‘…communication is also hard, actually…’

Racer Quick Guide 2‘The science is hard, the communication is also hard, actually; the policy making is also extremely hard.’ This is how Sir Mark Wallport, summed up the challenge of communicating and decision-making, given the complexity of the science behind weather and climate. He was addressing the PURE (Probability, uncertainty and risk in the environment) Network at a showcase event at the Natural History Museum, on 13 September.

We have been working on one strand of the PURE Network’s activity, RACER (Robust assessment and communication of environmental risk) and produced the quick guide, shown above, to remind people communicating data, particularly probabilistic and uncertain data, of some basic aspects of information design. Survey research carried out with weather and climate scientists while preparing the guide found that, although most respondents were aware of the recommendations in the guide, they said they often failed to follow them. They felt the guide would be useful both as a memory jogger for themselves and for trainee scientists.

The full guide can be downloaded from the PURE Network website.

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Join us at Design Research Society conference 2016


Alison Black and Sue Walker are chairing a session on Effective information design at the Design Research Society’s 50th anniversary conference in Brighton. The session, on Thursday 30 June,  includes papers on topics ranging from data visualisation to the design of apps to support healthcare. Those who are unable to attend the conference can access the papers in the conference proceedings. We’re looking forward to the wide range of papers and events throughout the conference.

Postscript We were delighted by the attendance at the event and our audience’s engaged questions. Sue Walker has also reported on it here.

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Visualising uncertainty, MA ID workshop


Last Friday CIDR ran a workshop with the MA Information Design course, investigating the visualisation of natural hazard and meteorological uncertainty information. A fictional design scenario was used for the day, along with a series of mocked-up forecast documents, representing the forecasts on an alien planet for the alien meteorological phenomenon ‘sludge’. The challenges of communicating the uncertainty attached to the sludge forecast were explored though group sketching and discussion. A wide range of ideas were generated, including charts, graphs, and maps, targeted at a selection of different user groups.

The workshop forms part of CIDR’s collaboration on a multidisciplinary research project, RACER, on the communication of the risk and and uncertainty of extreme weather events. We were joined by Kelsey Mulder from the department of Meteorology, who gave a presentation on the meteorological context for uncertainty in weather forecasting.


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Uncertainty and visualization in volcanic ash forecasting

volcanic ash uncertainty survey

Alison Black and Matthew Lickiss accompanied colleagues Kelsey Mulder, Andrew Charlton-Perez and Rachel McCloy, from the University of Reading’s Meteorology and Psychology Departments to a workshop on Volcanic Ash Forecasting at the Royal Academy of Engineering. This was part of CIDR’s collaboration on a multidisciplinary research project, RACER, on the communication of the risk and and uncertainty of extreme weather events.

Those who remember the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010 might imagine that both government and the airline industry are keen to have better tools to measure and predict the presence of ash in order to safely manage the impact of future eruptions on air travel.

During the workshop we ran a small study (see illustration), looking at professionals’ responses to some of the different representations of volcanic ash distribution that are available currently. Some of the data from this study are to be presented at the European Geosciences Union 2016 General Assembly in April.

More details of the workshop’s findings can be found here.

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Reading to do: 18th–20th century with Professor Michael Twyman

Following the video posted last week, we have now uploaded a recording from another session of the Reading to do workshop hosted by CIDR in October 2015 (more information here). As part of the workshop, Professor Michael Twyman led a session showing the historical development of ‘reading to do’ in the 18th–20th centuries. This video is an abridged recording of the session, focusing on the key points of discussion and main examples shown. The talk made extensive use of collections based materials, including a range of tables, handbooks, guidebooks, and catalogues, demonstrating the rich evolution of printed informative text. An additional PDF to accompany the video can be downloaded here, providing higher quality images of some of the main documents shown in the talk.

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Reading to do: everyday experiences

In October last year CIDR hosted an EU funded workshop, Reading to do. As an introduction to the workshop, each participant brought along examples of printed and electronic documents they had used recently in order to carry out a task or make a decision. This video presents an edited version of participants’ presentations of their documents. The presentations highlight some of the pleasures and frustrations of using information that is provided to support people in everyday tasks.

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The secret life of wayfinding

Cape sign post 1

The lighter side of wayfinding at Cape Point

Andrew Barker will be talking tomorrow at the Sign Design Society. Andrew, who is a book and information designer, is in the final stages of his postgraduate research in the Department of Typography at Reading. His research examines the different processes of navigation in books, on screen and in the 3-dimensional world. He has run a series of studies looking at people’s wayfinding strategies which he will draw on for his talk. It appears not everyone is as responsive to signs as their designers might wish.

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Face Forward in Dublin

Grangegorman Dublin

The Face Forward conference on typography was held at the beautiful campus of the Institute of Technology in Dublin over two days last week. CIDR member Keith Tam presented his work on Chinese–English bilingual document design. Keith gave an overview of the issues at hand when designing bilingual documents for selective (as opposed to continuous, narrative) reading. He then went on to discuss his studies investigating how people use different spatial patterns of bilingual documents and introduced a study he is planning currently to examine how monolingual and bilingual readers search for information in bilingual documents.

(Keith’s followers on Facebook will know of his striking photos of the University of Reading campus. Now extended, above, to the Dublin Institute of Technology Grangegorman campus.)

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Information design for health: exhibiting history, theory and practice

Health info exhibition small

The launch of the University’s Health Research theme yesterday provided an opportunity for CIDR to exhibit two aspects of its work
– historical materials, held in the Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection, showing public health communications, prepared in the 1940s for the American TB Association, to explain the prevention and treatment of TB
– current research projects in information design for health care, ranging from public information to reduce medicines waste, through care bundles to support clinical staff’s detection and treatment of acute kidney injury, to building dementia carers’ understanding of and involvement in the care of relatives with dementia. Some extracts from the exhibition are shown below.

Medicines waste

Information design to reduce medicines waste, with Southampton City CCG, funded by Oxford and Wessex Academic Health Sciences Networks

AKI board

Information design to increase uptake of Royal Berkshire Hospital’s acute kidney injury care bundle, funded by Thames Valley Strategic Clinical Network

Our thanks are due to all our collaborators in health care organisations and our funders for the opportunities to engage in projects which both move on understanding of information design for health care and have practical benefits for the people who use the designed project outputs.


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Welcome to Matthew Lickiss

Matthew name 3

Welcome to Matthew, our new CIDR research and administration assistant. He is currently completing a PhD in document theory, following his MA and BA in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication. His main focus will be working as an information designer on an interdisciplinary project, RACER, in which CIDR is collaborating with University of Reading’s Meteorology and Psychology Departments. RACER stands for Robust Assessment and Communication of Environmental Risk. The project is funded by NERC and Matthew’s work will focus on the communication of risk and uncertainty to professionals, such as those in the insurance industry, making planning and business decisions that depend on climate and weather.

Matthew’s arrival coincides with the departure of Josefina BravoBurnier who, although leaving her CIDR post, stays on to start her PhD on the public communication of information about flooding. Now well into her first term wish her all the best for her three years of research.

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