29 December 2011

Link roundup, December 2011

Trust someone from a mathematical science institute to think outside the box by creating a box. It’s a 3-D poster! Also known as, a, er, cube. Winner of the most interesting thing on conference posters I’ve seen this month. Read the whole story on the Cosmology at AIMS blog.
A post from 2007 on justifying text that is still relevant. Making justified text look good is a tricky business.

So many ways to abuse pie charts...

22 December 2011

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Last year, I posted the instructions for turning conference posters into a winter wonderland. But I left it too close to Christmas, and nobody noticed. This year, I plugged the instructions earlier in December, and it got a lot more attention than last year. As a result...

I got this one from Brian Dranka:

As for me, this poster (featured back in May):

Got turned into this:

There was still something missing, though...

Aaaaah. That’s better.

Merry Christmas, and happy holidays!

Related posts

Deck the halls with conference posters, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-laaaaa...

15 December 2011

Board numbers

Dear conference organizers:

If you’re going to mount big numbers of poster boards in such a way that the poster presenters can’t easily move them around (like, say, stapling them to the board), make sure you tell your presenters the size of the board minus the size that the poster number takes up.

An actual poster board may be 48 by 72 inches. But if the board number is 4 by 8 inches, that effective working space for the poster maker is 44 by 66 inches.

08 December 2011

Burn your tables

ResearchBlogging.orgA new paper provides empirical evidence for something that many people, like Edward Tufte, have been saying for years: graphs and figures are better than tables.

Cook and Teo took the results of statistical simulations, and presented them to people in the form of graphs or tables. Everyone were able to answer questions about the data more quickly using a graph. Less experienced people (i.e., undergraduates compared to postgraduates) were able to make more accurate statements about the results when presented in a graph rather than a table.

They note that many journals print tables that make matters even worse. Tables often have far too many significant digits, and readers are often asked to make comparisons horizontally, rather than vertically.

If you are thinking of putting a table on your poster: burn it.


Cook A, Teo S. 2011. The communicability of graphical alternatives to tabular displays of statistical simulation studies. PLoS ONE 6(11): e27974. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027974

Photo by cranky messiah of Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.

01 December 2011

Fabric posters in the wild

I saw more fabric posters at Neuroscience 2011 than I had seen at other meetings. This was no doubt due to the larger contingent of international visitors who wanted the better portability than big clunky document tubes.

But how do fabric posters perform on the conference room floor? Not as well as paper.

Compared to paper posters, fabric posters:

Don’t lie as flat. Fabric posters are shipped to you, folded, in a box. They’ve got creases in them when you take them out of the box. Folds and creases mean that there will be shadows running all over your poster, unless you are blessed with phenomenal lighting conditions. Details can get easily obscured by the dark spots. This might be alleviated if you put in the effort to iron your poster before heading to the conference center.

Don’t count on pulling the corners taut with tacks to save you. Fabric stretches, even the sort of light weave used for printing, so I expect getting those creases out just by tight tacking is incredibly difficult. Fabrics want to wrinkle and sag; paper doesn’t.

Aren’t as bright. The fabric posters I walked by looked a little dimmer and lower contrast than paper posters. I’d written before about the sharpness of images on fabric posters, but the conferences I had seen them in were much smaller than Neuroscience, and I was generally closer to the posters than when I was browsing through the Neuroscience halls.

If you make a fabric poster, everything must be bigger and bolder than paper. Bigger text, bigger figures, and high contrast colours. Don’t mess around with subtleties.

P.S.—I don’t have any pictures of these posters from Neuroscience, because the Society for Neuroscience was very... emphatic... about forbidding picture taking and recording from the floor of the poster session.

Related posts

Cut from whole cloth
Fade out

Picture by softestthing on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.

Note: This post was in the queue before Gerty Z wrote her blog post about fabric posters.