Guest blog: Visualising the Library of Creative Sustainability

5th June 2022

From January to May 2022 we were lucky enough to have Phoebe, a Masters student at Edinburgh University, with us on a placement looking at developing our Library of Creative Sustainability resource. In this blog post she discusses her experiences and describes our approach to visualising the information in the Library.

Beginning in January 2022, I took on an internship with Creative Carbon Scotland as part of my MSc in Modern and Contemporary Art: History, Curating, and Criticism. Coming from a background as an artist and illustrator, and with a keen interest in ecology and eco-criticism, I was very interested in getting to know a bit more about the Library of Creative Sustainability. Initially meeting with both Lewis and Gemma from the culture/SHIFT team, and with the goal to increase the reach and impact of the Library, we decided early on that graphic and illustrated resources would be a useful asset, as they could help increase share-ability on social media, be easily transferable from digital to physical formats, and synthesise large amounts of data into bite-size pieces.

With that in mind, I set out to research key audiences and stakeholders (such as individual art practitioners, environmental agencies, art institutions, environmental charities, and local government). As part of this process, Lewis set up meetings with Chris Fremantle (producer, researcher and writer), David Edwards (forestry researcher), and Heather Claridge (urban planner). This helped me to learn a bit more about the different sectors that worked with CCS, the type of content which appealed to them, and what different audiences were looking to get out of the Library as a resource. Following these meetings, we decided to select the Velocommunities Embedded Artists Project article as the pilot infographic, and from this point I set to work sketching out the first ideas and trying a few different styles. We floated these ideas amongst our interviewees and other members of the CCS team to see what was initially most appealing, and which was considered most accessible to a non-artistic audience. In the end we decided to go with a loose, illustrative style, which was countered with more linear and graphic shapes, hoping to tread the line between the social, community aspects of the project, and the scientific, data-led factors underpinning them.

We kept this concept up as we proceeded to develop the second phase of the project – developing a visual timeline of the articles comprising the Library. Initially, Lewis consolidated the data into a couple of different visualisations, including an interactive web, and a static, graph-like version. Although the web was fun to play with and was useful for exploring diverse forms of information (like date, region, sustainability issue, etc), we ultimately decided it would be difficult to translate into a single static image. With this in mind, I focused on simplicity and readability, and went for a chronological, linear timeline, with more playful, illustrative elements. Once this aspect was completed, the final stages then involved producing a number of additional graphic assets that could then be used by the team on other articles and to re-produce them into social-media appropriate formats, ensuring the longevity of the project.

The internship overall helped me to learn about the breadth of sectors involved in sustainability projects, as well as the scope for embedded artists to produce meaningful results for both the environment and the community. The research stage helped me to get more acquainted with the variety of projects that are going on globally, in addition to the barriers that can make these projects difficult to undertake. Attempting to distil the themes of the existing articles into a series of illustrated icons made me reflect on the range of activity they cover, and the complexity and variation of these issues from region to region. That there is no single, linear path to follow is clear, but I hope that the resources we produced together will help with communicating just how worthwhile such projects are.

Thank you to Lewis and the CCS team for having me!

You can see the visualisations created by Phoebe below. Click the images for the full size version. Follow this link to visit the Library of Creative Sustainability

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We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

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A project initiated by Edinburgh’s Festivals with key partners the Federation of Scottish Theatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network

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