PhD poster – what works is what matters

By Izzie Latham

In a recent blog post a colleague reported on a webinar I gave presenting the findings from my PhD research. The study looked at how care workers in care homes learn to care for people living with dementia. I’m pleased to be able to tell you about the next stage of sharing those findings to a wider audience: working with a professional artist to create a poster.

Once I had recovered from the examination process of my PhD (it took a few months!) I started to think about how to make sure that the findings from the study reached the right people; those working with and in care homes for people living with dementia. There’s no point in putting all that work in if my thesis gathers dust on a shelf!

A poster seemed like a good idea, as it’s about communicating just the key ideas in a visual way to catch people’s attention – very different from a journal article or presentation at a conference –  I have a plan for my poster to be in every care home staff room in the country! However, I also knew that I would need some help, as I’m nowhere near as good with pictures as I am with words. I managed to get some funding from the university to work with a professional artist to develop the poster. I chose ForMed Films as I had seen their work before, liked the style and they came well recommended.

ForMed Films is a Community Interest company (not for profit). We specialise in storytelling through patient voice to make animated film, audio and illustration for medical education. We aim to inspire good health choices and encourage health promotion through informed self-help and medical guidance. Our unique resources are made by ForMed Films award winning team and directed by our BAFTA winning CEO, Emma Lazenby.

ForMed Films information

So, the artist, Emma, and I chatted and I (tried!) to explain the study’s findings and what I was looking for. I think Emma was a bit surprised when my “summary” was 35 pages long, but she battled through and at every stage I was impressed with how she’d managed to turn my gobble-de-gook into such to-the-point illustrations. I’ll now hand over to Emma to explain the process:

“Our collaboration began with a conversation. Isabelle shared a diagram explaining how dementia carers learn to care, and we discussed this. The diagram is an academic diagram, trying to share the most information possible to explain the subject, with section headings and numbers. But difficult for a lay person to engage with, which is where we came in.

Original PhD diagram

Our brief was to make a relatable, interview based, eye-catching A1/A2 poster to visually explain the findings of the PhD, to share with professionals and carers.

The poster was made in lockdown, so this meant an adjustment to my working methods, where usually working on a big noticeboard, printer, lots of coloured paper and pins and spreading out. This is then shared and discussed this with my collaborator in person.

For the lockdown I was working with reduced materials, in a small space (a canal boat) and sharing the progress through email. Working to the headings, I chose quotes from the texts, to gather the narrative for the different headings. Each quote was written on to a different piece of paper so that these could be easily removed, added to and arranged to tell the story for each section.

Image showing the creative process

The sections were passed between the two of us until they were accurate and telling the story in a way we were both happy with.

Image showing a rough version of the poster

I restructured the diagram to make it something more linear – that the reader could start reading and follow through. I began by making a simplified restructure of the diagram with headings. I chose a circular target, to show that all led to ‘What works is what matters’. As this is intended to be shared in coffee room walls in care homes, I felt the sections could be read alone and give inspiration. Isabelle added ‘how can we learn from this’ panels beneath each section. I then added illustrations to each section, sending it to Isabelle regularly so that she could start to see the final version take shape. I’ll pass you back to Isabelle, so she can share the final version!”

I’m so proud of the final version; it exceeded anything I could have come up with by myself. Working with someone from such a different discipline really challenged me and definitely got the best result!

IL poster blog Dementia carers A3_FINAL_reducedsize

If you want to know more about the poster or study, or having any thoughts about how this could be shared more widely, please get in touch with Isabelle on:

You can contact ForMed Films on Twitter @ForMed_Films and on Instagram @ForMedFilms

Connect with ADS on twitter @DementiaStudies and on Facebook @adsuow

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s