Talking About TED Part I: The Value of Visuals

Brendan Baines is working in Colima, México in Networking and Partnerships

As the old adage goes,  a picture is worth a thousand words. The Beauty of Data Visualization by David McCandless raises some interesting points about visuals that cross over to the world of development.

One day last year, with no specific end goal in mind, I decided to turn my world map into a 3D visual. Two countries at war? Stick in a couple of red pins and tie them together with red thread. Want to know who vetoed that UN resolution? Just follow the blue thread to the security council member. Countries that have had a female head of state were tagged in pink. Economic blocs were linked in green. Etc.

Soon enough I had a map coded in a language of shapes and colours. Some called it ingenious. One family member called me autistic. All I knew for sure is that with a few simple supplies, I had created a tool that instantaneously gave me a holistic background on the world.

As McCandless states, simple, good design can be the best way to share information. When represented visually, complex concepts and issues become accessible and appealing.  He puts our ability to process information in relative terms: sight = the equivalent of a computer, touch = USB stick, hearing and smell = hard disk, taste = pocket calculator (@9:10 of his talk.)

A visual tool Sustainable Cities uses in its planning processes is asset mapping – a creative and simple way to engage community members in identifying the resources in their own community. Rather than determining ‘needs’ (and eliciting the negativity that comes with focusing on what is lacking), asset mapping helps communities build social capital and become more self-reliant by discovering and utilizing local assets.

By both focusing on the positives within a community and conveying them visually, we are most likely to provoke a response… And as a result, produce an impact.


About sustainablecitiesnetwork

Sustainable Cities International is a registered not-for-profit organization based in Vancouver, Canada. Operating since 1993, the mission of Sustainable Cities is to catalyze action on urban sustainability with cities around the world. We work by connecting and mobilizing people through the process of co-creating. We facilitate a thriving, international network of cities that act as urban laboratories: adopting, testing and improving on innovations. Ideas are accelerated through sharing of experience and cities are making transformational change a reality
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3 Responses to Talking About TED Part I: The Value of Visuals

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Talking About TED Part I: The Value of Visuals « Sustainable Cities : PLUS Network blog --

  2. jim says:

    this is awesome man

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