We were recently invited by EnvEast to collaborate on a training event with the Cambridge Earth System Science Doctoral Training Partnership at the British Antarctic Survey. The challenge was to train 32 scientists to use Adobe Illustrator AND create team infographics in a single day. Our regular format takes two pretty intensive days, but we were happy to develop a new approach to meet the brief. And once again, we were delighted and impressed with the aptitude of PhD scientists to learn fast and create something quickly!
After a quick discussion on design principles and a walkthrough of Illustrator, we were ready to make illustrations of baby penguins – congratulations to Tom Chudley, who took home a cuddly baby penguin for his efforts in the morning session.
After lunch, the participants organised themselves into teams and chose one of two infographic challenges. The first challenge was to visualise a small data set regarding the insurance costs of natural disasters across the planet in 2011 (a bad year for extreme weather!). The second challenge was to design a graphic explaining ocean acidification and coral bleaching. In both cases, the teams were given plain text, and no graphic brief to work with.
Due to our packed schedule the teams had only two hours to make an infographic – although as I pointed out, in a team of three, that’s six person hours. Plenty of time!
The main challenges around the room seemed to be:
- Getting the right amount of content (was there too much? too little? did they need to research anything extra?)
- Illustrating complex things quickly. For example, we had a number of world maps created for the first challenge, one was drawn by hand (very quickly actually) and others Googled “vector world map” and adapted
- Working with small or incomplete data sets – the natural inclination for a scientist is to head back to the raw data and review, interpret etc. I was asking them to think more like a journalist, and create the story with the information they had
- Bringing everything together – when there’s more than one person creating parts of a graphic, you need some way of creating a look and feel. All the teams dealt with this one well and came up with different ways of team working (including Adobe Libraries, email, dropbox, memory sticks etc)
All the teams worked very hard, employing their new skills and collaborating successfully to meet the challenging deadline.
At 4pm, teams displayed their work on laptops in a networking space, where the graphics were reviewed and assessed by an expert panel of judges, as well as delegates from the symposium.
In the end, one team came away with both the public and the judges’ vote, for their excellent graphic on ocean acidification. Bang! And the coral has gone produced this professional graphic which does a great job of structuring the information, as well as importing (and integrating nicely) a temperature graph from MatLab. The judges really liked the zoom in circles showing a detailed view of the coral in each stage of the process.
If you want to find out more about ocean acidification, have a look at the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme (archive site) or the UNESCO website.