Evolution of a Poster

I’m going to be participating in the poster session at the IA Summit in a couple of weeks.

Having never created this kind of poster before, I spent a lot of time thinking about it. The fun part of the project has been thinking about all the things I want to say about the actual/potential impact of social software on information architecture. In the materials I submitted, I said my poster will “map the emerging social software landscape in the context of content flow, and explore how information architecture can serve “selfish” ends and enrich the larger information ecology.”

The less fun part of thinking about my poster was worrying about being humiliated in public because I know everyone else doing a poster is a designer. My inability to draw or even beat Visio into proper poster-generating submission will be held against me, and my whole line of thinking will then of course be suspect, and all the cool IA kids will mock me.

(If you are not interested in IA or social software or any library-science related geeky pursuits, you’ll just have to trust me that my poster idea is something worth having conversations about, and that yes, there are cool IA kids.)

So finally, I asked for help with my poster. Which meant talking to Anna Simmons, whizbang designer, who also works for the Intuit Innovation Lab. She helped me push my thinking, and she knows how to use all those slick Adobe products, so my poster won’t look like it was color xeroxed from crayon scribbles on a scratch pad.

In the interest of web geeky posterity — or at least in the interest of morbid curiousity of other who may choose to go down this poster-creating path — here’s how my ideas got out of my head and into pixels, and soon onto paper:

poster sketch

I tried to map out all the elements I was thinking about — the social software sites to include, and what the attributes of each were. I wasn’t worried (too much, yet) about what everything would look like, I just wanted to assemble all the pieces. Tags are the comment element.

poster sketch

Anna and I brainstorm about the poster, and she starts sketching. I also draw on the paper, so that is why it looks kind of funky. He we are thinking through the self vs community aspects, and starting to talk about a produce / consume content loop.

poster sketch

We talk about how we want the poster to have visual impact from a distance — not a text-heavy poster, but an eye-catching one. I want it to spark good conversations at the poster session, not squinting at small print. Anna sketches this spiral with social software nodes, and the self vs community aspect is on the side.

poster sketch

The next day, I go back through my notes and Anna’s sketches, and I create with this sketch. I sent it to Anna with this note:

In my head I see in the final version from a distance, the big eye-catching spiral. A little closer, and you can see the content blobs on the spiral, then you notice the “me” in the center and the “crowd” on the outside. Closer still, you see the whole thing takes places with this consume > produce loop. Standing right in front of the poster scrutinizing it, you notice the “me”-generated little content grid, and how the “crowd” content grid is really made up of little “me” grids, making a bigger whole.

poster sketch

Anna whips up something in Illustrator, we post it to the team blog to get some feedback, then tinker with it a little bit more, with this as the final result. [For an even closer look, here’s a PDF version of the poster, and more context in another 1 page PDF.]

If you are going to be at the summmit, stop by on your way to the munchies at the reception Saturday evening.

Update

Thanks to good feedback, the poster has gone through another iteration:

poster sketch

Tags, and the connections and discoveries they make possible, weren’t explicit in previous versions. After some good conversations, I came up with this networked nodes approach.

poster thumbnail

This is what the final poster will look like. Here’s another scaled-down PDF version

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