Presentation & Feedback

Posting my final in-class presentation below:

Final_prez

I received a lot of really helpful feedback during class, from professors and peers on how to improve my project. I knew going into the presentation that I had not had enough time to practice and I think I left out a few key messages concerning my presentation. That said, I was pleased with the feedback I received.

From the professors:

  • ‘Seems very complete, as a project.’
    • I was pleased with this remark, as one of my main aims was to finish something that I could hand over as an outreach tool to an organisation. I did not want it to be a proposal for future work, which is why I really limited the scope of the work. However, I do acknowledge that there is a lot that can still be worked on on the images.
  • ‘Is “generic” design ever generic? I think this is friendly-looking, the colors and cartoonish style helps that’
    • Agree they are not really ‘generic’! I was not sure whether the cartoonish style was a good/bad thing initially, but I started out trying to make them accessible and felt that the simpler lines and colors would do that. I also think the ‘friendly’ nature of the images creates that ‘double-take’ effect we spoke about in class, that the harmful icons require the reader to take a second look, because they follow the same ‘friendly’ style as the non-toxic lawn icons.
  • ‘You pinpoint the tension between the dominant pristine lawn aesthetic, and the poisons it produces. So while I appreciate you minimizing their visual difference in your diagram, I wonder if you need a second diagram where you heighten a new aesthetic, and really target the lawn-fetishists (are these still men?)’
    • Would have to discuss this a bit further as to what a ‘heightened new aesthetic’ would be – but I think that it would be a good next step to really develop a ‘non-toxic’ image, with a more detailed aesthetic and more icons/information, which could stand alone.

 

From peers:

  • ‘These stats are horrifying – making the invisible visible. Your iconography is really strong. I think you’ve achieved what you’ve wanted in terms of making things relatable. In particular the icons toe a good line between accessibility without being cartoons. One critique would be to swap the bad and good images – bad on left and good on right to create a call & response. Also, have  you looked at rock lawns in places like Jacksonville?’
    • Glad to hear they liked the icons – I agree with the bad/good, left/right is the most common way of presenting them, I wonder though on the flip-side, if that is too obvious?
    • Have seen rock lawn examples on line – would need to give more thought about this side of it, but agree that on a national level having full green lawns (even though non-toxic lawns generally require less water and upkeep) is not advisable, particularly in drought ridden areas, and I would need to create new images for areas like this.
  • ‘I think it would be good to explain why people might want bees in their garden particularly with families – scared of stinging children’
    • Good critique – it is something I struggled with, which is why I did not put in much about bees as I did not want people to be put off by this. But agree – would need to think more about this messaging so as not to discourage people.
  • ‘I would try to have more distinct levels of information in the first infographic – specifically numbers so they stand out more.’
    • Good idea – I think there would be a balance to strike between not making it look too much like a standard computer generated infographic. But agree numbers and arrangement of information would help the messages stand out more.
  • ‘Maybe it could be a good idea to replace brand names with the images of containers (or both) or maybe the logo. This would help if people do not know the name’.
    • Great idea – really like this! I struggled with the second image being too text heavy when I was creating it.
  • ‘Going from bees to lawns to homeowners was a very nice touch. I find it seamless and not depressing unlike most environment projects’.
    • Great 🙂

 

Next steps/ reflection:

The critique and feedback from the class was really really helpful. I was pleased by the positive comments – as you never know if an image or set of images is going to bomb, so it was good to get positive and constructive comments.

There is definitely a lot more scope for developing the images, and making new ones. Here are the main areas which I think need more work:

  • Creating a more detailed version, or a new image, showing all the good aspects of a non-toxic lawn. For those people whose gardens and lawns are important to them.
  • Developing the main comparison image further – possibly breaking up the text comments and adding more numbers to make it easier to read.
    • I had an idea to do a cross-section image, of the good/bad lawn to show ‘what lies beneath’ and to play on the visible/invisible notion. This could be built on the main image, or a new one.
  • Creating more icons for the side effects – there are a lot more e.g. endocrine disruption, which are important but I did not have time to make. I like the idea of the icons being able to be slotted into other outreach materials and used as a resource for organisations.
  • Updating the pesticide list to include brand logos or packaging – really good suggestion to reduce the amount of text and make it more recognizable.
  • Changing the format of the wildflower list – to include more information about the positive contributions pollinators make in gardens.

 

I plan on send these images to Edwina @ Perfect Earth for her critique/feedback, as I would like them to actually be usable rather than sitting on my computer!

 

Men & Lawns

lawn_mower_manipulated

There is a strong connection between men and their lawns. Mowing the lawn in the U.S. is still very much a male dominated task.

Edwina mentioned in our interview, when asked if her approaches were gendered at all said that there was a connection historically between men and their lawns: that even back to tribal times men would make sure the area around their home was free of vegetation, to ensure a clean line of sight in case the enemy approaches. However, her strategies are aimed mainly at women, as they are most receptive to their message (particularly in relation to health concerns) and would influence their husband if they do not mow the lawn.

Nowadays, a well kept lawn is more a part of culture, than a desire to protect the home. A domestic chore ‘manly’ enough for men to carry-out without risk of being ridiculed by their friends.

I have collected a few archive images of men and their lawn mowers, which I might use in my final piece.

*Image above is a collage I made of an archival picture.

lawn mower.png

lawn mower_3.png

 

WORD SEARCH: What’s in your lawn?

wordsearch

Thinking about different ways of presenting the information about lawns in an interesting way, so I created this word search to include common pesticides & their effects.

I like the banality of it.

