[This is a guest post by Dorothy Lei*, about her infographic project “Investigation of Sound”.]
The word “infographics” has become a cliché nowadays. Whether you are a company trying to present marketing data or innovations to clients; charity that needs to effectively show the way you will spend donations; or, a lecturer sharing information to your peers and students. The question is still the same. How do you show your information in a simple and interesting way to your audience?
The answer is – Infographics
The definition of infographics according to the Design Handbook by Jenn and Ken Visocky O’Grady is: “Information design is about the clear and effective presentation of information. It involves a multi and interdisciplinary approach to communication, combining skills from graphic design, technical and non-technical authoring, psychology, communication theory and cultural studies.” [Thissen, 2004]
We need infographics in many different situations. Presenting survey data, simplifying a complicated idea, explaining how something works and comparing information. This is especially true in today’s world where information is becoming increasing prominent in our daily lives. We can use infographics to make this clearer.
Looking back to six years ago, I was unsure what the word meant. I remember my tutors’ guidance in helping me to explore the concept for myself. I thoroughly enjoyed discovering the many ways in which information can be presented visually.
In one exercise, we were asked to work with a partner and choose a space approximately three meters square. It was here that we would spend time on two occasions, and three hours on each occasion a few weeks apart.
The place my partner and I chose was the backyard of our studio. Here we found a suitable platform raised from ground level. The space was next to a public road. In front of me was open ground with deer grazing close by. Along side me was the car park of the university.
We fulfilled a number of exciting tasks after being briefed by our tutors. The first task was to think of words to describe the area around us. Next, we stood back-to-back while one person described the scene, and the other draw from their description. My task I enjoyed the most involved drawing the scene together, that is, one person held the pencil and the other person moved the sketchbook underneath it. Finally, we draw the scene with our eyes closed and listening to the description of the other person. Our results were different. My drawings were bold and abstract, while my partner’s were faint and realistic.
Moving on, we started to record the moment of people, animals and objects through the space. We created marks which represent sound that I could hear. I would not realize at the time this would become the concept of my final art piece.
To be honest, I did not see much direction or purpose in the beginning. We carried on drawing and recording as much as we could. After some time, we found that we had a different perspective on objects. This was a great discovery from working with others because you can see how people interpret thing differently.
During tutorials, our tutors showed us some of the works of Boyle Family, Daniel Eatock, Simon Faithfull and Neville Gabie. We saw how they recorded movements and other activity around them.
After the tutorials, we kept sketching and recording twice a week afterwards. We spent almost 12 hours at the site altogether. We found that the longer we spent in our space, the more we observed. New and interesting opportunities developed for creativity as time went by. The area that we chose was not particularly busy and very open. Sound from different objects were clear and became the most prominent part of my work.
In class we gathered together everyone’s sketches. I presented the map I had draw of movement in the area over five minutes. The numbers indicated how many times the object appeared.
Another approach I took was a to simply imagine I was in the middle of the area. I imagined the scene with all the sounds happening around me.
After the exercises and sharing during the lesson, I researched mapping ideas from many sources. I considered world maps, weather forecasting, political issues and cultural history. Mapping is a great method of visualizing the data we have. Stephen Walter and Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa also inspired me in how to symbolize something abstract and non-tangible. I began to find myself using circles, lines, dots and arrows to show phonemes, tones and amplitude of sounds.
The week after, I illustrated the sketch in detail.
Feedback on Approach 1 – Inspiration for design came from Andy Woodruff, a great web cartographer who creates interactive web maps. Only shows the path taken by objects. The audience cannot find the time, location and volume of the sounds.
Feedback on Approach 2 – Design inspired by Denis Wood’d Everything sings. “When we did the house types survey, we also paid attention to the presence of wind chimes. They were all over — bamboo, glass, shell, metal tubes. Depending on where you stood, the force of the wind and the time of the day, you could hear several chiming, turning the neighborhood into carillon.” The idea can be further developed by adding layers, colors and lines to show the source, direction and amplitude.
My final piece of artwork has three categories of sound. These are Objects, Human and Nature. By adding more layers and circles it’s possible to show amplitude. Instances which have a solid fill of color in the center show sounds that are loud in the beginning, then become softer with time. The large radial circles in the background illustrate time.
An easy-to-read infographic makes information presentable and digestible to its audience. We have different types of infographics. Some are static, while other are interactive, allowing the user to explore and filter information as they please. I am glad I am able to tell the story of things which cannot be seen or touched. I believe this will help us to understand our lives for the better.
*Dorothy Lei is an independent creative who, born in Macau and based in Hong Kong, misses her gap year in Bristol, UK. She is expertise in editorial design and moving her steps to user experience design. Also a bookbinding artist in leisure time. Likes meeting new people with her two dimples, tiny but dream big. See more her works on dorothylei.prosite.com, and connect her with Linkedin, Twitter or Instagram.