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.
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.
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.”
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.
Work with project co-directors, Sophie Thomas and Nat Hunter, to document The Great Recovery project workshops. Pay special attention to participant interaction, group dynamics and barriers to collaboration, stages of co-creation and blockages in the re-design process. Distil findings into The Great Recovery Report.
Leonora documented all nine Great Recovery workshops, building up a body of content for the project using photography, process observation and participant interviews. This involved visits to 7 material recovery centres around the UK, 2 associated workshops at The RSA and, finally, travelling to a pulp and paper mill in France.
These events brought designers, manufacturers and policy makers together to explore issues, investigate innovation gaps and incubate new partnerships in the circular economy.
Leonora wrote up the observations and learnings from each workshop to feed them into the final report. Working with Sophie Thomas to summarise the first phase of the Great Recovery Leonora structured the report and fed in her documentary photography and interviews, as well as her observations of the barriers to creating a circular economy in the UK.
The Great Recovery Report was launched at The House of Lords on June 4th 2013. You can download the report via the link below.
At the end of August I travelled to Copenhagen and Malmö to attend The Conference – a five day extravaganza of workshops, talks and excursions all hosted by Media Evolution. The title of the event was ‘Power, Disruption and Lies’, which propelled a dramatic deep dive into social and antisocial behaviours around media and technology.
The photo above is of the wonderful Ruth Daniels of Un-Convention. She made the most of the rapturous conference crowd by executing her first ever stage dive. As you can see, she pulled it off in style.
At the end of May I was invited to join a group of designers on a tour of a pulp and paper mill in France, owned by paper manufacturer Arjowiggins. Excited to learn more about another type of material manufacturing, I went along to document the visit for The Great Recovery Project.
It was a fascinating couple of days getting an insider view of how recycled paper is made. We witnessed every step for the process, from the moment the post-consumer waste arrives at the pulp factory, to the point where the freshly recycled paper is packaged up and piled high, ready to ship off the UK and around Europe.
You read more about the experience and see my photographs over on The Great Recovery site, where I wrote a blog post about the tour. The photographs are particularly interesting as I got a rare permission to photograph inside both factories, which a visitor has never been allowed to do before.
I also produced some accompanying interviews, with insights from both the visiting designers and our hosts, on the importance of learning about materials.
You can read Siôn Whellens’ account of the trip on the Calverts’ website. It is thanks to Siôn, who brought everyone together, that we all got to learn more about paper manufacturing. Thanks must also go to Julian Long and Angela DeVorchik of Arjowiggins Graphic who were our wonderful hosts.
Production design: curation, exhibition design, graphic design, print design
Pull together architectural research and community projects from the Scarcity and Creativity in the Built Environment programme. This EU funded research explores the relationship between scarcity and creativity in the context of the built environment by investigating how conditions of scarcity might affect the creativity of the different actors involved in the production of architecture and urban design, and how design-led actions might improve the built environment in the future.
In collaboration with curator Crystal Bennes, Leonora conceived a theme for the SCIBE exhibition, that of Sightlines, to represent the local context of the architectural projects created with members of the Bromley-by-Bow community. Using The Mayor’s Parlour gallery space in Bromley-by-Bow, the exhibition was designed to represent the creativity that can be found in deprived urban environments and the spirit of making the most of what you have on offer.
Crystal and Leonora liased with the architecture teams to bring their work together for the exhibition, with the help of Flora Bowden from the Seed Foundation. Kerry Ryan of Mayor’s Parlour assisted in the sourcing of materials and installation of the exhibition. Crystal and Leonora invited Dougald Hine to write an introductory text for the exhibition catalogue.
Sightlines was a cleverly networked exhibition with colour coded lines connecting the work on the walls to the context of the larger SCIBE project on a huge banner in the main corridor space. The lines also lead people from the street entrance of the Bow House through the corridors and up the stairs to the 1st floor, acting as intriguing visual signage that pulled people up the Mayor’s Parlour and then guided them around the gallery space.
Dougald Hine’s story ‘Seasons of Scarcity’ was printed on the exhibition catalogue in both English and Bengali. The catalogue also featured introductory texts to the four main SCIBE projects and the architecture teams that worked on them – Booom Collaboration, BOW DIY, BOWNANZA, Community Collabor-8.
The exhibition also featured a large selection of photographs taken by Bromley-by-Bow community members who had been given cameras and asked to document their local area.
In the main gallery space two walls were fully covered in an enlarged A-Z map of the local area. Visitors to the exhibition were invited to write suggestions of what they would like to see in Bromley-by-Bow and then stick them on the map in a particular location.
For the exhibition opening the BOWNANZA team served delicious Bengali dishes from their customised street food bike on The Mayor’s Parlour roof terrace.
My job is to translate complex information into meaningful narratives for people in their everyday lives.
Through creative storytelling and working collaboratively my work inspires businesses and individuals to create positive change. I believe forging emotional connections between people and their environment is one of the greatest design challenges of our time. Designing those connections is what gets me out of bed in the morning. You can learn more about my work on the Working With Me page.
My guiding principles for design storytelling are:
I believe positive behaviour change starts with an emotional connection. In order to create a deeper understanding of social and environmental issues we need to design engaging conversations with people. This is my starting point.
I work with artists, architects, scientists and curators to bring a richness of experience and skills to every project, enabling new connections and fresh perspectives. Innovation is all about uniting existing things in new ways.
Being “of our time” means embracing contemporary culture and the current needs within it. Through my creative work I see myself as part of the cultural fabric of society that develops delightful creative concepts and solutions.
What do our future landscapes look like? How will we live with scarce resources, degraded land and polluted cities? My work on the environment is a thoughtful focus on a desire to enable a healthy future for everyone.
People are the key. Who are you and what do you care about? I work with local people in local places on issues that are meaningful to them. Whether your community is a business, university, village, or street, I want to tell your story.
Nothing is worth working for if there isn’t a whiff of fun and excitement in the air. I’m enthusiastic and energetic about my work and see the challenges that lie ahead as all part of life’s great adventure.
If you’d like me to design your story, please do get in touch – leonora [at] eliostudio.com
Using design and writing skills, I specialise in crafting tales about social and environmental innovation.
Design Storytelling is the term I use to describe my work. It is a process of transforming complex information into engaging narratives. Working with collaborators, I use a range of tools according the needs of each project. These include: art practices, design strategy, writing and research.
Through my creative adventures I have come to understand that people’s care for the world they live in depends on their emotional relationship with themselves and their environment and the stories they tell themselves about both. You can learn about what drives me on the Mission page.
Here are five ways in which you can work with me:
1) Content creation (pre-narrative)
Document key events, observe how people interact, identify emergent themes, structure into a cohesive narrative demonstrating impact.
2) Print Communications (structuring stories)
Develop an engaging narrative from complex, diverse information. Where’s the pattern? What’s the tone? Where’s the beginning, middle and end?
3) Dynamic workshops (event production)
With creative vision, workshops can be dynamic, entertaining, and fun. The important thing is to get participants involved physically and mentally.
4) Interactive exhibitions (embodied learning)
Exhibition spaces that engage people. Embodied space and physical learning is an attention grabbing antidote to our screen based culture.
5) Public Speaking (sharing experience)
I relish opportunities to connect in person and welcome invitations to share my specialist knowledge and experience.
As an initial offering, I suggest a half day ‘Pick my Brain’ session where I can listen to your current challenges and work with you to develop strategic narrative solutions. Do get in touch – leonora (at) eliostudio.com