Making sense of all these data: How collaborations between
artists, designers, and climate scientists can improve the communication and production of scientific knowledge
In recent decades, despite glaring and increasing evidence of climate change, much of this knowledge remains abstruse, cumbersomely documented, and opaquely presented, making engagement with it by “nonscientists” difficult. There exists, therefore, an exciting and necessary opportunity for scientists to collaborate with artists. We learn that the scientific method begins with a hypothesis, progresses through research and analysis, and concludes with a result. The design process, in contrast, begins with human engagement and inquiry, progresses through ideation and prototyping, and concludes with a refined artifact; similar processes with one glaring difference.
Perhaps the revolution we need to address climate change begins by making the human engagement of artmaking an integral part of the scientific method. There exists real potential for art and design to dramatically improve the way climate research is conducted and communicated. Here, I discuss how collaborations between designers and scientists improved a data delivery interface and the knowledge that scientists could produce while using it. Echoing the sentiments of the late mother of Afrofuturism, Octavia Butler, we can only have the future we need if we imagine it first, and who better to help us imagine our future than artists and designers.