Visual storytelling

Year 2 students have been trying their hand at visual storytelling over the past 4 weeks…

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Will we colonise space in the future?

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Sam presents her project work to the class in the studio

Visual Storytelling is a kind of alchemy that – when done well – is a matter of balancing visual form with narrative structure for challenging uncertainty and complexity head on.

Teaching with Ben Willers, we have been introducing students to the problems of communicating complex information to make it engaging, accessible, and meaningful for an audience.

Students were tasked to create 4 editorial style spreads that communicate a story in a predominately visual way. The brief was to make a prediction for the future about a topic of their own interest, based on information and data that students have researched and selected.

Among the many topics students chose to investigate were: hypersonic passenger travel, limb regeneration, the future of energy consumption, catalytic clothing, the decline of world species, space tourism, global warming, designer babies, biotechnology, economic development of China and racial demographics in American politics…

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Given that the students have never worked on visualising data or creating information graphics before, this project was intended as a grounding in the essential theory and practice for this area of visual communication. And, as well as designing and art directing the work, students were also the principal investigators and copywriters for their piece, so we looked closely at narrative structure, framing and basic journalistic principles.

We spent the first few sessions on visualisation ground rules and basic theory – like what and where data actually is. Then we thought about choosing graph and chart types to display complex data/information into visual forms which take advantage of the brain’s natural ability for visual perception and detecting patterns:

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One of the metrics we used to assess the work was the Visualisation Wheel from Alberto Cairo, from his book The Functional Art. This way of thinking helps designers to consider how they balance many dimensions of form and function in visualisations:

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Once students had learned the basics of data exploration and visualisation, they then developed their material to form a coherent story. At this time many sketches and test pieces were created and reviewed.

 

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Of course this was a moment of trial and error, where to differing degrees we saw successful pieces that began to balance functionality with aesthetic sensibility to communicate – the ultimate goal of this project.

What follows is only a very small selection of the diverse and great work resulting from the final project day this week. We saw such a diverse and interesting range of work that it’s impossible to include it all here, so please enjoy these sample images…

Aliesha looks at the future of Africa:

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Amy considers what’s involved in manned space exploration:

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Becky looks at gene manipulation and designer babies:

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Ben considers the ever increasing height of buildings:

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Beth looks at recycling and use of natural resources:

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Chloe looks into obesity, health and diet:

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Dan looks into the prospect of hypersonic passenger travel:

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Dan (we have 2 Dans!) looks into fuel sources and usage:

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Dean was also considering energy and in particular oil:

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EmJay looks into the future of BioTechnology:

 

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Emma considers how global warming might affect the planet:

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Glen also considers aspects of climate change:

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Harry’s piece is about space travel:

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Jack’s piece is about fuel consumption and production in the future:

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James looked into suicide statistics and compared them with living conditions:

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Kate created some great charts about global warming:

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Laura investigated the future of robots in medicine:

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Leah looked into the possibility of London being underwater in the future:

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Nancy investigated racial demographics in the American political system:

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Paige considered sustainable living:

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Richard considered the economic power of China:

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Sam looked into humanoids integrating into society:

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Samantha looked into space colonisation:

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Sara thinks about the true cost of plastic surgery:

 

 

 

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Shermeen considers a future where we might move to the moon:

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Stacey considers extreme and man made weather:

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Susan considered the future of fashion and catalytic clothing:

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Zach’s piece was about biomechanics

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Thanks to all the second year graphic design students for really getting into the spirit of this visual storytelling project – Ben and I hope you go on to build on what you have learned here to create more work that challenges complexity in a creative way.

Chris.

Chris Twigg is a Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design at the University of Lincoln and a PhD student researching into visualising data at the London College of Communication

Ben Willers is a freelance Information and Data Visualisation Designer, winner of the 2011 Information Is Beautiful award.