The annual BAAL Conference is this week, at Warwick, but for once I was not worried about getting my paper ready. I proposed a poster, and in May I had done an hour-long plenary on the same topic at a conference on Medical Communication at the University of Bergamo (the written paper will come out in the proceedings of that conference). Here are the slides from the talk: Download MedTwitterCERLIS180614
So all I had to do was to update some of the details and examples. Yeah, and cram one hour of talk onto an A0 sheet of paper in a readable font, in a layout that makes sense. I haven't done a poster in about ten years, so I had to discover or rediscover a lot of the basics.
- I started with an A4 PowerPoint slide. I don't know if that is the usual software to use now, but it was ten years ago, and it still seems like an easy way to move elements around on one page.
- A very helpful page at Lancaster University Information Services told me I should lay it out A4 size and blow it up when I print it. They suggested 18 pt font for the main heading, and 6 pt for the text, to get 72 pt and 24 pt when enlarged.
- I chose portrait layout, because I had the idea of introductory stuff and overview above, examples in boxes below. Also, I recall that nearly all BAAL posters are portrait layout.
- I started, of course, by leaving out lots and slots of stuff. I took some key slides from the talk, edited them down into just four key boxes, and arranged them in the middle of the page in a square. It was helpful at this point to us the grid in Powerpoint to align them.
- The key pointI was making in the talk was that most examples actually fall between these four boxes. So logically, the 'hybrid' category would go in the middle. But there wasn't space to do that, so I put these examples below, and added a circle (later an ellipse) in the middle to stand for them.
- Then I put the diagram of my overall model at top centre, partly to break up all this text. In the talk, I'd developed the diagram gradually, starting with a model from Roberts & Sarangi (1999), but here I just gave the last version. Too complex to pick up in the talk, probably, and maybe too complex to pick up on a poster.
- To show the links between the diagram and the data,I gave each of the four boxes in the diagram a different colour of border, and used that colour for the border of the data box below, I moved the data boxes around so that their arrangement corresponded, roughly, to the diagram.
- Then I realised that the little diagram was redundant - the whole poster was the diagram. So I good the arrows and labels out of the diagram above, put them in the main section of the poster, and deleted the little diagram.
- That gave me space in the top middle for my favourite illustration, a cartoon from Monica Lalanda. (I'm not worried that it is in Spanish - anyone can figure it out from the image alone).
- On either side of the cartoon I put boxes for the introduction and methods. These remained empty until almost the last step.
- Then I edited the text in the main data and analysis boxes. There was too much in them, and some of the examples that made sense (I hope) when I explained them orally in the plenary might not make much sense to someone standing in front of a poster.
- I picked out one example from each of the four boxes and put it in a much bigger font, bigger even than the headings in the boxes.
- At this stage, I was still using the default font of Powerpoint, Calabri, which is sans serif. It is clear enough but over-used and boring.
- So I returned to Zen Faulkes' excellent site, Better Posters, and looked for advice on fonts. He says to use sans serif, and not the default of whatever software you are using. He suggests buying a distinctive font package, and his own preference is Helvetica. My examples are from Twitter, so I checked what font was used there (yes, I should have known). It used to be Helvetica Neue (with come controversy when it changed to Gotham). Helvetica Neue is on PowerPoint, so I tried it. The text came out slightly wider and bigger, for the same font size, and it looked better, so I kept that family, using 8 pt bold for headings, 7 pt for the main explanatory text, and 6 pt for analysis and examples.
- As I cut examples and aded explanations, I moved the boxes and arrows around to keep them aligned (the barrows had turned to diamonds at this stage, because arrows were too squashed).
- Most posters seem to put references at the end, or on a handout (usually put on a chair or an envelope at BAAL). I can't picture anyone writing all this stuff down, so I gave a link to a list here on my blog.
- At this stage I still had the one crucial reference, to Roberts & Sarangi. But it took up lots of space in the lower right, and I needed that space for some sort of summary, so I moved that to blog list too (sorry Celia and Srikant), and compressed all the summary slides from my talk into three bullet points.
- I realised that my colour-coded borders were no longer necessary, and were looking rather busy. So I made all the main boxes in the middle blue, to keep them together. The hybrid category at the bottom I made gray. The Summary and reference link box at lour right I made yellow, to pick up the colour of the cartoon at the top.
- Finally I put in the introduction and the methods in their boxes, and did a bit of resizing.
- Here's the draft version: Download MedicalTwitterPosterdraft310814
- So now I need to print it, and see if these font sizes and margins are right.
- Then I'll go to BAAL and look at the other posters, and see what decisions they made about layout and fonts.
My feeling now is that I successfully got some good stuff on the poster, in not-too-crowded layout. But I think it lacks a clear line of reading through it. And I'm not sure that a reader can really reconstruct the argument just by looking at the boxes. And I don't take advantage of the way a poster can present striking visuals. I'll see what people say at the conference.