In the age of information overload, one of the main tasks of design is the creation of more engaging delivery systems for large swaths of data.
Through artful styling and presentation, design can help filter and give unprecedented power to information in a way that makes it easier to absorb and less overwhelming. Studio Roberto Rovira, led by the Department of Landscape Architecture + Environmental and Urban Design chair Roberto Rovira, has done just that with his ongoing research project, EcoAtlas.
Studio Roberto Rovira recenty was selected among nine finalists in the Art & Design category of Fast Company magazine’s World Changing Ideas 2020 competition for its work on EcoAtlas. The competition brought in over 3,000 entries and among the nine finalists and seven honorable mentions in said category were MIT Media Lab, Bloomberg Associates, Nike and Kohler, among others.
EcoAtlas builds on extensive inventories of living things available in print and online to communicate the seasonal changes of the natural world. This information is used to create a comprehensive design and visualization tool that charts the organization of all the relationships that bring the ecosystems to life.
Specifically, the research is translated into illustrated depictions of flora and fauna from particular regions. These illustrations are then mapped out in a visually intuitive method that helps guide users through the yearly ebb and flow of bird migrations, flower bloom cycles, crop cultivation seasons, butterfly patterns, and more.
“The EcoAtlas illustrates the dynamics of living things,” Rovira explains. “By communicating a constant state of change in an easy-to-understand visual format that can be drilled down to a detailed level, EcoAtlas becomes a powerful tool capable of sifting through an overwhelming wealth of information that would otherwise get in the way of understanding the forest for the trees.”
The goal of EcoAtlas is to juxtapose art, science and technology in a resource that can help put society on a path toward a more sustainable, conscious and engaging relationship with nature. The next step toward that is to finalize a digital tool that will make the work more accessible and the parameters of the data focused on more customizable.
“Abstractly, you understand that our environment will change and is changing,” Rovira says. “By illustrating it and showing it in a way that makes these changes immediately understandable, you realize that it’s not just one thing, it’s all the relationships that happen as a result.”
For Rovira, nourishing a better understanding of such relationships will prove invaluable not only for designers and planners, but also for scientists and average citizens as they prepare to face existential threats such as sea level rise, habitat depletion and climate change.
“There is no amount of projection, or facts or figures that will convince us to do the right thing,” Rovira goes on to say. “But when you show the environment in a beautiful and intuitive way, you get much farther ahead in being able to make the right decision—and that’s at the core of the EcoAtlas.”
Rovira and his team have exhibited the work at Arteamericas, Art Miami and the Coral Gables Museum. Rovira is an alumnus of the StartupFIU incubator and a recipient of a CARTA Engaged Creativity grant.