[This is a guest post by Julie Gaathaug*, about her infographic project “Mountain Incidents”]
“The volunteer group Mountain Rescue spends 80,000 man-hours each year on incidents in the UK mountains. Easter holiday is seen as a peak, as spring season draws people outside, to engage in mountain activities. But as the weather changes with the Easter days each year, so does the number of incidents.”
So reads the informative text on my infographic, called Mountain Incidents. It shows the correlation between number of incidents in the mountains and the weather, during Easter each year. I collected incident data with much-appreciated help from the volunteer group Mountain Rescue and compared it to weather data from Weather Underground from the same time and locations. The conclusions I came to were rather surprising.
I got the brief at Ravensbourne, where I study graphic design. The project was called “Why does it always rain on me?” and the brief read: “The weather is Britain’s favourite topic of conversation. This project asks you to select and interrogate a specific weather-based dataset. For your final outcome you are to research and use information design and diagrammatical display techniques in order to visually communicate.”
I have always found information design very engaging, and I immediately started researching different factors to compare to weather data. That is when I found Mountain Rescue’s Annual Reports(link: https://www.mountain.rescue.org.uk/information-centre/incident-statistics), documenting every incident they encounter throughout the year. Their reports are remarkably thorough and I found my self questioning if the number of incidents may have anything to do with the weather. But to really see the specific relation, the amount of data needed to be narrowed down. I got in contact with Mountain Rescue and its statistics manager, Rob, and with his help I ended up focusing on a smaller time-slot – Easter.
The datasets I received included numbers going back ten years, divided into eight areas within England and Wales. I found the exact Easter dates each year and then collected weather data from www.wunderground.com / Weather Underground. This included temperature, wind speed, humidity and precipitation. As I had all my hard facts, I started the creative process.
The visual representation
The key is inspired by a compass, and all the data is illustrated through this key. That means that the little triangles shows all the weather data – the temperature is the height, the left and right side shows wind speed and humidity and the bottom shows precipitation. I chose to do this as I it was relevant to my theme and the data shaped as small mountains – which is very appropriate. The opacity of the shapes is the frequency of incidents. High opacity means more incidents.
The colour in the background is distinctly contrasting to the graphic elements in the representation, to make them stand out. I chose a dark background and a bright orange to achieve a “warning” appearance. Engaging in mountain activities is mostly fun and games, but it is important to take the weather into account and to always be careful. Nature is extremely powerful, and I wanted my colour scheme to show the contrast between this serious, but engaging instruction.
In the final outcome, you can see a specific pattern. These patterns are highlighted with a subtle thick line.
Some areas are more likely to have incidents, but the weather also plays an important factor. You can see when the temperature is high, there are more incidents. As I illustrated the different weather data, this came as a surprise to me. I would have thought that bad weather makes for slippery trails, and therefore resulted in an increased number of incidents. But as it would seem, good weather inspires people to go outside and enjoy the nature, and a multiplicity of people means a multiplicity of incidents.
That is what is so engaging about doing information design – you often go into a project with expectations for the outcome, but it often surprises you. It did me.
*Julie Gaathaug is a Norwegian student based in London, currently in her second year towards getting her BA (Hons) in Graphic Design at Ravensbourne. You can see more of her work and connect with her on Behance.