For a period of four weeks, my team and I had to find, organise and create a physical visualisation about electronic waste for an exhibition on WSA campus. To achieve this, we first researched about e-waste and found information that was interesting for us and that could be communicated to people that didn’t know much about the topic. We then choose a piece of the data to start brainstorming and we came up with ideas individually to later on discuss them as a group, tweak them and chose one to move forward. After choosing a concept it was all about thinking how to make it happen and prototyping with different materials. For our specific concept we planned on communicating the amount of e-waste produced by each continent in 2014 and how much of that e-waste was recycled.
The entire process was very chaotic to say the least. We thought it would be interesting to have balls hanging from the ceiling that would represent the production of e-waste and to have some of the balls light up, which would indicate the amount of e-waste that was recycled, as light would be used as an analogy of life. We had to research about circuits and electronics and we decided that cables wouldn’t be a good idea because of voltage allowance and aesthetics so we came up with a plan of having light without any cables involved, which was a real challenge. Also, originally we were going to have the balls in a straight line, but once we prototyped we realized that grouping objects was easier for people to quantify things. Based on what we learnt about Gestalt principles, we decided to use similarity and proximity as a way of grouping elements together. Each continent is treated as a group of balls of the same colour close to each other, which makes it easier for the brain to understand these elements as a whole and thus compare them with other continents. Also, this is the reason why we introduced 2 layers. To allow the audience to understand the difference between the recycled balls and the total production of e-waste and thus compare both bits of data within all the continents. At the beginning, we asked around if the message was clear and some people didn’t get it straight away, so we realised we needed to introduce numbers to make it easier for people to understand. This is why at eye level we placed some labels with the information. On one side people can read the total production of e-waste by that continent and on the other side the percentage of recycled e-waste is displayed. Personally I think they work really well, we were able to solve a problem and enhance the exhibit by adding bits of information around it.
To be honest 2 days before the exhibition I thought we weren’t going to pull it off. Although we prototyped the light, the grouping of objects, the materials and the distribution, we underestimated the fact that working on the ceiling changes everything. Trying to stick vinyl upside down and allowing nylon to go through it so that the balls could hang was a complete mess we should have prototyped before. As seen in the image 1 it was inevitable for the vinyl to have the lines of the nylon going through them and the bigger the continent the messier it would get, which is why we decided to start again, change the plan and re-do everything. Having the time to step back and readjust was key to our success. Things can always go wrong but if you have the time to fix it then it is only a bump on the road. Although having to re-do everything was very frustrating, that failure was actually what guided us to such a good result at the end. We were able to re print everything and have the continents cut in a 3mm foam which allowed us to stick the hanging balls to the ceiling and then cover them with the solid shapes of the map which looked so much better, something we wouldn’t have done if everything wouldn’t have failed the first time around.
It was a real challenge to set an exhibition in such a short period of time and make it look professional. I had never worked with vinyl cut outs of text and it was a real struggle to paste them on the wall and have them look great, but you only learn how to do that by doing it over and over again and I think we managed to make it look very professional. Also, group work was crucial, although at the beginning we had ideas crashing over us, by the end we learn how to work with one another, and we definitely needed 6 hands to do what we did. I learnt how to trust my team members, which is something I always struggle with because I want to have everything under control, but there was no way I would have achieve this on my own. Once we started to set up the exhibition the second time, we knew what each person had to do because we learnt from the previous mistakes and it was getting done. I am totally happy with the finally outcome, I think it visually looks fantastic, it grabs your attention immediately and I like the idea that people can walk through the exhibit itself in the middle of the hanging balls. It is easy to understand the data, see the group of balls and quickly understand that easy is the continent that is producing more e-waste, and Europe is the one that is recycling the most.
I believe that the more things I do, the more problems I learn to avoid. If I were to re-do this exhibition one more time I believe I would choose a different place. I am not sure that the ceiling we chose enhances our work. Although it is placed strategically so people walk through it and see it right away, I would prefer a smooth surface that doesn’t obstruct the aesthetics of the project and a darker area that allows the lights to shine brighter. Also, I think it is important to have more powerful batteries that allow the lights to last longer periods of time. With regards to the aesthetics, I believe the colour palette works really well but maybe the lower recycled balls could be in a darker hue so that it helps them pop out more and so that it also relates to the different tones of colours in the continents. Although I don’t think its a good idea to have a tittle written on the roof, I think it would be good to test this out and see how people respond to it because even though it has a very neat and clear tittle on the wall, I feel like it also needs some sort of short explanation when you are first looking at it hanging from the roof.
Moreover, because we were so confident about the concept and in our minds it worked so well we lacked on strategic planning on the actual set up of the exhibit. It is important to not only prototype materials, but to prototype on-site. I wish we would have come up with a prototype on the exact place of our exhibit so that we could have predicted the need of a rigid surface for the continents. The place where the show was going to take place was crucial for the success of the project and we only considered this at a final stage and it should have been included since the beginning. Finally, although I am totally pleased with our exhibit, because it was such a long shot and it was not easy to physically make. To become a T-shaped person, next time I am going to encourage my group to the brainstorming together. At the beginning of the project we came up with ideas individually, and worked on top of that afterwards but now I am curious what would have happened if as a group we would have thought about ideas together and build upon our knowledge at that time.