Christian Nold – Sensory Journeys

Christian Nold was one of the designers I briefly looked into for my research on Emotive Mapping. Looking at a further scope of his work I have found that he is one of the leading experts in the emotional cartography world, most notable for his project on bio mapping.

As with the emotive Stockton map, Nolds work on Bristol also illustrates the emotional responses the participants had on the surrounding area, although this is more tailored regarding their reactions and the correlation between the mode of transport they are using. This map is in response to the question – Do people have different sensory experiences and emotional relationships with their local area depending on their mode of travel?

The participants were children and were asked to carry GPS units around the town and press a button at five different points to describe their most important experiences which were then marked on the specially crafted greyscale printed map of the area. They were encouraged to make sketches and notes on top of these maps including stating which route they travelled on, these were then scanned and uploaded onto the website.

I find the initial look of the emotive map quite a confusing piece of work to look at, it isn’t something the user will initially understand without first reading the background concept however when you zoom in to a specific location, Nold recommends a school, you begin to see what the children think of the area through a series of smiley faces. On clicking these faces you get a sentence or two directly from the kids about the area that are in their most raw state. Some don’t make sense, some are very brief and hard to understand and others are just plain weird.

  1. –       I got killed hear not
  2. –       Save me people are torching me at school
  3. –       Don’t come here ever
  4. –       Prison
  5. –       Prison
  6. –       My Old School I Move up to be more grown up!

These are just a few of the notes regarding the location around the prison and Elmlea School. I think it’s interesting to see these interactions and how they change based on the forms of transport used. Flicking through the tabs it’s clear that very few children cycle to school with scooters being a fraction more common. As expected driving in and walking were almost tied with those variations of the map being exceedingly confusing with the drawings and sketches overlain on top of them.

‘Looking at the maps, there is clear difference between the modes of transport. The Walking Maps for both schools show a much larger number of interactions with people, plants and animals as well as sensory events such as weather, noises and smells. In comparison the Driving Maps show mainly buildings and sights. The experience of being driven to school appears to be like a teleport with a beginning and an end and little in between.’

These findings show that the act of walking, whilst being the healthiest and more environmentally friendly choice is also the most enriching as the children found the journeys much more interactive and interesting as opposed to those on the driving maps. These findings were then presented to the schools to discuss the sensory, emotional and social impact on the travelling choices made by the children and their parents on their daily commute.


Natural Wayfinding

The use of nature for modes of navigation is a trick that goes back thousands of years; the Greeks would map the stars the sun and the moon using these for directional purposes before cartographers began to map the world. Through evolution and the resulting digital age a lot of these natural navigation techniques have been lost to us due to the use of satellite navigation and even the paper map!

Tristan Gooley (2008) is among one of the only authors in the world with a book on natural Wayfinding. The book informs readers of facts that will help them navigate their way through the wilderness without the use of a map or compass. Such techniques and tricks as looking at tree stumps and locating which side the ‘centre’ of rings are closer too – always to the south side of the tree. Other tips such as looking for rust coloured lichen are given in the book, it states that this lichen hates to be touched by sunlight and so as a result will always grow on the north side of the tree. I find it really interesting to think that humans or more specifically the design team heralded by Calvert and Kinnear, have spent years trying to develop and perfect Wayfinding signage and techniques when there has already been a perfectly good system in place for thousands of years that nobody knows about or how to even use anymore.

In 2011, BBC 2 saw three celebrities taken out of their comfort zones with modern day Wayfinding to be put into the wilderness after a crash course in the natural techniques. They were told to find their way from one point to the next, only through using these methods that they were otherwise unfamiliar with. I thought it was a very interesting experiment to see how well they coped and I would like to see more tests done in this area to see how easy it is for people to switch back out of pictograms, signage and logic and find their way through natural means.

Thematic Mapping

Thematic maps emphasize upon a certain theme or topic. They discard all the information available except that which is immediate and relevant, this being one of the main features why they differ from conventional mapping approaches. As a general rule they don’t include natural features such as rivers, cities or political boundaries unless these details are essential to the maps formation, for example for the user to orientate themselves to the data or to highlight certain aspects. An English astronomer called Edmund Halley created the first thematic map during the 17th Century. He produced a star chart that was a lot more accurate than the current examples at the time due to the advancement of the cartography era.

Considerations when creating thematic maps today are to keep the intended audience in mind so that the information included is as minimal and relevant as possible.



John Snow, 1854

For me one of the most notable approaches for thematic mapping was the work by John Snow in 1854. Through the use of this medical cartography technique, patterns regarding the cholera epidemic in relation to the water pumps in the local area were made clear leading to revolutionary breakthroughs in the medicinal world which helped saved the lives of thousands. Due to this breakthrough Snow is now considered one of the founding fathers of Epidemiology – the science of the study of patterns, causes and effects of healthy organisms and diseased in defined populations.

