[This is a guest post by Elena Turtas*, around the work developed last year as her final thesis project in the BA Communication Design Program at DADU, University of Sassari in Alghero, titled The Four Books of Visualising Sustainability].
It has been a few years, since my interest towards environmental issues has constantly kept growing. So many questions have been crowding my mind: why the majority of people is not concerned about them? Do not they realize it is their responsibility too? How can they be so blind not to see what we are doing to our world?
I slowly came to realize that problems arising in the communication of environmental phenomena mainly lie in their perception; environmental issues are not perceived by the majority of people as relevant, or, even worse, they think that sustainable progress is not everyone’s duty neither. For this reason, communication must today utilize its potential to inject enthusiasm into people for sustainable development and support them in making necessary changes, so that sustainability acquires relevance in our everyday life. This is the starting point of the project.
At the beginning, I had to think a lot about how to communicate the complexity of the subject in a creative and original manner that could help me to involve the user in a more interactive way, specially when compared to the printed paper. How to get people into a subject like environmental sustainability, too often communicated in a boring and somehow abstract way?
In this context, infographics appeared to be a promising tool of communication, one able to attract the attention of the reader and to offer an immediate comprehension of data.
Then for quite a long while, I have analyzed different concepts and ideas, trying to use the infographics language in an unusual way and to think how to avoid that the work would take an “already seen” look. Then I thought: why not to join the complex world of infographics with the highly interactive one of pop-up books? This simple idea seemed to be perfect to join together scientific content and narrative languages that, through a catchy graphic style, could made the comprehension and learning of environmental issues easier.
I have always found the language of pop-up books extremely intriguing, and that is limiting to think that it only refers to children’s audience. Thanks to my researches, I have been able to discover how behind the façade a whole world of art, marvel and interaction is hidden; it is not just a simple game for children.
The pop-up book distinguishes itself from other media because it is capable to offer to users a fulfilling sensorial experience, particularly intense and stimulant: our senses play a fundamental role in the capability for/of absorbing and elaborating information. By introducing the sense of touch, it expands what is mainly a visual experience, that is then emphasized by the surprise factor typical of pop-up books mechanisms. Paper engineering’s mechanisms allow to get in close contact with information interacting with them in first person.
I have then passed to the stage of the actual research: it was my first approach ever both with infographics and pop-up books. I bought books, made researches on the internet, and started to bild paper mechanisms. I didn’t think it could be so complex! My house was soon invaded by chaos…and paper.
All the material I have managed to collect was pretty impressive, but for most of the mechanisms I had to improvise while making them.
A lot of ideas were discharged out of the impossibility to find an appropriate mechanism that could properly translate what I wanted to communicate. Likewise, many other ideas were born by realizing that I could adapt already existing mechanisms to my will.
Also the collection of all the environmental data was not that easy: books, reports, internet, videos, films, documentary, infographics… even if I was so informed on the subject, all the material that I collected seemed not to be enough.
Eventually, after collecting all the necessary data and acknowledgement, I started to actually design my books.
The project took the form of four books tackling distinct, although strongly interconnected-key topics: global warming, emissions, resources, forests, water, energy, food. Combining the static appearance of the printed paper with the marvels of paper craft and the use of infographics, it was possible to transform the relationship between author and reader, offering a richer involvement and participation on the part of the user. By this way, the message conveyed by infographics becomes increasingly interactive, tactile, dynamic, and – hopefully – more effective and memorable. The motion takes place in front of the user, in his very hands; the user itself makes it happen by opening the page.
Nowadays, in a world pervaded by electronic and digital technologies of all kind, both children and adults can benefit from the interactive experience of paper craft as an alternative to the digital one, without getting disappointed, but rather gaining an entirely range of sensations and inputs.
*Elena Turtas, 23 years old, is a Graphic Designer, Motion Graphic Designer and Illustrator. Bachelor with honors in Communication Design at DADU, University of Sassari in Alghero, she is currently enrolled in the MA in Communication Design at the Politecnico di Milano, Italy.
You can check out her website at www.elenaturtas.com to see more of her work.