SCIENCE / SUSTAINABILITY / VISUALISATION
SENSE-MAKING in A COMPLEX WORLD
We live in a fast-changing world, and understanding the challenges of the 21st century and its complex correlations is more difficult than ever.  We still face major challenges in explaining important facts and data to a wider audience, although a shared knowledge base is desperately needed. What role can design and the creative industries play in translating complex strategies, eco-systems and important facts into an experience that is fun and easy to engage?
We all or at least most of us have an urge to understand the world around us and along the driving forces (from climate change to digital transformation) that will shape our world in the future.

But although we have unprecedented access to knowledge, why is it so hard to make sense of it? Why is it so hard to arrive at a holistic understanding of the bigger picture? Very often we are doubting our own intellectual capabilities because it all seems too complex (like climate change). We think we don’t have the professional background to understand the data and information (in reports and scientific papers) or we don’t have the time to spent with extensive reading (all the books that would be necessary). Or it seems just too overwhelming: there are so many different issues that we don’t even know where to start.

But is our lack of background knowledge or time really what prevents us from a moving toward a holistic understanding of the bigger picture? Or does the key lie elsewhere? What if we could transform complex strategies, correlated problems and important data into something that is so easy and straightforward to understand that even children can make sense of it, or our youth on Instagram? Does that seem too utopian or naive?

It is important that scientific research and findings are based on profound standards and the necessary formats, but perhaps in breaking them down and explaining them to a wider audience lies a big potential for other disciplines. Perhaps the creative industries — and especially designers — can help link our intellectual understanding and our intuitive comprehension through a visual language that is easy to engage.

This of course requires an interdisciplinary effort. Slowly collaborations between scientists (social and natural) and creatives are becoming more common (f.e. like on report papers). But often creatives and designers are not part of the knowledge process itself, but rather hired as freelancers at a late stage to generate nice images to freshen up scientific reporting. This approach doesn’t create the necessary depth to really be a serious equivalent of the scientific data displayed. Actually we shouldn’t see visual communication just as a nice add-on to a report paper but perhaps as an important tool that can totally change how we distribute knowledge and engage with stakeholders in a new way. To come up with something that is not only nice to look at but also a provides a certain “depth” of information, we need new forms of interdisciplinary collaborations and engagement.    

It is proven that visual content is analyzed many times faster than written one, and in order to keep up with a fast-paced world and new forms of content, we need ways to deliver key learnings quickly. If we want relevant papers to be read by more than a handful of experts and important data to become ‘mainstream’, we need to rethink our existing formats and channels.

 

 

‘How do you make the footprint of a product tangible and understandible for many?’
In ‘mobility explained‘ the spatial, material and CO² footprint of different forms of mobility is visualized.

In ‘SDG tokens‘ the focus lies on explaining whole eco-systems and seeing the potential synergies of multiple players interacting with eachother. In this case one can explore the ‘bigger picture’ in a literal sense.
 

 Here are some questions to explore the potential of “creative sense-making”:

  • How can we translate complex strategies, scientific findings and important facts and data to a wider audience? How can we connect report papers and modern communication channels, like social media?
  • How can we display and visualize whole eco-systems, multiple players and stakeholders in a way that highlights potential synergies, shows potentials for collaborations, and fosters a sense of “us” and “together” instead everybody for themselves?
  • How can we map challenges and their (existing) solutions in a new way?
  • How can we simplify complex frameworks in order to create greater understanding (like the 17 SDGs) that lets us keep track of the bigger picture?
  • How can we engage people and their imagination in shaping a different future? How can we encourage new images and visions around the future?
  • How can we form fruitful collaborations between disciplines and come up with new processes and ways of collaboration that connect science with creatives?

 

It is proven that visual content is analyzed many times faster than written one. Summarizing key learnings in visuals therefor helps us to navigate faster through new content.
Connect the dots‘ is an interactive scenario tool that matches different visual scenario modules. This generates new possibilities in understanding desirable futures.