His research took route from his refusal to believe the theory that Cholera was a disease bred through airborne means. He argued that the bacteria in fact entered the body through the mouth and published his ideas in an essay ‘On The Mode Of Communication of Cholera’ in 1849. He proved his theory after careful investigation of where the diseased areas fell on the map. Snow was then able to identify a water pump in the area as a source of the disease. He had the handle removed and soon after the cases of cholera began to diminish

I think this is an amazing discovery that was found through such a unique and imaginative method.


Emotive Mapping

As an alternative to the conventional mapping techniques in response to a given area some designers opt to illustrate the territories as an Emotive Map or Emotisurvey. Whereas a traditional map is a very analytical and precise approach, usually done as part of a house style as with the OS Maps, this new styling presents the region as less of a clinical place, giving way to the real emotions of the locals about their hometowns and making it seem more real. It shows their opinions, desires and sometimes even their past experiences regarding the area, which brings life into the Emotive Map. I think these maps work really well as in both of the examples I looked at, the responses given by the local community were both taken forward to help improve upon the area in reply to what they stated. This leads to the communities being improved by the people in them as opposed to an uncaring response by the government.

Emotive Mapping

Emotive Maps – Malvern (Stevenson, 2012)

The Emotisurvey of the town of Malvern was undertaken by Andrew Stevenson back in 2012 and displays the information gathered on an Interactive Website, which is a clear and easily understandable approach. Important information regarding the age of the participants and more specifically their thoughts for any given point along the route is communicated in a simple iconographic way, eliminating the need for being bogged down by a statistical overload.

The wide range of participants were asked to go along the same trail and review all of the 12 specified points on the map with both visual and video responses that were then uploaded onto the website. This information was then reviewed by ‘Route to the Hills’ and the ‘Malvern Hills District Council’ to better improve upon the given area. Aspects such as the Wayfinding signage, public facilities and pathways along the streets were picked up on along with many other points. Switching through the user profiles displays an image of the route that has been colour coordinated depending on the users thoughts upon the given environment. For example, areas that they were particularly unhappy with would be displayed as red and parts where they couldn’t see any room for improvement are displayed as green. For this aspect I think displaying the information, as an interactive map, is the best possible solution.

The only issue I could find with the Emotisurvey was that regarding the videos. Some were far too long and others I found difficult to understand what the participants were saying due to background noise and the recordings being of poor quality. This is something I felt should have been addressed at the start of the project.


Emotive Maps – Stockport (Nold, 2007)

In contrast to the visual display of the Malvern Hills route, the map of Stockport I looked at differs completely in the layout. This was due to the static approach and the avoidance of iconographic imagery. The Stockport map may have been compiled together by one designer but the illustrations were taken from all of the 200 participants that were asked to review the location and sketch anything they felt was appropriate depending on their thoughts of the place. This resulted in the map being an imperfect representation, and alternatively being much more impressionistic. The map itself doesn’t even fit north facing, as you would expect of a traditional map. Instead it has the river Mersey running parallel through the centre of the page. This is due to the river being the biggest resource available to the town of Stockport giving identity and also acting as a county boundary. They’re the features that make Stockport a unique area and as such take centre stage.

Blank space has been filled with handwritten script from the many participants which may be difficult to read if the map was scaled down. I for one had trouble reading the writing on the screen despite zooming the relevant parts in. The file was so large that it lagged the computer down to a depressingly low speed and so I feel the typography has been compromised upon.

In addition, the residents were also asked to state whenever they became particularly attentive to their surroundings, whether for good or bad. These emotional responses were then traced out onto the map for the viewer to follow. I didn’t think this was a very clear concept to understand – emotional responses are indicated by a red cylindrical shape that changes size and colour depending on the scale of the emotions.

From this research Nold discovered that consumerism is among the biggest aspects of town life. When residents were asked to draw people most drew shoppers and when asked of the places they went too, most said they’d rather go to coffee shops over recreational parks. There was also a notable isolation of young people with not enough centres or activities provided for them to go to.

Stockport has since gone through a regeneration scheme known as Future Stockport showing that surveys such as Emotive Mapping can show a real need for improving upon the local community.

Information Is Beautiful Awards

The information is beautiful awards celebrates the excellence of data visualization and information design in a yearly competition that takes work from design agencies, creative teams and even individuals to be sorted into the five categories –

  • – Data Visualisation
  • – Infographics
  • – Interactive
  • – Motion Infographics
  • – Tool

The KANTAR awards is fast becoming a much sort after prize, although they are non-profitable and community driven, work entries came in from over 20 different countries and in 2012 only 26 prizes were awarded across the platform. Having a scroll through some of the interactive maps, it was slightly disheartening in a way to see work that was in a different language, specifically with maps as for the interactive ones you have to type relevant information in to actually view the work. However, seeing the wayfinding approaches of a different culture and how one will cross over with another is always helpful. More specifically i looked at the work – which piqued my interest due to the link with the Tour De France. The maps are taken directly through google but have been changed in design so that they are of only two colours. Referencing back to Google maps i checked whether this was again a cultural thing that i may not have known before but it seems to me to purely be a design choice. One that works, blue isn’t often a colour used in Wayfinding other than to hint at the existence of nearby water or more obviously, the sea and so using it in this way to highlight the route the cyclists will take is a nice touch away from the norm. It also compliments the background, which is in a one tone grey scale.

