env.infohackit 2016/17 Southampton

Who: Students came from different research backgrounds in the field of environmental sciences and were supported by their DTPs and CDTs, which included SPITFIRE, NEXUSS, and Oil & Gas CDT. Design students from Solent Creatives generously contributed their time and resources to the day. env.infohackit was funded by NERC.
When: December 2, 2016
Where: Southampton, UK

env.infohackit made a brilliant start with the PhD student training day on December 1. The following day, env.infohackit really got going. The PhD scientists were joined by creatives and in their teams they tackled the task of creating amazing infographics to communicate complex scientific research by using clear, simple visuals. The teams hit the floor running and the day brought a number of challenges as well as surprises.

The students and creatives assembled at Jury’s Inn for a short introduction, to be placed in teams and receive the science topics which would be the subject of their infographics. From then on out, it was up to the teams to collaborate and create an infographic which would be judged in the evening. The teams were fuelled by tea, coffee and snacks, a three-course meal, and pizza and beer. The judging panel comprised Phil Warwick (Professorial Fellow within Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton), Sonal Mehta (Spitfire Innovation Award Officer, University of Southampton) and Chris Key (Assistant Coordinator, Solent Creatives).

Read the Storify and follow all the action through the day.

The teams and the graphics

Acid Trip (winning team)

PhD Researchers: Elena Bollanti, Rose Stainthorp, Cathryn Quick, Stephanie Allen

Acid Trip came together as marine biologists eager to exercise the skills they gained on the previous day. Equipped with the basics of Illustrator, the team members collaborated to communicate a topic which was both fascinating and important: ocean acidification.

Collaborating with the creatives who shared their resources throughout the teams, the challenge of working independently at several points throughout the day added to the demands faced by Acid Trip. However, they brought all their efforts to the table and produced what would be the winning infographic of the day.

The team discovered that the topic of ocean acidification had already been put into infographic form by other researchers several times before, so they had to engage with the topic in an original way. Breaking their canvas down into three sections, each dedicated to one type of data, the result was an attention-grabbing infographic which clearly communicated its research. The graphic is framed by distinct coral illustrations and stark silhouettes. Arrows effectively guide the eye and important points are highlighted by the use of illustrated magnifying glasses.

The judges were particularly impressed by the team’s ability to break the information down while maintaining a cohesive design and using their new skills effectively.


Vanilla No Ice

PhD Researchers: Rachael Shuttleworth, Edward Wort, Rebecca Huggett
Creative: Rosie Gibson

Team Vanilla No Ice’s infographic is about the melting of ice caps and how this affects rising sea levels. The team had the help of design student Rosie Gibson to aid them in their work. Aiming their graphic at school children and people who have little knowledge of Earth Sciences, the team set out to extract the most important points in the research they were given.

By splitting the components amongst themselves, the team members ensured an equal distribution of data within the graphic. The individual elements the team members created were then combined and revised to produce a coherent graphic.

The resulting infographic used the motif of water circulation to help guide the eye to the important data. An icy blue colour scheme with contrasting oranges contributed to the striking quality of the image.


Recobble Chernobyl

PhD Researchers: Mat Cobain, Charlotte Aldred, Vlad Macovei

Recobble Chernobyl’s infographic was about how plants can be used to help remedy pollutants in the soil. They aimed their graphic at heritage and museum venues. Wanting to convey a visual narrative, the team opted for an elongated portrait orientation.

Combining their knowledge of Illustrator, they worked on iconic visual signifiers and incorporating them within the graphic. Focusing on clarity, the images were designed to account for the wide-spanning ages of their target audiences. Subtle layering was used to add distinction to the graphic. Illustrator’s foliage palette helped the researchers to decide on a colour scheme.

The judges were impressed with the skill the scientists demonstrated in using the software and the way in which they used colour and flow to convey complex data.


Rock the NASBA

PhD Researchers: Pip Simpson, Matt Wilson, Andrew Lock
Creative: Andrea Belloni


Rock the NASBA was an env.infohackit team with a twist. Instead of being scientists, the researchers on this team were technologists who develop the technology that allows scientists to carry out research. They were joined by design student Andrea Bollanti.

The technologists were impressed with Andrea’s ability to visualise their complicated research. Dividing their canvas into columns and rows, the team segmented individual elements of the research into a grid-like structure. Much of their graphic centred on NASBA, a scientific process for RNA amplification. NASBA techniques can aid in the development of tests for viruses such as foot-and-mouth disease.

Using a muted colour palette of blues, greens and white to enable an easy reading experience which was also fostered by the soft, round shapes within the graphic. The team delivered this graphic by using the presentation platform Prezi. This added an additional element of animation to guide the reader around the graphic.