From the 10th to the 13th I was in beautiful Edinburgh for the 3rd Annual Student Archaeology conference, presenting the poster (shown below) and a paper (to be discussed in a subsequent post) on the “Archaeology of Elegy”.

As a quick preface “Elegy for a Dead World” is a video-game produced by Dejobaan in 2014. In the game you play as a xeno-archaeologist exploring and writing about the world – either guided by various prompts provided by the game designers (ranging from #thismuseumsux through scientific accounts and prompts derived from romantic era poets). The research that I had done was into how gamers were using this space – how were they approaching the archaeology? What influenced their processes? How had the game based media facilitated or confined their approaches? What correlations exist to the real world? (check out the tumblr ARCHAEOLOGY OF ELEGY for an overview of some of the things that are being talked about)

The poster aimed to quickly overview the approach and three of the key results in a way which was contextual to the game and acted as a visual aid to draw people in for further discussion – to this end it was deliberately designed to be aesthetically pleasing and intriguing rather than systematic or text-focussed. The poster can be seen below:


downscaled poster - archaeology of elegy

downscaled poster – archaeology of elegy

Not going to lie, I was pretty proud of how the poster looked printed out and pinned up – but as more and more of the posters came to be hung I grew more and more apprehensive about the design. It was a far cry from the traditional and rather formal designs which surrounded it, and I worried that perhaps (as has occurred many times in the past) I had been a little too radical with not only the choice of topic but the mode of presentation and that people would hate it (and by extention hate me). BUT!

I was thrilled, given this apprehension at being a little bit of the odd one out, when the design was called up for winning the “Best Poster” award for the conference – the prize for which was a book on Iron Age settlements graciously provided by the Society of Antiquaries Scotland.

I received some fantastic feedback from the judges as well as the other presenters / conference goers with the poster acting as somewhat of an anchor point for further discussions about the possibilities and pitfalls of poster design for the humanities. The remainder of this post will give a quick overview to the design of the poster.

Aim of Poster: To spark interest in elegy and demonstrate preliminary findings in an engaging way.

Time taken to design and produce: 7ish hours

Made in: Photoshop

Discussion: I had originally wanted to use the games typing interface as the presentation method to tie the mechanic into the aesthetic, but after some playing around it became evident that this would not afford the room required for some of the text nor for the pie-charts. Instead I opted to make the text-boxes in shapes and styles drawn from the game-world alongside the font-face used throughout the game. Three separate colour schemes drawn from three discreet areas in the game indicate the three different phases of the poster, with the text in the preceding black spaces being highlighted to match their corresponding picture sections. By integrating the text and charts into the shapes and forms of the game world it was hoped to demonstrate the embedded and emergent nature of the work – it doesn’t simply overlay or exist abstract to the world, it is an inextricable part of the creation, discussion and context of the wider Elegy world-space.

There were some issues with the poster – I was displeased with how much text I still tried to cram onto it and felt it was a little static and removed from something which was discussing interaction, agency and emergence in games. After all there is something quite ironic about trying to take a media form which is all about action and engagement and then remediating it onto a static piece of paper.

Despite these pitfalls I felt that it was an experiment that went in the right direction and achieved the key goals it set out to do. I really enjoy creating posters as it affords a space to be a little bit creative and reimagine your work in a more strongly visual medium.

Huge thank you to Luke Botham for all his assistance and advice during design, to the ASA2015 organisers for putting on such a fantastic event, to the Society of Antiquaries Scotland for their sponsorship of the event (and their really encouraging feedback) and to the CDH, University of York and Aarhus University for giving me the opportunity to research and present on things which I am head over heels in love with.