WANTED: Poster

March 11, 2018

Sooner or later you will be asked to do a presentation, one requiring a full display of your creative and oratorical skills. So how do you overwhelm your audience if your greatest skill heretofore has been talking behind the backs of your coworkers?

The answer is the poster. Yes, that stalwart of boardrooms and bedrooms, the poster offers style, format, color, readability, attractiveness and showmanship—traits that, when properly applied, can easily camouflage your lack of knowledge.

Here, then, is my brief guide through the do’s and don’ts of creating an effective poster, one that, if followed to the letter, will spellbind your audiences and confound your critics. So let’s get started!


DON’T create your poster on just one or two large boards, especially billboards; they’re clumsy and a real nuisance to lug around. Billboards frequently don’t fit well into a glove box. They strain your muscles and your patience, and when they fall down, they generally tend to crush anyone standing beneath them.

DO make up your poster in a large number of separate sections of roughly comparable size. However, resist the temptation to shape each section irregularly so as to resemble a jigsaw puzzle. Mount each section individually on a colored board of its own of slightly larger dimensions; this frames each poster segment with a nice border. Where the borders are restricted, enhance them with barbed wire.

DON’T vary type sizes and typefaces, especially in the same sentence.

DO design your poster as though it were the layout for a magazine. Select fonts and sizes that work well together and dismiss the ones that don’t with only a week’s severance.

DON’T use too small a type size for your poster. This is the single most common error, aside from writing in crayon. Using 8- or 10-point type will only please your optometrist. And never, ever, use 2-point type except under a court order.

DO use a type size that draws a crowd around your poster. Failing that, offer free beer.

DON’T pick a font simply because it was the only one left after all the others had paired off. More importantly, avoid the urge to choose a font where the lower-case ‘m’ resembles a rear view of someone bending over at the waist.

DO, by all means, use colors in your poster. But always try to use them without letting them know they’re being used.

DON’T leave people wondering who did the work. Put the names of all authors and their institutional affiliations just below the title. It’s also a nice touch to include the full names of any correctional institutions they may have attended.

DO use a high-quality laser printer to print your poster. Where funding is an issue, select someone with good penmanship. Also, consider adjusting the kerningthe space between each letter—to reduce the risk from pickpockets.


DON’T use sexist language. Avoid gender-specific words, as in this example: “Anyone who parked in Lot 3 will have his car removed.” Instead, make this gender-neutral with: “Anyone who parked in Lot 3 is fired.”

DO consider adding a helpful tutorial section to your poster, complete with photos taken with a hidden camera and instructions on where to leave the cash.

DON’T use chalk outlines to represent the competition.

DO give credit where it is due; just do so in a low voice.

DON’T expect anyone to spend more than three minutes looking at your poster. If they do, check to see if you still have your wallet.

DO be descriptive. Remember, you are not limited to 50 words—unless it exceeds your vocabulary.

DON’T forget the Rule Of Three, which says that things repeated three times are more likely to be remembered. Don’t forget the Rule Of Three, which says that things repeated three times are more likely to be remembered. Don’t forget the Rule Of Three, which says that things repeated three times are more likely to be remembered.


DO treat people you encounter with courtesy and respect; however, do not follow them home.

DON’T stand too close to the audience; it’s much easier to deflect objects when they are hurled at you from a distance.

DO realize that a poster should be accessible. A little informality can be helpful, but stop short of calling everyone “baby.”

DON’T put your hands in the pockets of your sport coat if you’re not actually wearing your sport coat.

DO offer a firm handshake to everyone in the audience; this should leave little time for your presentation and get you off the hook.

DON’T fidget or slouch, especially if you are lying on the floor.

DO ask for clarification if you do not understand someone’s question. Then ask again and again and again until they tire of speaking to you.

DON’T use correction fluid to hide a pimple.

DO offer to explain complex formulae as soon as you get back from break. Then take off.

DON’T tease the audience; it can only come back to haunt you later on when, after the presentation, they are outside waiting for you with baseball bats.


Quora question: Is the book ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ a satire of the current world? How?

November 14, 2017

My response:

With all due respect to the respondent Michael Masiello, I disagree with his contention that George Orwell’s 1984 was not a satire and solely a prophecy. 1984 was, in fact, both.

In a letter Orwell penned to critics of the book, he stated, “I do not believe that the kind of society I describe necessarily will arrive, but I believe (allowing of course for the fact that the book is a satire) that something resembling it could arrive.”[1]

1984 extends the theme of centralized control—as seen in Britain of the late 1940s, as well as in Stalinist Russia—to its extreme in order to shed light upon the body politic as an unassailable aggregate. This plays well today with an obtuse American president who bemoans the fact that he cannot influence the judicial and legislative branches of government, except through implicit tweets of retribution.

