Using visuals to achieve change

Peter Martin

 There is 1,408.7 million cubic kilometres of water on Earth. Over 97% of it is sea-water.       Image: Adam Nieman

There is 1,408.7 million cubic kilometres of water on Earth. Over 97% of it is sea-water.       Image: Adam Nieman

Communications can serve many purposes - such as providing directions, marketing a product or promoting a brand. It is said that every picture is worth a thousand words. Images and film can have very direct effects. They can grab attention, provoke wonder and prompt questions. They can help people grasp the scale of things that might otherwise seem abstract or unimaginable and they can be powerful emotionally as well as imparting information.

When I first saw one of Adam Nieman’s pictures showing all of the water in the world. I was immediately taken with the beauty of the image and the water-like translucency of the droplet. I found myself wondering:

  • Is that ALL of the water?
  • Is it really in scale with the planet?
  • How much makes up the oceans?
  • How much is freshwater?
  • Is it a finite quantity?
  • What else sustains life on Earth?

Then I went searching for some answers.

Since that time, we have worked together on a variety of projects - from visuals for the launch of a corporate sustainability campaign aimed at changing internal office practices and behaviours to a film for government policymakers at a UN Summit.

In each case, the aims have been to catch attention, convey information, help the viewer begin to make sense of emissions, water extraction, resource use and other previously unseen ‘invisible’ interactions with the environment - and as a consequence feel more connected to the world we share, see their part in things and gain new insights.

Also, they have been intended to prompt questions and fresh thinking – whether at a personal level or to influence policymakers by sparking a reassessment of existing practices and decisions. Its a big challenge to prompt a change in behaviour at a personal level and it is gratifying when people tell us that we have succeeded in doing exactly that. On the larger scale of intergovernmental policy, even a small readjustment can have far-reaching effects.

A longer version of this blog can be found at www.carbonvisuals.com