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In Thesis

By Steven Burrows

Auraria Library Workshop Sit-in (Research)

On 13, Mar 2014 | No Comments | In Thesis | By Steven Burrows

On Travis’ suggestion I attended the Auraria Library Research and Creative Activities Symposium (RCAS) research poster workshop today. The workshop was titled “Creating a Professional Poster” and was aimed at undergraduate research students who would be attending the RCAS or the Undergraduate Research Conference poster sessions.

I hoped that by attending the workshop I would learn how a successful design workshop is run. However, I left disappointed. The presentation was done with poorly designed power point and the poster examples, I felt, were sub-par and employed the same bad design practices I hope to smother with a pillow. (The power point presentation can be found here.)

At first, I thought the workshop was heading down the right path. The first slide stated: “A research poster should communicate, promote, inform, and engage. It should make people stop, read, think and talk to you (the presenter).” However, the following slides were filled with the same bad design and typographic crimes that have plagued the research community over the years.

I should not have been surprised though; the workshop was led by a Social Science Researcher and Instruction Librarian—not a designer. At the end, she even asked me to offer suggestions to the workshop participants on ways to improve their designs (she knew ahead of time I was doing research for my design thesis). I hope my 5-minute spiel helped some of them, since I wasn’t prepared to talk during someone else’s workshop.

While the information she provided as to what needed to be on the poster was useful (the conference/symposium audiences are mostly other researchers, not the general public), the design was lacking or very bad examples were shown when trying to convey “good” design practices. Generally the examples had extremely small type — and LOTS of it — in cluttered and un-aligned text boxes. Generally, I did not see any kind of visual flow or typographic hierarchy. In my opinion, the posters were illegible and boring.

In an academic setting, this type of poster design is generally accepted and expected. For my workshop objective, giving researchers the tools or awareness to better communicate to non-researchers, I think the posters resulting posters need to be visually appealing. They should draw the audience in. No one really wants to read the posters, so minimize the type. The audience really just wants to talk to the presenter about their researcher. They want the story.