Orwell did see the rubric of state policy as a conflation of rigid politics and the degradation of language—this was emblematic of the state of post-War Britain and is certainly the extant theme in the United States in 2017. Today’s sanctimonious overseers of public speak had their Orwellian antecedents in his “Thought Police.”

The overarching themes of fascism and communism have become less prominent on the world stage with the dissolution of the Soviet empire and China’s cross-pollination of communism with Western capitalism. But their underlying principles still exist, having morphed into an elected demagogue who stands atop a totem of political illiteracy and rabid xenophobia.


Quora question: What are some ugly truths of life?

October 20, 2017

My response:

  • Your elliptical trainer will get more use as a coat hanger.
  • Canadian bacon is just a thick slab from the fat rump of a pig bred in New Jersey.
  • Pigeons that are referred to as “flying rats” are actually descendants of doves defeated in the last election.
  • New York-style pizza gets its unique taste from New York City water, where the minerals produced by decomposing bodies add a distinctive flavor.
  • A red stop sign is a suggestion.
  • Prison pants—those worn far below the waist—are not intended for anyone who has gone commando.
  • Candlepin bowling does not involve wax candles.
  • Maximum effort is the quickest way to a hernia.
  • The roadway sign “Drawbridge” is not a command.
  • You will take a taxi that has a credit card reader but, at the end of your trip, be told by the cabbie that you have to fork over the cash because the machine doesn’t work.

Quora question: What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?

October 17, 2017

My response:  Driving across the country with a 10-year-old who just learned to whistle.

Quora question: How do I convince my father to stop being racist? He refuses evidence with fallacies or saying it’s fake news or liberals and believes I don’t know what I’m talking about. He now believes in Prenology and believes everything Trump says. Please help

October 17, 2017

My response:

You may not like my answer but I am going to tell you not to try to convince him of anything. There is no easy step-by-step method of ridding someone of racism.

As obdurate as your father is, employing logic and exposing the underbelly of his racist ideology only hardens his intolerant stance. His core values are far too weak to withstand any assault of common sense, thus he becomes the zealot, more fanatically narrow-minded with each threat to his false sense of the truth.

That indelible stain you see on your father’s psyche is his own fragile sense of self. Who he is and what it means to be a White person today are questions he cannot easily answer.

In the past, successful or intellectual minorities were considered that odd flick of the flame, easily dismissed as an aberration. A facile mind was a threat because the presumption was that non-Whites were a blank intellectual canvas onto which one “uppity” individual might paint a picture of nascent equality.

This fear has grown exponentially as the myth of an intellectual gap has faded. And with the election of Barack Obama, a Black man, as president, there could no longer be any support for your father’s deigning of minorities as inferior.

So, rather than expend your energy on a man wallowing in his own pitiable shallowness, I ask that you focus on what you can do to further racial tolerance.

As the saying goes, if you see something, say something. This does not mean putting yourself in harm’s way. It means when a conversation turns on a derogatory racial remark, walk away; that gesture alone makes it clear you will not be party to bigotry.

As you have already recognized, the real battlefront is people’s minds. If one considers the idea that racial harmony is in the public’s best interest, it is easier to embrace diversity. Promoting the inimitable beauty of racial diversity doesn’t necessarily mean organizing protests against racial injustice; it can start with a seemingly insignificant gesture, such as treating an individual of a different race with fairness.

Once you decide that racial equality as inviolable right afforded all human beings, your own actions will follow. And you will become that example by which others seek to follow.

Quora question: I haven’t been on a date in 3 years. Now have one next week. What am I supposed to do?

October 16, 2017

My response:

First, relax. You’re not emerging from hibernation; the world has not changed that dramatically since the last time you enjoyed someone else’s company.

Don’t assume you have to prepare a list of things to say or do. The only preparation necessary is one of hygiene.

Lastly, be yourself. Regardless of how you got the date, the point now is for the two of you—yes, not just you—to enjoy the occasion. A date that involves an activity in a shared setting—a movie, a concert, bowling (yes, bowling!), etc.—is a great way to ease into a conversation and learn about one another.

But remember, this is not a session on the psychiatrist’s couch. Do not feel a need to reveal every minute detail of your life in the midst of discussing a film plot.

Have fun.

Quora question: What was your weirdest, scariest, or funniest Halloween moment?

October 16, 2017

My response:

While living in New York City, I was in the Village watching the Halloween Parade. This annual event always brings out the eccentricity as well as the creativity of its participants.

On this occasion, a fellow strutted up Sixth Avenue dressed as the Statue of Liberty, including a trellis of scaffolding, as the real statue was undergoing renovation at the time.

Ah, Greenwich Village…

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