This category showcases some of the creative poster designs from around the University in support of teaching, research and outreach. The IT Learning Centre delivers poster workshops to many departments, and a number of entries were from workshop participants. This year nearly 50 posters were entered in the competition and are on view in our online exhibition.
As in previous years, it was thought appropriate to award prizes in two categories: Best Poster and Most Innovative Poster.
Winner: Hanna Smyth for Material Culture of Remembrance and Identity
Hanna says: The purpose of this poster was to convey the key arguments of my thesis to an international audience of First World War scholars who specialise in non-European perspectives. The poster is structured to echo my thesis structure: the box at the top contains my overall thesis argument, while the four parallel boxes below present the key messages of each of my four chapters-in-progress. It was crucial to me to have the four boxes parallel: my thesis is structured thematically, rather than chronologically (or geographically), so there is not a linear progression from first to last chapter.
I adamantly did not want my poster layout to give a misleading impression to the contrary. I put the title, my contact info and the Oxford logo all on the right side of the poster because the downward slant of the memorial in the image makes that side heavier; to put those extra elements on the light side would have felt jarring to the viewer. I liked how the blue sky ties to the blue of the Oxford logo, while the clouds continue the white/grey theme that predominates on the rest of the poster.
Since I research memorials and cemeteries, my thesis is heavily based in and upon material and visual culture; I wanted an evocative image as the backdrop to emphasise this. The image I featured was taken by me in April 2016, and is of the Vimy Memorial, Canada’s national First World War monument in France. The image features the largest sculpture on the memorial, the 30-tonne ‘Mother Canada mourning her fallen sons’, overlooking the empty tomb at the base of the monument. I thought the composition of the photo, with the large expanse of blank wall, lent itself well to being superimposed with text. The inclusion of both memorial and tomb in the same photo also reinforces a key theme of my thesis that the poster elucidates: the relationship between them. Another key theme is represented by the Mother Canada figure: the relationship between the individual and the collective in First World War mourning. She is an individual figure, but marshals a collective identity as a personification of a grieving nation.
The judges say: We were all immediately attracted to Hanna’s poster. The bold image, carefully composed, works so well with the poster’s content and layout.
Runner-up: Susila Davis for Where Are We Going and How Do We Get There?
Susila says: My study focuses on teachers’ use of Pathways – an online technology platform designed by the Oxford University Press for school improvement and professional development purposes – and schools’ improvement journeys and histories in context. This poster attempts to communicate, to teachers, headteachers and other researchers, all five schools’ improvement journeys in my study and their engagement with Pathways over time.
My original contribution to the field lies in the use of approaches to human navigation to describe schools’ journeys and leaders’ choices of routes towards individual school improvement goals – a link not explicitly made in the literature to date. The theme is based around plotting a route somewhere, with a kind of ‘dashboard’ feel.
Many different metaphors have been used previously in the research literature to illustrate school improvement – e.g. the nurturing and care of schools and teams as growing, living organisms; a systems approach with inputs (students’ prior attainment and contexts) and outputs (e.g. exam outcomes) and creating a painting/artwork (likened to an ‘improved school’) – where the images and interpretation may change over time). I’ve used these metaphors as inspiration and added elements of time, direction and space – as schools usually have a finite period of time to improve – particularly if they’ve been given a low Ofsted grade, and within certain conditions and contexts, meeting specific criteria leading towards certain goals and priorities. Each school has a route, perhaps one they’ve followed before and are used to (more of an ‘allocentric’ representation); a route that is dynamically mapped as they go along depending on their current position (an ‘egocentric’ view) or a new route that might be more risky but potentially yield higher gains (perhaps a mixture of allocentric and egocentric).
The judges say: The colours in Susila’s poster ‘pop’ off the dark background. The wheel motif at the left, rolls the reader’s attention around the elements in the body of the poster. A much busier poster than Hanna’s, but guaranteed to get the attention of anyone passing by.
Most Innovative Poster
Winner: David Lo for Main Group Compounds for Activation of Small Molecules
David says: The purpose of the poster is to showcase my research results in the Challenges in Inorganic Chemistry Conference, organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry. I have incorporated Mondrian’s style in my poster. I love Mondrian’s style with its use of simple forms of geometry, straight lines and colours. Since this layout is different from traditional academic posters, it draws people’s attention to my research and makes more people engage with its content.
The judges say: We all recognised the source of David’s inspiration for his poster design and admired the way that he had worked the content of his research into the layout. The innovation here is the merging of of a very well recognised art form with a very technical treatise and the way David has identified the potential within that art form to order and categorise his reaserch.
Runner-up: Hannah Allum for So… You Want to Move Your Collections?
Hannah says: The onus of moving museum collections, on any scale, can be a daunting task. There are many documented case studies, as well as disaster-ridden anecdotes, in the museums sector literature. These can be useful when considering the specific needs of an upcoming relocation project but as yet there is not a readily available resource, or toolkit, that can be called upon as a planning template for natural history collections moves.
This poster was created as a way of highlighting this issue and gathering information in a more formal way at a conference attended by those most able to contribute and benefit from the outcomes. Firstly, the poster gives some details of the recent move of mixed collections (approximately 17,000 specimens and objects) at Oxford University Museum of Natural History between multiple off-site stores. For the majority of museums the collections on display only account for approximately 1-5% of the actual collections. The rest are kept in storage and, contrary to popular belief, are in constant use for curatorial work, university teaching, research and public engagement.
Secondly, and more critically, we gathered information from conference attendees about what would make a useful toolkit for other museums that have been asked to move their collections. This information will be assessed for use in a publication, including a literature review and useable resource, to be submitted and disseminated via the Journal of Natural Science Collections.
The design of the poster is deliberately simple and image-rich. The colour theme, font and logos are complementary to the design guidelines of OUMNH, and the size is A1. The ‘dodo’ bullet points are part of the Museum’s logo. The picture collages, all of which were taken during the project, were designed to be covered with ‘Post-it’ notes filled in by conference attendees, interaction with the poster presenter and for participants to see each other’s responses. Also provided were feedback forms, with matching design, to allow for more comprehensive responses and to be circulated via a subject specialist mailing list following the event for those who could not attend or respond at the time.
The judges say: Although Hannah’s poster is very accomplished, it isn’t the design that we found so innovative as the way the poster is used to encourage readers to interact with it, leaving their thoughts and observations on sticky notes, that in turn become key elements of the poster!