The Visual Communication of the Environment in Theory and Practice: Nurturing Relational Perception

Image-makers have the unique ability to make currently invisible ecological processes and relationships visible. Within the context of an increasingly visual culture, images have potential to nurture the development of new perceptual capabilities and encourage relational perception. Graphic design is well suited to facilitate ecological learning since it can draw on a wide variety of visual strategies to display specific geographic spaces, ecological patterns and processes, abstract concepts and future scenarios. Julie Doyle argues that photography records circumstances of the past, so its usefulness in communicating ecological messages is limited to displaying damages already done (2009). My own work proposes that graphic design has greater potential to respond to environmental communication challenges due to its ability harness the communicative potential of maps, charts, diagrams, graphs, timelines, illustrations, network visualizations, data visualization, information graphics, controversy maps, giga-maps and systems oriented design to make complex information accessible, comprehensible and alluring. With design strategies, image-makers can reveal relationships, patterns and dynamics in complex systems. For these reasons, graphic design has exceptional potential to support relational perceptual practices and the ability to ‘see systems’ – nurturing both relational perception and ecological literacy.

For more information please see my Design Research Society 2014 conference paper. Download the paper here.

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