This AHRC funded research explores the visual communication of ecological literacy (eco-literacy). The practice-based work communicates ecological themes through graphic displays while also creating learning processes in which these visuals will be used. The research demonstrates how communication design can contribute to the development of new cognitive skills and social capacities including the agency to put new ideas and values into practice.
One of the major premises of this project is that fragmentary thinking is an obstacle to sustainability and that reductive attitudes towards knowledge cannot adequately address problems associated with ecological systems (or other complex systems). Responding to this dilemma, this project uses a whole systems approach based on the emergent concept of eco-literacy. Eco-literacy has been developed by sustainability educators into an approach to sustainability that has the potential to create an integrated foundation for understanding environmental problems and potential solutions. This thesis creates learning processes for ecological literacy facilitated by visual communication with a focus on audiences in the design industry and design education. The research posits that visual communication offers a means of helping audiences understand context, relationships, dynamics and other features of whole systems thinking.
The thesis uses both design and action research methodologies in the creation of new visual resources that are used as part of transformative learning processes. Learning resources and activities are designed to address the value / action gap in sustainable communication and education. The research involves a series of initiatives; the first was a Teach-in attended by over 300 students held at the V&A in 2009. The practice-based work demonstrates how visual communication can facilitate learning processes for ecological literacy and even nurture ecological perception.
Joanna Boehnert (unofficially known as 'Jody') lives in Brixton in South London. She is founding director of EcoLabs (http://www.eco-labs.org/), a design studio working on the visual communication of complex issues with a focus on developing ecological literacy in communication, design and education. Along with her graphic design practice, she is a prolific writer, blogger and environmental activist supporting a variety of organisations and social movements.
Research QuestionsQ1: What is ecological literacy?