Thursday, January 27, 2011

Its a visual thing

You might have already noticed, or I've already mention it, but I'm a very visual person.  I won't be able to give you good aural directions, but bring me along with you and I can direct you the whole way no problem..or failing that give me and pen and paper so I can draw you a map.  When I remember memories in my mind I remember them as snap shots or little film reels.  Yet the other great thing about being a visual person is that I learn and retain information so much better if its presented visually and this can also be a key factor in raising awareness on climate change. 

Everyday people are thrown facts and figures they couldn't possibly imagine or put into context; tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere, inches of flood water, years it would take to repair damage done, etc. Yet all this is meaningless, not because the data itself is meaningless, but because its very hard to get the impact of the message across to someone who doesn't know or understand, hence why visualization helps. It takes complex issues and translates them into contexts that people are familiar with and can relate to. Same message comes across, but this time more recipients pick up on it.  Hence my delight when I stumbled upon these nifty visualizations! 

First up is General Electrics visual map on How much CO2 is created by... You can search the options at random (which is more fun and gives more sense of wonder), tonnes of CO2 or categories.  The options range from standard facts (air flight) to some you would never have thought of such as how much CO2 is created by drying your hands for a year, or using Facebook yearly or a music festival. I love the way the options seem never ending. Granted this visualization still might need another visualization to explain the impact of the results, but I think its a good start to get people engaged and interested.

This visualization application is part of General Electrics' Ecomagination series (also check out their Heathlymagination series to find out facts about your health). It includes other visualizations such as Home Appliance Energy Use where you can see which appliance gives the most for 1 watt or how much power or gallons of gas each appliance uses. Or how about the Optimized Descents which demonstrates GE's flight management system which optimize descents, reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions at three sample airport.  

For those with a love for graphic design, check out Visualizing.org, which is a whole website dedicated to making sense of complex issues through data and design for free. Whilst this website is not just environmental issues, but encompasses a whole mass of subjects, their visuals are pretty neat, and original (if a little too heavy on design and they're not interactive like GE's). My favorite one is One Day Cause + Effect.  In the same vein GOOD Infographics is another website which turns facts into superbly designed visualizations with a vintage feel to them.  Ranging from poster to slide shows to interactive graphics, you could say these guys are the graphic design equivalent to TED.

These are great tools to use for children or newbies, but also great things to explore and discover on those rainy days or when you have an hour to spare. Sharing  vital information in a creative way is always the best way to go me thinks!

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