With unlimited time and resources — thinking outside the box:

1) The Coffee Cozy Campaign. My first thought is to create something tangible — something that the audience would be forced to interact with and would spur them on to become an active part of the cause themselves. After some cursory brainstorming, I became fixated on the idea of conveying information via a coffee cozy.

Obviously due to the size of the piece, additional information would have to be provided by other means — perhaps an interactive or motion graphics piece explaining the purpose of the cause and the campaign, as well as some detailed stats.

And in some ways, this limits the audience in a particular way (I understand that not everyone uses coffee cozies). Yet, I think in some instances, a specific audience is better than too general a focus — it provides an opportunity to narrow in and truly concentrate on relaying information in an effective manner. It follows true to the saying, “quality not quantity,” by creating a unique method of conveying a cause in a memorable and different way than simply a printed piece, bound to be overlooked.

The information communicated via the coffee cozy would exist primarily of the general “meat” of the message, a link to learn more about the cause (to encourage the consumer to look to the interactive/motion portion of the project for greater detail), and the “call-to-action.” In this case, the initiative to act could be very tangible. Perhaps the coffee cozy would tell the audience, “The amount of pennies it takes to fill up this cup can vaccinate one child in sub-Sahara Africa against malaria. Start collecting pennies for a cause today.”

In this way, it is handing the consumer the means to act, just as  “Donate Now” button is meant to operate. The coffee cozy could even offer ways of how to start collecting money toward a cause. Perhaps a businessman could put the cup on his office desk and fill it with his change from lunch. Perhaps a teacher who frequents a coffee shop before class in the morning could place it on her desk and challenge her students, as a class, to fill it up by the end of the week. And by focusing on the coffee cozy as the means of informing the audience, this campaign could be universally supported. It doesn’t mean that it is targeted towards Starbucks and Starbucks alone, but rather the coffee cozies could present the information in a non-affiliated manner, bringing together the coffee community for a single cause. The coffee cozies could then me distributed to any coffee shop — either chain or independently-owned — an super-imposed over the business’ printed coffee cups. It would be an amazing output of unified efforts toward a cause.

This concept also has an element of sustainability to it. It is reusing an already consumable product in a new way. Simply rinsing out one’s coffee cup makes it a receptacle for loose change and a means to be a part of the malaria vaccine initiative. (And strangely, as I write this, it becomes less of a “unlimited resources” option, and more of a possible avenue for this project).

2) “Sacrifice in sub-Sahara Africa” (Live Action/Motion Graphics). This idea is truly outside my realm as an individual student operating on a low budget. But, in the best of worlds, I think it would be greatly influential to film interviews with parents and live action sequences of children receiving the vaccine in order to convey the reality of this cause. If done correctly, it could give the viewer a glimpse behind the curtain into the extensive process of the clinical trials, and how dedicated individuals are sacrificing their time to put this pre-cure into production.

Film and photographs outlining actual stories of the need and the solution can tie a much closer emotional bond to the audience than abstract illustration and graphical forms.

However, juxtaposing interactive graphical elements on top of these images, using them as a foundation to the data offered in support of the claim could be imperative in driving a connection between the reality of the situation and the often distanced statistics.

The opening sequence of the TV series “Six Feet Under” is a great example of uniquely pairing live action and typography. Especially many of the “medically related scenes” provide inspiration in how these two worlds, filmed reality and created graphics can interplay in a powerful way. Using motion tracking, the text follows and interacts with the film, further melding this bond and creating a powerful emotional presentation of the information. (In the screen shot below, the text follows the solution as it drains from the beaker.)

3) Motion Graphics and Interactive Media in general. It might seem silly to include these information genres within the “unattainable ideas” section of this blog post. But, before you begin to reject my decision, let me tell you why I have placed them here. There is an extensive element of work put into motion graphics and interactive media pieces.

Simply put — so much can go wrong (as I have learned from experience). It seems that the estimated time of the proposal must be doubled in order to truly grasp the scope of project. Code can break without warning and merit several hours of searching to find the cause of the gliche. Animation can snowball out of control; the sheer size of the file slowing down efficiency and performance levels. Compatibility issues can cause a site to render differently depending on the browser in which it is viewed.

And there is an evident learning curve present — it seems with interactive and motion pieces, there is always more to learn. From watching extensive tutorials in how to master a new technique to googling ways around code conflicts when HTML and CSS clash in new ways, an idea can be a mere sampling of the sheer amount of work ahead.

While the safe route is to pursue a printed piece that has a sense of consistency to it, I don’t want to immediately fall back on this option. I do, however, want to acknowledge the amount of work required by a motion graphics piece.

