Taking The Collett School History Project to the House of Commons has been the highlight of the year so far. Lucy and I have come to the end of working with this wonderful special needs school in Hemel Hempstead. After a year of storytelling to celebrate their 50th Anniversary, we succeeded in our ultimate goal for the project which was to take it to Westminster to show Ministers and MPs the amazing stories of the school.
The school’s local MP, Mike Penning, who arranged for the exhibition to take place in Parliament, explained why he wanted to bring the exhibition to Speaker’s Green:
“The Collett School is a very special school and has a very special place in my heart. I visit as often as I can and I run my annual Christmas card competition with the children of the school. “This is a great opportunity for Ministers and MPs to hear first-hand the untold stories of the pupils of this great school. “This is the first time ever that an exhibition of this nature has been held on Speaker’s Green and it was a wonderful experience for the children and a great opportunity for my Parliamentary colleagues to learn more about special needs education and the experiences of those who have left the school and the difference it has made to their lives.”
Stephen Hoult-Allen, Head Teacher of The Collett School was thrilled that the school was offered this opportunity:
“It was fantastic for our pupils, past and present, to share our story with so many MPs at the exhibition of our oral histories project at Parliament. Our pupils were fantastic ambassadors for the school and people with learning difficulties, taking pride in their achievements, hopes and aspirations for contributing to our mainstream world.”
We had over 30 MPs show up on the day, Wednesday 24th June, and even Boris Johnson made an appearance. We were delighted by the positive response the exhibition received. You can read about what the MPs thought over on the Creative Data site.
Having successfully produced a series of case studies about design in innovation for the KTN’s Design SIG earlier in the year, I was commissioned to create a report about Design & Data Visualisation for the KTN’s members. This report was based on an event that I spoke at in October 2013 at NESTA.
For the launch of the report I wrote about the publication for the KTN site and I was also invited to speak, on May 6th, at the Future Cities Catapult at a Cross-Catapult Design Group Meeting which was used for sharing new ideas across industry.
I spoke about how the report is an introduction to the crucial role of design in data visualisation and all the ways it can be used to better communicate information in this digital age. I highlighted a few of the contemporary data visualisation practitioners who are showcased in the report.
By presenting case studies of their work the Design SIG aims to stimulate thinking on how design and data visualisation can support innovation and deliver sustainable economic, social and environmental benefits.
Earlier this year Belgian company Plan C launched The Additive Toolbox to accompany The Additive Challenge, inviting the 3d printing industry to address a better future for people and planet in their creations.
I had a great experience designing the Toolbox with talented fellow designer Joana Casaca Lemos. We were commissioned by Forum for the Future who in turn were working with Plan C on the iMade project, which looks at additive manufacturing as the third industrial revolution. I just got my Additive Toolbox prototype in the post and I’m so delighted with how it all turned out.
Joana and I worked together to create the identity, graphics and physical form of the toolbox, including a poster, a set of postcards and a worksheet. These tools outline 6 making principles and 6 maker communities to guide designers, makers and manufacturers through the considerations of materials, production methods and life cycle for their products.
The toolbox was given out to anyone who entered the Additive Challenge. The latest news about the challengers in the competition can be found on the project site. As a designer it’s a pretty great to be asked to create a tool to help other designers and I’m excited to see who the finalists are in this competition.
I was kindly invited to speak about my work in September by Aidan Walker, curator of the Design Junction seminars. It’s always fun, if nerve wracking, to be asked to speak about what I’m doing with design storytelling and particularly with Creative Data.
I was especially pleased to be speaking at a mainstream London Design Festival event such as Design Junction, rather than a sustainability side show. I think it’s good news that curators like Aidan are programming a diverse range of speakers that use environmental design at the core of their work.
I was on stage alongside the NYC design firm UHURU who make beautiful furniture and interiors from sustainably sources materials. I think our different approaches contrasted nicely on the common theme of social and environmental awareness.
Back in May, I was super honoured to be part of the first D&AD New Blood White Pencil jury, alongside Tom Farrand of Swarm, Warren Beeby of Futerra,Tori Flower of We Are What We Do, Gerry Human of Ogilvy & Mather.
We saw some amazing entries, but picked a real corker of a winner. The Ice Cream for Change campaign – a funny, entertaining, meaningful concept to promote gay rights in Russia for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
On July 3rd I went to the New Blood Awards ceremony and got to meet the amazing women creatives behind the winning entry – Francesca Van Haverbeke, Anne-Grit Maier, Daria Rustambekova from the Miami Ad School in Hamburg.
Lucy Rose and I, in the guise of our Creative Data partnership, had great fun designing and hosting the ‘Why Is Science Beautiful?’ workshop at the British Library this week. We created the event for the Met Office in the context of the ‘Beautiful Science’ exhibition, currently on show in the library.
This experimental one-day workshop on Monday 12th May was co-hosted by the British Library, the Met Office and Creative Data. The event invited attendees (15 Met Office scientists and 15 selected creatives) to take an exploratory journey into the creative potential of data and scientific practice.
Here’s the Storify of the event, which collates all the social media captures of the day.