Looking through further examples of interactive design it strikes me as what makes this form differ so detrimentally from traditional methods is the way in which it engages people mentally resulting with them sticking with the work longer, subconsciously learning. In the digital age it makes sense to utilize the assets that are available to us. At the prospect of sifting through a reference book, a lot of people will be daunted by such a mammoth task (even through the use of contents and index pages) whereas an interactive page can quite easily conceal the same information and more but being able to present it cleverly and clearly will make them ignorant as to how much information they are taking in. As with information design, when producing something that’s interactive the images are either iconographic or heavily simplified into geometric shapes to give a hint of what is being conveyed.

Moving away from interactive design to information graphics i began to look into a 6 metre installation piece by Joanne Byrne in which she catalogues the development of life through time from the first ever creation of a single celled organism. The information works in a hexagonal grid, influence for such comes from the structure of DNA. 15 categories are woven into the grid ranging from mammals, plants, fish and bacteria. I think this success of this piece is down to the sheer size of it – viewers will immediately be drawn in and engaged.

Learning Outcomes

  • Extend upon my current critical statement to produce a finished visual
  • Research into a broad range of topics centering around information journalism and critically evaluate until a well formed theory is devised
  • With guidance, choose and use a range of appropriate design tools
  • Design a communication solution using an appropriate medium
  • Demonstrate that a range of cultural, graphical and mental learning assumptions have been explored in designing for a set audience
  • Work responsibly to develop work within the appropriate time management techniques
  • Discuss and justify work in relation to others working in the practice through both traditional and contemporary means
  • Look at other means of wayfinding outside the normal approaches

Information Design Is Solving Information Problems

For CDME2008 we were asked to look into an area of interest and develop a basic hypothesis into our Independent Study for Year Three. To do so we are to engage, discuss and contextualize the work and theories of professionals already working in our chosen field to further develop our own understanding. The purpose of this module is to introduce students with elements of primary research regarding the development of a concept, and to further develop their already established research skills – better equipping them for their area of study.

For me the foundations of my research started with Graphic Design.

‘The term information design is frequently applied to the layout of documents, interfaces and 3D imagery; however it can also refer to a host of information systems and environments’ (Snyder, 2011). This quote from an American lecturer in the field lays down the very foundation of what information design is, which is simply the practice of displaying information such as facts or figures in a visually appealing method that is much more simple for the mass public to understand. Louis Sullivan, 1896, stated that ‘Form Follows Function’, and in terms of working with the layout of pure information this couldn’t be more poignant. During the interview stage of the module, where students are asked to go and interview a professional in their field, I interviewed the Graphic Designer for the Worcestershire County Council, Neil Sullivan, 2013, who in response to a question involving the correlation between Form and Function stated that – ‘If you can get the right balance between informing the viewer of the correct message and attractiveness then this is a much better standard practice of work’ showing first-hand that this theory regarding both form and function is something that is applied within the place of work.

‘Avoid straightforward facts and dry statistics. Instead, focus on the relationship between the facts, the context and the connections that make the information meaningful.’ (McCandless, 2009). David McCandless is one of the biggest contemporary names in Information Design and talks freely about the beauty of Data Visualization and the language of the eye and mind in his TED talks (TedGlobal, 2010). This works similarly to the psychologist’s theory of dominant sides to the brain (Sperry, 1981). Both McCandless and Sperry claim that one side of the brain is more dominant than the other resulting in the subject being either more analytical and logical with their thoughts or alternatively, being more creative and sensitive to patterns, colour and shape. In terms of good design regarding

the layout of information, then it is this ‘Language of the Eye’ that is essential for recognizing the patterns and trends hidden within the data. Having a more unusual arrangement allows the designer to bring certain elements into focus more so than others, so the irrelevant facts are easily ignored. Typically humourous elements will also be added to further boost the appeal of the Info Graphic as with the ‘Mega Shark’ piece which illustrates how a 40 meter Shark could attack a low riding plane at cloud level with the proper acceleration out of the water (Taubman, 2010). I think the success of this piece in addition to it’s simplified composition which follows the Graphic’s Rule of Thirds (Smith, 1797), is the humourous iconographic images used within which are very similar to the work of Otto Neurath (1920’s) – as is evident from the cover page from his book. References are given so that the viewer can identify with the scale of the proposed size of ‘Mega Shark’ and the fact that this is fictional doesn’t detract from the value of the information.

