Ambient infographics (or street infographics) are an emerging format that challenge the norm of where infographics are usually found. In the ambient format, infographics burst out from our newspapers and twitterfeeds and share our public space, turning up unexpectedly on walls, on street furniture and on windows.
There is some tentative evidence that they might be a useful way to engage communities. In ‘Street Infographics: Raising Awareness of Local Issues through a Situated Urban Visualization‘ by Sandy Claes and Andrew Vande Moere, a project is outlined that involved placing infographic-based signage on the streets of Leuven, Belgium. The project was positively received by residents though the study was small in scale. The project paves the way towards more research and projects in this area, particularly, say, in the public health area of active travel. This is one of the intentions of our research project, asking whether ambient infographics are well received when they deal with personal choices of living and social determinants of health. They offer potential in terms of grabbing attention but do they deliver in terms of longer lasting messages and can they be understood at a glance?
The term ‘Infograffiti‘ is also relevant here. Artist Golan Levin, several years ago, used stencils to create charts and graphs in the urban environment. Whether they ‘mobilised the troops’ has yet to be seen but they are a reminder that data isn’t precious and can be openly shared in really quite rough formats. Does it need to look beautiful?
Data can also find its way onto walls made by the community that surrounds it. The example below is from a community project in Somerville last year. It’s encouraging to read such positive responses by people who viewed it: “I think it’s great, informative, its easy to take all the information in. I didn’t realize so much land had been turned into veggie beds.” Another man shared, “The mural is what I gravitated to. Especially the part with the number of people served by the outreach market“.
So far ambient infographics seem full of potential. The messages to spring from these three projects is ‘let’s explore them with more rigour’, ‘let’s examine them over time’ and ‘let’s enjoy pushing the format with our imaginations and different materials’.