27 December 2012

Link roundup for December 2012

Wired has a collection of the best scientific figures of the year, in their estimation. I think the authors may be more impressed by the volume of information in these figures than by their design.

I want to know more about this project. It’s a new typeface, designed with people who have learning disabilities in mind. It’s called FS Me. I’d love to know how the choices they made were intended to increase readability.

Business cards are helpful ways to turn meetings in front of posters into contacts and netwokring. Victoria LaBalme talks about the importance of making your business card unique.

The big news in logos was the redesign of the University of California logo. Honestly, I liked the redesign. But many people did not. Regardless, however, I appreciate this post from Armin Vit (hat tip to Ellen Lupton), to which I add emphasis:

A logo, actually, is nothing. It’s useless. It derives meaning from what it represents. I’ve said this before: The Nike swoosh logo is shit. It’s a clunky checkmark. People think it’s great but it’s not. It’s the amazing athletes and their stories that Nike has associated with over the decades. It’s the quality products. It’s the great ads. It’s not the logo. If all these UC students think that this logo defines them then they have no self-worth. Their actions and their words define the logo. And, right now, what these people are saying and doing, reflects that UC is a bunch of cry-babies. Shut up. Let professionals do their work.

This battle was lost.

What figures look like to colour blind people. Here’s my post on this matter.

And, on a lighter note, the Comic Sans Project.

20 December 2012

Critique: Infrared

Today’s poster was submitted by Jessica Moore, who is manager of Center of Excellence in Nanomedicine at the University of California, San Diego.

There is way too much stuff going on around the title. You have a text based logo, a lot of names, and headings in boxes, and the title isn't that much bigger than those to "pop". People won't be able to pick out the title at a glans and walk by.

I do appreciate that there are lots of graphics here, but my first impression was that they are complicated and intimidating graphics. This is the first poster I've seen for the blog where I've thought, "This almost feels as intimidating as a bunch of long paragraphs of text." Part of that may be my unfamiliarity with the material, I admit.

The reading flow is understandable, but again, still fairly complicated. You have a lot of "bits and pieces" that makes it unclear of the order you need to look at things.

With a quick look, I can’t figure out either the question or the take home message.

13 December 2012

Critique: Debris discs

Today’s poster is from Sara Barber from the University of Oklahoma, and is used with her permission. Click the image below to enlarge it!

This is a clean design, so the comments are fairly subtle.

Having the headings right aligned is... unusual. This is the sort of thing I generally don’t recommend, purely because it violates our normal reading conventions. The red lines do help distinguish the sections, though, so this is not a fatal problem.

In the author list, I recommended scaling the size of the superscripts down a bit. They currently seem to be the same size as the name they’re next to, and they’re a little distracting. Author names are more important than superscripts, so should be bigger.

I suggested putting a little more space between the bullets and the first letter of the following text. It’s a little tight in there in this version. For the second level of bullets, the bullets look a little dainty next to the text, and might be increased in size a smidgen.

The “Frequency of debris disks” box needed a little typographic massaging. The plus and minus numbers are a little larger, and a little closer, than comfortable. I was not a fan of the box around that, either. The size and the red colour alone is highlight enough. This would be particularly true if the “Figure” captions were in plain old black; then the red alone would be enough for the “Frequency” text to say, “I’m important!”

After reading my recommendations, she was kind enough to send back this revised version:

Again, the differences are subtle. When you can see one poster right after the other, or one superimposed on the other, each change does help make the poster look better.

The animated below GIF below, which superimposes the before and after posters, loops three times, then stops. If you see no movement, reload the image or the page,

06 December 2012

Giving posters to schools

One of the issues with conference posters is that they are usually one-shot deals.

You design the poster. You print the poster. You have the poster up for a few hours or days at the conference. And... then what?

Why not donate them to schools?

Science Café in Little Rock gives conference posters from the local universities to high school classes.

I like this idea. Academics in universities often forget how much we have in terms of information and resources. I also like the notion that students can see the kinds of projects that are going on by local scientists. This would even be more powerful is the poster shows research by undergraduate students, so that high school students can see that making real research contributions need not be in the far future, a decade or more away, but something that is right around the corner.

Hat tip to Will Slaton. Photo by Argonne National Laboratory on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.