Communicating soil moisture forecasts in Ghana

Sample materials from ERADACS project

Our first set of materials, communicating climate and soil moisture forecasts, is ready for field testing in Northern Ghana. This is a first design outcome of one of our collaborative projects with meteorologists, funded by NERC, who are drawing together data on climate and land surface in order to provide improved seasonal forecasts for soil moisture. The project, ERADACS (Enhancing Resilience to Agricultural Drought in Africa through improved Communication of Seasonal Forecasts), has set out not only to improve forecast skill but to ensure forecasts are communicated in the most usable way to people making decisions about what crops to plant and when to plant them. The project is in partnership with the Ghanaian Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and NGO, Evidence for Development. University of Reading brings expertise in modelling climate and weather, satellite derived observations of rainfall from the TAMSAT group, a tradition of agricultural extension research and, from the perspective of information design, a heritage of  investigating the most accessible ways of communicating new information.

As field work gets underway we are conscious of the work in the 1950s of the Isotype Institute. Marie Neurath worked with local communities in West Africa, developing visual educational materials, initially about the constitutional impact of independence and subsequently to support public education campaigns regarding health and farming.


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Dementia Guide goes national

Today the Dementia Guide for Carers and Care Providers, the product of a collaboration with Health Education England Thames Valley, goes national at the Dementia 2020 conference, Royal Society of Medicine, London.

The guide can be downloaded from Amazon for Kindle, and is available from iTunes and iBooks store.

For some years now we have been working with healthcare professionals on research projects relating to dementia care, from which one output was the Handbook for Dementia Carers developed with Berkshire Healthcare Foundation Trust, to meet the information needs of carers in the Berkshire West region. Launched in 2014, it was subsequently adapted for use in the Essex region by Essex Healthwatch. More recently, we worked with Health Education England Thames Valley, to create app and ebook versions to extend the handbook content to professional as well as family carers.

The publicity materials for the conference exhibition stand (shown above) were prepared by Part 3 students in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, Francesca Britton and Alice Watkins.

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Congrats to Josefina and our MAID graduates

How to cook noodles

Dear how to, week 17

How to eat an organge without peeling the skin

Dear how to, week 7

How to tie a scarf – Turkish style

Dear how to, week 19

We’re thrilled to announce that CIDR doctoral researcher, Josefina Bravo is part of the Dear How To team who won the Jury Prize and a Gold Award in Didactics at this year’s IIID awards. Dear How To is a team of three graduates of our MA Information Design programme: Josefina,  Sol Kawage and Tomoko Furukawa.

Joan Zalacain, another of our MA information design graduates, and Rami Kilani (Zalacain Wayfinding & Overhaul Jordan) received the Gold Award in Future Concepts for their work on the Qibla Mecca Smart Wayfinding System

Congratulations to all winners!

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New book . . .


CIDR is delighted to announce the publication of Information design research and practice, a Gower book published by Routledge. The editors, Alison Black, Paul Luna, Ole Lund and Sue Walker have had the pleasure of working with leading academics and practitioners internationally, and they welcome Erik Spiekermann’s comments in the book’s Foreword:
This book provides 750 (expertly designed) pages to show just how complex and multifaceted the history, the methodology, and the practice of information design are. I am very happy that our discipline has finally come of age and that we now have our own bible to prove it.

Information design research and practice is highly-illustrated in full-colour and contains 49 chapters in four sections: historical perspectives; theoretical approaches; cognitive principles and practical applications.

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Signs of Christmas

The Sign Design Society and Information Design Association are organising an evening ‘Talkfest’ in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication on 7 December. Starting at 5 p.m., a tour the Department’s collections will be followed by a series of 10 minute talks, and opportunities for socialising too.

More details can be found at the Sign Design Society’s website.

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Inclusive design at University of Reading

Jeanne-Louise Moys, third from left, with Penny Mordaunt MP to her right

CIDR member, Jeanne-Louise Moys, met with MP, Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Disabled People, who visited University of Reading yesterday to learn more about the University’s Breaking Down Barriers project. Breaking Down Barriers aims to embed inclusive design in the University’s teaching and learning. Jeanne-Louise brings a focus on access to information to the wide ranging research expertise of the team.

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‘…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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