15 April 2018

Giving credit to designers

It’s nice when people spread the news of good work:

Emily Jones, grad student at University of Dayton, presented a poster on her field work plan for exotic species interactions in a Texas coastal prairie.


This got sent my way on the twittersphere (hat tip to Meghan Duffy) because it is a very nice looking poster.
Her stunning poster was co-designed with an undergrad graphic artist as part of a class. How cool!
But several people (including Andrea Kirkwood and Hannah Brazeau) mentioned that if the design is noteworthy enough to mention, maybe throw in the names of the students doing that design, too?

The designers’ names are on the poster, up at the top under the title, which is great to see.

I know from some people working with illustrators that the people making those graphics often significantly help bring clarity on the conceptual side, too. Good designers are often colleagues, and should be given that level of credit, not just down in the “Acknowledgements” fine print.

Graphic design work is hard work.

Update, 16 April 2018: Chelse Prather talks more about this collaboration. She writes:

People seemed excited about the posters that we've made collaborating with a class of University of Daytone undergrad graphic designers (design faculty leading the course: Misty Thomas-Trout & Kathy Kargl) the past couple of years. ... The idea from this just arose from befriending a like-minded, awesome graphic designer (Misty Thomas-Trout). We have had a great time working with these design students that want to portray our science in a way that is more approachable to the general public an other scientists!

Yay #sciart collaborations!



As much as I love the posters presented in the thread, I hesitate to call it “science art.” Just like calling something “science” turns off a certain group of people who think they can’t do it, the tag “art” can do the same thing for scientists. They hear “art,” think of “fine art,” and go into the “I can’t draw” death spiral that leads them to not even try.

05 April 2018

Critique: Calcretes

Today’s poster is from kindly contributor Jessica von der Meden. Click to enlarge!


One of the most distinctive features of this poster is that there’s a title, or perhaps a subtitle, running down the right hand side. I’ve often toyed with the idea of placing a title on the side of a poster rather than the top, but have always chickened out. I imagined that on a wider than tall landscape style poster, not a portrait style poster, which gets turned sideways to fit. I like the sideways title for its style, but it’s impractical to read.

The main body of the poster has six boxes, with white lines around each one. The white lines are, luckily, thin, so they are not as obtrusive as I’ve sometimes seen. But the boxes would benefit from having more space, and more consistent space, around them. The horizontal margins between left and right boxes are wider than the horizontal margins between up and down boxes, for instance.

For a second, I thought I would try cutting those six boxes down to two vertical boxes. That, I thought, would emphasize the column structure, and remove some of the unnecessary elements, clearing it up.

Then I looked again, and recognized that there are numbers in the text boxes. This poster is meant to be read in rows, not columns.

There are two problems. First, boxes 1, 3, and 5 have a consistent width. So do 2, 4, and 6. That creates the visual impression that they are grouped together. If you want me to read across, adjacent boxes (i.e., 1 and 2, 3 and 4) need have a consistent height to signal they are in rows.

The poster tries to compensate for the visual gestalt with the numbers by each heading, but that’s also a problem. Guides have to be prominent, and these numbers are not “popping” like they need to. They are more important than the heading, but nothing about them indicates their place in that heirarchy. They are the same weight and same colour, which makes them vanish into “Something at the top of the box.”

Making the numbers bold would help. Making them bigger would help. Putting them in a circle with a contrast colour would help even more. Maybe more like this:


When listing the author credits, why have superscripts behind each author name if all authors are from the same institution?

The photo background behind the title works, because the dark trees fit almost perfectly between the title and the authors. But the image is repeated down in the references, with less good results. Those dark trees cross right through the text, and that’s more distracting.

Finally, I’ve never been a fan of arrowhead bullets. They always look too fussy to me.