25 December 2014

Link roundup for December 2014

I’m always on the lookout for re-use of posters, and Gary McDowell takes advantage of the new fabric ones:

This poster scarf actually predates a similar one seen at Neuroscience by a few days:

Choosing the right title for your poster is critically important. This New Yorker article shows that the headline changes the way people remember the content of the story you tell them next:

In the case of the factual articles, a misleading headline hurt a reader’s ability to recall the article’s details. ... In the case of opinion articles, however, a misleading headline... impaired a reader’s ability to make accurate inferences.

Dr. Attai took this picture at American Society of Clinical Oncology 2014 meeting. Um. Aren’t people proud of their work?

NatC has a conference networking tip:

New conference networking strategy: share cab to airport with strangers. Get career advice.

I constantly harp on people to make a grid. Here is a useful slide deck showing how grids are used to design a complex website (hat tip to Duarte and Garr Reynolds):

Kirsten Sanford nominated this as her favourite poster from the American Geological Union meeting. It’s colourful, I’ll give it that.

Business cards are an integral part of conference networking. Erik Peterson turned his business cards into mini-posters:

Slideshare has a video that claims to tell you four tips for making data visualization memorable (hat tip to Ethos 3):

The cheat sheet summary is below; the original paper is here:

  1. They look like something natural.
  2. Are pictoral.
  3. Use colours.
  4. Have high visual density.

Typeset in the Future is an obsessive single serve blog looking at typography in science fiction films. Try this post on Alien for starters. Hat tip to Adam Savage. (The mythbuster also throws in his favourite typefaces: Futura and Caslon.)

Before and After talks about using colour to make connections between objects. Very useful to remember in designing posters, and displaying data.

Here’s a fun article about secrets hidden in plain sight in logos. I knew a couple, like the FedEx arrow, but there were lots that I didn’t know.

Note, though, that the article gets the story behind the BMW logo wrong (it’s not a propellor). But perhaps it can be forgiven, as BMW’s own histories have sometimes mucked up the truth!

Merry Christmas!

18 December 2014

Critique: The golden blogosphere

This poster comes from Joel Topf. Click to enlarge!

The idea of the layout is good. Having the text all concentrated in one short summary that looks like it can be read quickly may help viewers who want to skim. But some of this advantages are defeated because the poster is still extremely dense. For instance:

The address breaks the grid by curling around to the right of the “Introduction” heading. Those are too close. Each one is a separate element, and deserves its own defined space. Instead, the two sections are overlapping in space, and they will look better if separated.

A similar problem occurs with the bottom graph: its space is invaded by the graphs above. This is particularly noticeable where the “Total number of posts” graph (gray box) comes close to touching the blue data line in the graph below.

The text looks pretty brief, but wonder if it could be edited down even more. For example, I took this from 41 words:

Nephrology bloggers are rarely compensated and their writing is not usually considered part of academic production in regards to advancement. Without obvious advantages for the blogger, I thought that bloggers must thrive on internal enthusiasm and it may wane over time.

To 30:

Academic blogging is not usually rewarded in career advancement (e.g., tenure and promotion ). This suggests bloggers are intrinsically motivated, but this may wane if there are no extrinsic rewards.

The more you can edit, the more space you can open up.

I wanted a bit more guidance for all the data on the right side of the poster, so that I know what is being shown here. Some one sentence summaries next to the three main sections would be welcome.

The colours in the table are not explained anywhere. I am guessing “green”means statistically significant, and “orange” means... a decline in posts over time? Maybe that could be mentioned in the main text at the left.

The table is big and dense. Again, I wonder if it could be simplified, either graphically (first step: remove the vertical gridline!) or even removed. If I’m reading it right, some of the information in the table is repeated in the graphs to the right of the table.

The last line of the table - “Totals” - appears to be incorrect. It looks like most of those entries are means, not totals.

Also, the text mentions 30 blogs, but only 22 are plotted.

Where the QR code goes is a mystery. It’s a helps to tell people what they’ll get by scanning a code. Further, the bit.ly short link goes to the same site as the QR code. I suggest picking just one. I lean towards keeping just the QR code, because I have yet to see anyone type in that complicated alphanumeric short URL. But if both were left on the poster, I’d try to make the bit.ly URL the same width as the QR code.

Additional: Joel provides a well mannered response to my critique.

External links

Nephrology Blogosphere poster

11 December 2014

Wrap it up, I'll take it

I'm always on the lookout for re-use of posters, and Elizabeth Sandquist has a seasonal one:

04 December 2014

Critique: Sex models

Yes, I totally went for the gutter headline in introducing this poster from Amanda Whitlock. This poster is used with her permission. You can click to enlarge!

Amanda included this note in her email:

After reading your blog, I switched from using Powerpoint to Scribus and have become a huge convert and evangelist on its behalf.

I’m so pleased there is one less person in the world using PowerPoint for posters!

Amanda’s poster has a clean design. It starts with my favourite “hard to mess it up” layout: three columns, equal size.

I recently read an article that argued that anytime you overlay text on a picture, it should always be white text on top of the image. That message might be a good one for all poster makers. Especially when viewing this poster at a reduced size, I’m worried that the title (90% of your communication effort!) is barely visible. I tried a quick and dirty replacement of the black with white:

The edges of the text are badly pixelated because of the way I inverted the colours, but the title is more visible. Let’s try the same to the headings:

The difference is harder to see, but might be more obvious if made in the original document. The headings would also benefit from a bit of additional work to ensure that they are all evenly spaced. “Conclusions” looks closer to the bottom of its bar than “Results,” for example.

The same goes for the vertical alignment. A line that misses the letters in “Conclusion” hits letters in “References,” for instance.

While the poster has plenty of images and white space, it is a shame that the critical upper left corner is the least visually appealing part of the whole poster, with only text.

If you can’t see the title, and there is only words and data, it’s unlikely to gather any new readers who just happened to be walking by. While this poster will not make anyone cringe when they walk past it, they might just... walk past it.