‘A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words’ (Barnard, 1921). Working as a data journalist allows you the freedom of working outside the parameters of simply just text and into the much broader spectrum of working with both the copy and an image combined.

Otto Neurath (2011) is considered by many to be the originator of Information Design. In the recent rerelease of his book The Language Of The Global Polis he states that ‘Education requires simplification, that is, the empiricist notion of abstraction in the face of the complexity of facts.’ He then goes onto say that it is better to remember ‘simplified pictures than it is to forget accurate figures’ which works better for individuals who prefer to study with a visual, non-verbal learning style (Rolfe, 2012). This type of learning prefers the use of images and pictograms in textbooks and will remember something by mentally visualizing a picture rather than remembering a quote they read at the same time, proving a need for the subject of Information Design. This heavily iconographic style works with this type of use due to it being easily memorable and colourful.

Limited colour is something that has been transferred to many forms of media, as with the directional signage used in Britain today. During the late 1950’s measurements were put in place to amend all of the Wayfinding systems in the United Kingdom. The Ministry of Transport commissioned Richard ‘Jock’ Kinnear and Margaret Calvert to design a set of signage that was clear and understandable. From this we can determine that the basic fundamental of Wayfinding is to create signage that is intuitive on first sight and unnoticeable so that it blends into the current surroundings (Dan Hirst, 2009). The original commission set up to redesign the signage back in 1957 (Design Museum, 2006) was first used on the M6 bypass in Preston, but over time similar projects were set up to develop the road signs throughout Britain and eventually their work had become the model for modern road sign design. The colour coded system, known as the Guilford Ruling was introduced in the later part of the 1950’s after it’s pilot in Guilford, Surrey. It was one of the biggest updates to hit the directional signage for the past thirty years and was the practice of incorporating colours relevant to the particular route to make the Wayfinding journey easier for motorists to understand.

The uses of Information Design do not only cover that of displaying signage and information but also recognizing patterns that may have previously been hidden as with the cholera epidemic in the 1840’s (Snow, 1854). This thematic map by John Snow doesn’t only chart the cases of Cholera in the given area but also links the deaths to the surrounding water pumps to show the relationship between the two. If it wasn’t for this research into medical cartography then preventative measurements could not have been put into place to cure the epidemic that claimed so many lives (Vinten-Johansen, 2003).

Sadly due to the evolution of digital communication being incorporated into the modern world, the art of cartography is one that is slowly dying out. As can be seen by the ordinance survey statement (Page 16, Learning Journal). It’s only logical that people will access websites such as Google and use devices like satellite navigation systems to find their way from A to B when research suggests that drivers with a SatNav spend on average of 18% less time at the wheel as opposed to those without (AA, the. No Date). This is in no doubt due to user errors and the way that satnavs can intuitively help drivers avoid traffic incidents, congestion charges and toll roads. However when signs such as ‘Do Not Follow Your Satnav’ are installed throughout the country (Mail Online, 2007), it doesn’t seem reasonable that so much faith can be put into them. When working to a close brief, designers such as Sullivan said that it is standard practice to use a template which may have been pulled off of Google itself, making the whole process of cartography and map making a much quicker process (Sullivan, 2013).

The art of the Mapmaker and Wayfinding Engineer is most certainly not a dead concept as the technological user error encountered within a SatNav is nonexistent through the use of physical maps rendering Information Design and Wayfinding a more objective and accurate approach.

To conclude the research that I have looked at throughout the course of this module has helped me to expand upon my knowledge of Information Journalism and to develop my understanding on the methods and theory which I intend to develop even further for my Independent Study next year. This has led me onto the dissertation topic ‘Can there be such a thing as an Information Journalist?’

Currently journalism is predominantly a textual medium, with the public and most artists within the community not recognizing that Information Design can be used in effect to display data in a much more engaging and eye-catching way. Information Journalism is an unusual concept, but on a broader scale makes logical sense due to the way people respond to information presented and how humans are intrinsically engineered to communicate using the dominant half to their brain. Due to the modern age, information is shared a lot more effectively since the creation of the World Wide Web in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee (CERN, 2013), which has resulted in putting the infrastructure in place for designers to disseminate these stories.

For my Independent Study I will critique the different learning styles by conducting a survey to see if there is a correlation between the way people respond to a piece of Information Design and Wayfinding and whether they are comfortable switching from the technological maps to a paper one for long journeys if these maps are rendered different;y. I will then respond accordingly to these results and proceed with the findings to watch how people orientate themselves in a new surrounding without immediate Wayfinding approaches available to them.

Overall I have found this module to be one that is engaging in that it helps student to expand upon a topic that they hold a certain passion for.

Information Design Is Solving Information Problems.