this diagram points out that the lower right corner is more important that I have sometimes given it credit for.

Hat tip to Heather Sears.

External links

The Gutenberg Diagram in Web Design
Understand how you can double the effectiveness of your publications in one simple move!
Reading gravity goes out the window
Getting back to basics with Ed Arnold

Picture from here

01 September 2016

Critique: Neutrino topology

Physics is not the best represented academic field on this blog, so I was pleased to get this submission from Paola Ferrario, who was kind enough to share this with readers of the blog. Click to enlarge!

I like many things about this poster.
  • The typography is clean.
  • The big central circle attracts the eye and breaks up the monotony of rectangles.
  • There aren’t a huge number of words.
  • The margins between all the elements are comfortable.
  • There are pictures of real objects.
  • Logos are mostly kept down in the inf print section.
  • There is a good use of bright colours to highlight headings.
I have one major problem. I know where to start reading the poster. I know where I should end up when I finish reading the poster. What I am supposed to do between those two points is completely baffling to me.

The text in that big central circle is particularly baffling. That it is set against a different shape and colour provides a visual cue that suggests it isn’t part of the main text. It looks like a “callout” that you are either supposed to read first, or that might be an aside that you can dispense with altogether.

One way that might improve the reader’s plight without restructuring the entire poster is to be explicit about what order the sections are supposed to go in. Here, I’ve added some numbered bullets to sit next to each heading. I used the eyedropper tool to match the colour. I was not sure what the typeface on the poster is, so I used sans serif numbers from Erler Dingbats

Adding the numbers the quick way I did means the headings are not centered correctly. And this may not be the exact order Paola intended, but those concerns are easily fixed if you have the original file to tinker with.