The Visual [Emotional] Vocabulary of Sustainability

A session at Interaction14

Saturday 8th February, 2014

2:45pm to 2:45pm (AMT)

Social and environmental sustainability are complex and daunting topics. Convincing people to adjust their behavior in order to adopt more sustainable patterns is a challenge – to say the least.

When the goal is to help audiences understand the deluge of data available, communicating the context is of high importance. And this has a lot to do with establishing an emotional connection between individuals and information.

Data that is designed to tell a story can create a strong connection between high-level, abstract sustainability concepts and the daily, individual actions of consumers.

This presentation will provide a visually-rich overview of practices in the visualization of sustainability data based on my experience with public art installations, multinational clients, and in education. Key practices include: Layering information, presenting positively, letting audiences make their own decisions, enabling interaction and providing access to supporting data.

Specific experiences and examples from interaction, information and communication design will illustrate each point. One such project is the ‘Bicycling Counts’ interactive data installation. This project counts passing bicycles and, in real-time, visualizes each passing cyclist in terms of individual and collective financial savings. Inspired to celebrate the collective impact of cyclists, the bicycle counters ‘show’ what the data from passing bicyclists means in terms of environmental, financial and individual social impact – in real-time animations. The project has been installed in Malmo, Sweden and Minneapolis, US.

As an information designer, public artist and ‘visual storyteller’, I am fascinated by the ways in which we are endlessly tied to the world through everyday actions. Small, seemingly inconsequential objects and experiences populate our lives, and yet the intricate life stories of these objects are hidden from the eyes of their present user.

In my work as a ‘visual storyteller,’ I seek to visualize the narratives behind the ubiquitous objects that we interact with; to help individuals connect emotionally to the specific social and ecological-sustainability impacts that these interactions have on the world.

About the speaker

This person is speaking at this event.
Arlene Birt

Visual Storyteller and Info Designer immersed in happy experiment to show&tell stories of sustainability thru identity, interaction and information design. bio from Twitter

Next session in Breakout room B

2:45pm The Visual [Emotional] Vocabulary of Sustainability by Arlene Birt

Sign in to add slides, notes or videos to this session

Tell your friends!


Time 2:45pm2:45pm AMT

Date Sat 8th February 2014


Breakout room B, Westergasfabriek

Short URL


View the schedule


See something wrong?

Report an issue with this session