In February, I attended a Swarm for D&AD‘s White Pencil initiative called ‘Break The Silence’. We were asked to come up with creative ways to engage the advertising industry on the subject of climate change.
These ‘Silent Cards’, are a customised Artefact deck with facts and figures about climate change that any strategist, planner, or creative could use in client meetings, if only they could find the courage to do so. Until then, they’ll just be useful for flicking through in those quiet moments of reflection when you’re really wondering what you can possibly do to help the situation.
The illustration above and text below were exhibited this week with other Break The Silence proposals at the D&AD Awards judging event at Olympia Exhibition Centre.
You know that conversation? Yeah, the one you keep having with yourself, but no one else. You’re not having it with your friends, or with your boss, and especially not with your clients. It’s a niggling voice in your head that keeps asking inconvenient questions. Is this the best way forward? Is this really what we need right now? What kind of impact is this having? Imagine having prompter cards for that awkward conversation. With the facts at your fingers tips would you raise your voice on climate change? Probably not, right? But you flick through the deck furtively, anyway, just out of curiosity. You’ll likely never use them, but then again… one day, you might just feel compelled to ask an awkward question out loud.
This week I did the fastest design installation of my life. I was commissioned by the foresight and innovation agency Your Future to design a space for their one-day workshop on natural health for their client. The location was the beautiful Kew Gardens and I took inspiration from the botanical nature of the setting.
With the help of my collaborator Lucy Rose I created the The Natural Health Breakfast Exploratorium, which included a ‘Kitchen Garden’ room where the client attendees could gather, eat and make their final presentations. Next door we created a ‘Library Lab’, where the attendees could work in their break out groups through the day.
This speedy installation, done in just two hours, was mostly an exercise in ‘dressing the set’ so to speak, but I did have fun creating bespoke botanical explorers’ workbooks and then recreating them as enormous working presentation boards for the actual workshop.
I’m delighted to say that Elio Studio is featured in a new book by Aaris Sherin called Sustainable Thinking. My good friend and collaborator Chris Haughton is also featured for his amazing fair trade work with Node rugs.
During the writing of the book, Chris very kindly suggested that Aaris speak to me about my design storytelling work with Elio Studio. And so it came to pass that Chris and I are case study neighbours in this excellent book on design thinking and management in sustainability, published by Bloomsbury.
The case study on Elio Studio is a full six pages long (whoop!) and features several of our projects, including The Butterfly Effect and One Planet Living. You can find the link to a PDF of the case study below, but here is a quick excerpt.
‘Collaboration is important because the issues surrounding sustainable innovation are complex,’ says Oppenheim. To create the most relevant solutions, she suggests that ‘a networked systems approach is needed and the best way to do that is to leave our disciplinary silos and cross pollinate with others.’ Not every designer is suited to working in multidisciplinary, less-defined situations. Connectors, translators and managers are needed. To that end, Oppenheim acts like a ringmaster for Elio Studio. Different types of projects require distinct expertise and the number of people working on a job will vary depending on a project’s scope, budget and the skill sets needed to produce the intended outputs.
You can buy the book on Amazon or direct from Bloomsbury.
As well as Chris Haughton and Elio Studio, Sustainable Thinking features other brilliant people who have inspired me over the years including Valerie Casey of The Designers Accord, Safia Minney of People Tree, Emily Pilloton of Project H Design and Duke Stump of The North Star Manifesto and Do Lectures USA – it’s choca block with brilliant design ideas to make the world a better place.
Jonathan Chapman, Course Leader MA Sustainable Design, University of Brighton – says this about it:
“Sustainable Thinking jettisons the tired rhetoric of sustainable design debate; boldly repositioning design-thinkers of all disciplines at the creative and intellectual heart of our search for solutions.”
In October I was invited to speak at a data visualisation workshop organised by Rachel Jones of the Creative Industries KTN. The event was a showcase of interesting data visualisation practitioners as inspiration for the new Technology Strategy Board data exploration competition – launching at the beginning of 2014.
I was honoured to be selected as part of the evening’s line up of speakers, which ranged from artists like Michael Magruder Takeo to graphic designers like Information is Beautiful to more commercial practitioners such as Hal Bertram of Ito World.
I spoke about Elio Studio’s Creative Data initiative, which seeks to bring designers and scientists together to communicate data and research to the public through installations, exhibitions and creative learning programmes. I focused on The Butterfly Effect project as the pilot study for Creative Data, about the future of The Norfolk Broads.
It was super interesting to hear other speakers deliver their speedy Pecha Kucha formatted presentations and see what kind of work is going on in the art world, the academic world and the business world.
We saw that there’s been a lot of focus on maps as a default visualisation tool and that a lot of visualisation of data remains in a traditionally graphic space – often in graphs and sometimes overly complicated visuals which aren’t easily readable. There’s certainly room for more creativity and more engaging communications.
The most interesting work for me, unsurprisingly perhaps, were the examples of sculptural installations and public engagement work. I particularly enjoyed presentations from Rachel Jones of Active Ingredient and her project A Conversation Between Trees and Julie Freeman’s work on Translating Nature.