As I continue to explore the field of science communication, I have been thinking about HOW this information is communicated and what tools we use.  As new technology becomes available, we have the opportunity to use different methods and promote our message with a wider audience.  In my last post on Sharing Science through Social Media, I talked about how the research enterprise is discussing the use of social media.  There is a learning curve on how to use these platforms effectively, but they give researchers a way to practice communicating their results with the public.  A researcher can share interpretations of their data in a variety of formats including posters, presentations, and peer-reviewed publications, but there are additional ways to represent data visually beyond the bar chart.

One technique of combining complex data with graphics is an “infographic”.  This format is not new, for example, weather forecasts are representations of atmospheric models in a simplified visual layout.  Recently infographics have gained popularity online as a means of visualizing and sharing data on any number of topics and because it is easy to share them.  David McCandless, a journalist and self-described data detective, provides one perspective on the beauty of data visualization in a TED talk.  He describes infographics as a language that combines the visually appealing with the addition of concepts.  He suggests that through the interpretation of a combination of relative data sets presented visually, perceptions and behaviors could be influenced.  Companies such as or Piktochart allow users to explore uploaded infographics, add content, and connect with a community of designers, journalists, and developers.  They have created templates for those that want to create infographics, but don’t have the background in programming or graphic design.  Something to consider is the quality of the datasets.  Piktochart will recommend sources while encourages viewers to think critically about what the infographic means and what bias the source may be presenting.  This could spark an entirely new blog post on the significance of information literacy…

Living in a fast-paced world, we are flooded with incoming data on a daily basis.  We have to find ways to consciously and subconsciously sort through what is relevant or interesting to us.  This gets me thinking about the attractiveness of visual design and how we can each pick out different patterns from quantitative and qualitative data to tell different stories.  Connecting this to free choice learning, if datasets were available for visitors to manipulate on a touch screen or through a different format at the Visitor Center, how would they be interpreted?  What stories, infographics, or statements would people create from data provided by oceanographic expeditions or citizen science?  How might they share their creations with others and does this generate discussion?  Could this promote learning?  As time progresses, we will only increase in the amount of data that we generate.  What we do with all this data and how we share it will continue to evolve as the tools and technologies change too.

      My name is Zach and I’m a graphic designer working at the Hatfield Science Center.  I handle all kinds of work that needs to be done for exhibits, posters and signage for the center.  Its a new field for graphic designers and I’m very excited to be a part of it.
     My work with the Tsunami exhibit started with a need to build some posters to explain the content and material the exhibit was focused on.  That remains the primary focus of my work, but the idea of the exhibit has changed to that of a whole experience and how to adequately handle the volume of people that move through the exhibit, making it easier to understand, easy to follow and easy to interact with the various activities.  All of this goes into how I design the visual material.  Its like telling a story and having all the material presented in a way that the viewer can follow through and learn systematically.  I also really enjoy working on changes to signs because observations are giving the organizers feedback as to how people are interacting with the signage, allowing me to design them better.
     It has been a unique experience for me and one that is not just limited to making decisions on a poster as a stand alone unit.  My design work has to fit into a bigger and broader picture and I learn quite a bit about how people respond to design and signage through the observations, which influences my design decisions.