27 February 2014

Link roundup for February 2014

Why do typefaces make you feel things? Hat tip to Brandy Weidow for this one.

20 February 2014

The excellent, the bad, and the generic

Jillian Deines went looking for inspiration for her posters the way most of us try to solve problems now. She searched on Google. Because Google customizes search results, my hits might not look exactly like hers, but this is what I got when I looked for “scientific posters” (click to enlarge):

Not exactly an inspiring collection. Then, up in the corner, it offers hope!A collection of related images on excellent scientific posters! I visiting those images, and...

Um. I can’t say these stand out as particularly stunning. At the least, most look far too dense.

The first image also offered me a chance to look at bad scientific posters. I went and looked at those, and...

Again, I don’t see a lot of differences in what’s on display in the excellent set of search results, the bad, and the generic.

The lesson here? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s that the difference between a good poster and a bad one is about the details, not the general layout. Maybe it’s that there are very few truly expertly designed posters, for reasons that I’ve discussed on the blog (scientists are amateurs at design, short time frame, and so on).

13 February 2014

Critique: Flowers and seeds

Today’s two posters are from Nicole Soper Gorden, who generously sent these forward. Here’s one of her old ones, which you can click to enlarge:

Nicole calls this poster “perfectly serviceable,” which is an assessment I agree with. She writes:

They have lots of pictures, but are still somewhat boring (and have lots of boxes!)... basically all of my old posters followed the same design, with the same background and color scheme, etc.

The design here is clear: three clean columns, with no ambiguity about what to read next. It is somewhat staid because of the boxes separating all the text, and the text is slightly dense in a couple of places.

About the next poster, which was made for the Ecological Society of America meeting, Nicole wrote:

I tried something completely new, hoping to draw a crowd.

I have to say that it did work as intended – I had a lot of people stop by my poster and say something along the lines of, “Your poster caught my attention from across the room – it‘s so pretty I had to know what it was about!” Yay for results.  :)
This is superb:

I love the big title in the big banner. You simply cannot miss it, which is critical in a big meeting. The Ecological Society of America is one of the bigger biology conferences out there, and the bigger the meeting, the bigger the title needs to be.

I also love the gently curved columns. The margins between make it clear that each one is a column, but the curves add some excellent visual interest. Curves are tricky to lay out, so not many people use them, and fewer use them well. Nicole obviously checked quite carefully to make the text follow the curves closely, so there are no jagged edges or gaps. The layout of the graphs is also very careful, so that they create the “corners about to pop the balloon” tension that I’ve notices in other posters trying to use circles and ovals.

The central column is meant to be read in three rows within the column. This could have been a disaster: changing the reading order can be confusing. The use of headings and dividing lines make the reading order clear.

Within the central column, I might have not used highlight boxes (e.g., the ones showing the highlighted values in the bottom two graphs), and just used the plain text against the blue background.

But while I might do a few things differently, there’s no doubt that this is an extremely well thought-out and beautiful poster. It certainly is an improvement over the one at the top.

Related posts

The eye loves the circle
Critique: Italian cemeteries
Critique: Bison dung fungus

06 February 2014

Wanna do graphics? Pease’s book more about the job than the work

I continue to hunt for introductory books on graphic design to give academics who have avoided anything even closely resembling “art” classes a way into the craft of design. As I wrote before, kids’ books are often great introductions, as they are often more concise and readable than their adult counterparts.

Design Dossier: Graphic Design for Kids covers some of the basic tools like grids, typefaces, and colour. But big chunks of the book are more inspirational than instructional.

A fair amount of the space in the book is devoted to career counseling. It tells the reader, “If you wanted to be a graphic designer as a profession when you grow up, you should...”. Another big chunk of the book is devoted to “Graphic design milestones,” which is a short history. Mostly, it shows decade-by-decade trends, from the art nouveau of the early twentieth century to the current “digital age.”

The book has some playful elements, like interviews with designers printed on big read pull-out cards. There’s also a nice step-by-step case study, and suggested projects.

Because this book is more about graphic design as a job than the work that goes into graphic design, it probably wouldn’t be satisfying for an adult with a job (like an academic) who just needs an introduction to the lingo and major dos and don’ts.

Related posts

Go now! Kidd’s book a wonderful intro