When researching my desired concept behind a purely information interactive piece, I found myself drawn to the ones that seemed most relational. In this case, a strong narrative either by voice or pure typography engages me in fast-pace story, with very personal touches of expression. I think these aspects are important when engaging the viewer in an emotional subject such as malaria mortality.

My main sources of inspiration are the following two videos:

First, in Share the Proof, the narrator says, “I want to start by showing you what I think is the most beautiful picture,” and then displays an interactive graph that depicts how funding has made a difference in the deaths related to disease in developing countries. The graphical element of the piece rests on chalkboard imagery, giving a very personal and tangible touch to the data. Information is erased and written as the narrator leads the viewer through the story.

In a similar way, I thought it would be arresting to animate paper cut-out depictions of the information to present the information in a tactile way, somewhat like this image below.

The second video, “A History of the Title Sequence,”similarly merges tactile qualities into the presentation of the information, by cutting out object, drawing lines, and coloring paper to reveal the data. It is simple but arrests the attention of the audience by adding a sense of mysterious intrique to the unveiling of the information; the viewer must work to understand.

Keeping my actual time and resources in mind:

1) The Power of a Booklet. With all my talk of interactive media and motion graphics, I don’t want to discount the influence of a printed piece.

This past summer I worked on a printed piece for Discovery Channel’s “Discovery Familia” network at MARCA Hispanic, an advertising agency in Miami, Florida. This 36 page booklet was intended for governmental officials, with the hopes of gaining greater funding for Discovery’s focus on and support of the “Hispanic Mom.” I worked under a lead designer who had the majority of say regarding the graphical elements of the piece, and a client, who held an even stricter vision of the project.

What struck me was that such a piece was important enough to produce — Discovery Channel views the government as a worthy and influential audience in their quest for financial support. What also surprised me was the “childlike qualities” of the information — the data had been severely paired down to bare basic simplicity, Discovery Channel’s requested and required approach.

While “childlike” quality has its place, this has inspired me to seek the opposite direction, a more serious and sophisticated approach, with plenty of white space, room for the data to breathe, abstracted/mood-driven/thought-provoking photography, subtle includes of somber tones with a slight gritty texture. I feel that something along these lines would merit greater attention from a professional community, and would be an adequate way to describe a serious matter, such as the detrimental affect of malaria on children under five.

2) Booklet-inspired Interactive Site. Spring-boarding off of the previous idea is turning the style of a printed piece into a digital representation. This eliminates the cost of printing (yet, leaves it as a possibility nonetheless) and makes it easier to share the work with others, while still maintaining that tactile reading quality (from left to right). One of my inspirations is the Annual Report for Warby Parker Eyewear. It scrolls horizontally, from left to right, similar to a book or catalog, yet has interactive surprises, such as roll-overs and pop-ups, along the way that keep the viewer curious and, yes, in a way, entertained.

In the screenshot below, the tick marks along the bottom of the screen represent an interactive timeline. When your cursor mouses over the dominant lines, a flag raises up in the screen, explaining the important of the date. It is these interesting instances that make this story even more complex and intriguing. Perhaps little unknown facts about malaria could be “treats” along the way to encourage viewers to continue their data discovery.

I really am drawn to this three dimensionality, where the z-index is used to create a depth of field within the viewer’s browser window. It invites them into the information rather than allowing them to glance through it as a surface level.

One of my favorite sites which allows the user a certain element of control in this respect is Africa Puma. As the mouse moves, the viewer’s angle of perspective of the content shifts. It is slightly unsettling at first, but creates a very unique, jarring experience. This however, in the short time-frame of the project is unfortunately outside of my limits. However the method above (exhibited by Warby Parker) would be manageable, requiring more print-based methods of design with minimal coding.

3) Purely Geometrical and Abstract Approach. At this point in the blog, I am scraping the empty walls of my brainstorming capabilities for effective methods of presenting this information. However, I never really looked into the a purely geometrical and abstract approach, allowing the viewer to shape the data via their own perceptions and biases (I know this is frowned upon, but I cannot control what the audience brings to the piece).

Not that I want to elevate “beauty” and “aestheticism” above statistical data, but I think this approach needs to be given some value.

Take a look at Chad Hagen’s nonsense info-graphics. They are so beautiful that I wish they had a statistical foundation. And what if they did? They would be awe-inspiring, drawing eyes left and right.

These next examples are backed by data and have the same “aesthetic” qualities that I find so alluring. There is more emphasis on typographic and graphical treatments, and less emphasis on photography and creating an emotional connection as I outlined in above examples. The emotional connection is thus formed by the audience’s initial reaction to the data at its core.

And if you read this far, I commend you for following my tumultuous brainstorming session of form and materials in light of the malaria vaccine study.

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