We launched the first round of env.infohackit in Southampton on December 1 2016. Our environmental sciences PhD students eagerly arrived at Jury’s Inn for the pre-hackathon training day. Here, they learned the basics Adobe Illustrator and discovered the importance of infographics in communicating data.
We told the scientists to expect the unexpected. Even so, it was helpful for them to gain an insight into how infographics are created. This way, they appreciate the creative process and will able to work in harmony with the creatives and designers who would be attending the infohack on Day 2.
The topic of impact in the research community was raised. Discussions centred on how scientists are expected to communicate their research to audiences beyond academia. It was suggested that infographics offer the perfect remedy to the impact conundrum because they boil down complicated data into simple visuals everyone can understand.
After a brief introduction to the history of infographics, the students enthusiastically had a go at creating shapes in Adobe Illustrator. What better way to practice than by tracing pictures of cute penguins? Having learned the basics of the pen tool, how to fill shapes with gradients and insert text, the students were equipped to create simple yet eye-catching graphics. The penguins looked fantastic and everyone was proud of their work.
Getting Serious with Infographics
After a hearty three-course lunch, the students got back to business. The next step in their training was to create an infographic–from scratch. They were given an eclectic selection of topics to choose from–from scientific data provided by NERC to the scores of each Great British Bakeoff contestant to instructions for how to perfectly boil an egg. The students did their best to capture the data visually and use their new Illustrator skills, taking breaks to have a look at what their colleagues had created.
Ready for the Big Day
Tweeting, liking and sharing ensued with the #infohackit hashtag and the Storify which captured every moment. The penguins were the success of the day and everyone had fun trying out the software. The skills the students gained during the training will be useful for the infohack, but they will also help them further along the road of their PhD. They will be able to apply these skills whenever they are called on to present their research to academics and non-experts alike. The day also brought with it new relationships and friends who will work together harmoniously on Day 2 and beyond.
The phenomenal standard of the graphics produced on Day 1 would be hard to match during the infohack the next day. The students will be put into teams with a creative. They will have to work together and apply the skills they gained on Day 1 to produce amazing infographics for a given environmental sciences topic. We were confident that the students will pull together to produce some exciting graphics, but here can only be one winning team. Click below to find out what the teams made and who won.
Make sure you check out the env.infohackit @Southampton 2016 Storify for a complete rundown of the events of the day.