But stand alone it does not tell enough of a story…. I might use it later on to accompany something else.

I also made a wildflowers word search….

wordsearch_updated

The variety and creativity within their names is really nice, and I think there is some potential there to comment on biodiversity of nature species.

Interviewing Experts: A More Perfect Lawn

Notes from a telephone interview with Edwina von Gal, on Tuesday 18th April. 

In 2013, Edwina founded the Perfect Earth Project to promote toxin-free landscapes for the health of people, their pets, and the planet. They provide outreach and education, to move home-owners and lawn care services away from pesticides. Prior to Perfect Earth Edwina was a landscape architect in NYC for more than 30 years, and had set-up her own design studio.

 

https://perfectearthproject.org/

What is their strategy?

  • Focus efforts on those already pre-disposed to health concerns, for example, pregnant mothers, families, pet owners.
  • Work with local environmental groups and organic food shops to spread the message about their events in the community.
  • Focus on the home owner (the client) and in that way bring about a change in practice from the landscaper.

What aspects are most effective at persuading people to move to a toxin-free garden?

  • Health! 
    • Particularly endocrine disruptors and carcinogens found in pesticides
  • Women – are most receptive to their ideas, and will persuade the husbands if they are involved in the garden maintenance.

How do they create a perfect lawn?

  • A different skill set is required – landscapers are taught to kill everything but 3 species, so it is ‘easy’ to maintain.
  • In reality, a more bio-diverse lawn will fertilize itself and maintain itself, but it needs some knowledge  and skill from the landscape architect to go into its initial development.

Their philosophy:

  • Historically lawns and gardens were a display of power – Versailles the first major example of this.
  • We do not have to control nature anymore – it is not going to hurt us.
  • We need to let nature back into  our lives, and even contribute positively to our environment.
  • Relinquish some control!

LAWNS: Research

I have done some background reading on lawns in the U.S.A., their size and scale, ecological impact and about the historic, cultural norms which have contributed to their proliferation. This research will be useful for me in defining the next stage of my project.

What defines a lawn:

  • It is an area of grass or mostly grass
  • It is mown, instead of allowing the plants to reach their full height
  • It is maintained for the benefit of people. (USNA)

Ecological Impact:

  • ‘Among the dozen or so main grasses that make up the American lawn, almost none are native to America. Kentucky bluegrass comes from Europe and northern Asia, Bermuda grass from Africa, and Zoysia grass from East Asia.’ (Kolbert, 2008).
  • ‘A 200 gallons of fresh, usually drinking-quality water per person per day would be required to keep up our nation’s lawn surface area.’ (Lindsey, 2005)
  • ‘The average American family uses 320 gallons of water per day, about 30 percent of which is devoted to outdoor uses. More than half of that outdoor water is used for watering lawns and gardens.’ (EPA)
  • ‘If people recycle the grass clippings, leaving them to decompose on the lawn, the U.S. lawn area could store up to 16.7 teragrams of carbon each year.’
    • If composted offsite – 5.9 teragrams of carbon each year
    • If sent to landfill – ‘all bets are off, as the oxygen-poor environment increases production of carbon-containing methane, a potent greenhouse gas.’  (Lindsey, 2005)
  • Of the 30 most commonly used lawn pesticides, 17 are possible and/or known carcinogens, 18 have the potential to disrupt the endocrine (hormonal) system, 19 are linked to reproductive effects and sexual dysfunction, 11 have been linked to birth defects, 14 are neurotoxic, 24 can cause kidney or liver damage, and 25 are sensitizers and/or irritants:
  • ‘Mowing turfgrass quite literally cuts off the option of sexual reproduction. From the gardener’s perspective, the result is a denser, thicker mat of green. From the grasses’ point of view, the result is a perpetual state of vegetable adolescence.’ (Kolbert, 2008).

Cultural Norms:

  • ‘The essential trouble with the American lawn is its estrangement from place: it is not a response to the landscape so much as an idea imposed upon it—all green, all the time, everywhere.’ (Kolbert, 2008).
  • ‘What began as a symbol of privilege and evolved into an expression of shared values has now come to represent expedience.’ (Kolbert, 2008).

Image result for usa lawn

Image: http://madeinusaforever.com/plstofflayas.html

References:

 

Audience and Shifting Focus

Audience is the aspect I have most struggled with with working on CCD. Should it be beekeepers, big agricultural firms, honey consumers, homeowners, food buyers, young families, city dwellers….

My initial ideas were aimed at high earners/ city dwellers, those who could probably be most convinced to buy organic, and those who probably already had the least impact on CCD. The honey auction in particular spoke to those people and thus, in my mind, had limited scope for extension/dissemination.

When I think about the ‘typical American’, one stereotype is clearest in my mind:

  • 2.4 children
  • 4 x 4 car
  • Suburbs
  • Pickett fence
  • Lawn

Although this is wildly out of date and over simplified, those ‘lawn owners’ make up a significant part of suburban America.

Lawns are interesting in a number of ways  (not all linked to CCD, but very much linked to biodiversity and the ecological health of our land):

  • Water use
  • Pesticides
  • Mono culture
  • Biodiversity
  • Carbon capture
  • Neighborhood psyche

They are a flag-bearer for the Anthropocene:

Look How Beautiful and Ordered Humans Can Make Nature!

They operate at the nexus of ecological and social/cultural values.

Look How Overgrown Mr. Bloggs’ Lawn Is… I Bet Vermin Live In Their Garden.

Another reason for starting to research and think about lawns and gardens in relation to CCD is that I am a firm believer that the majority of people will not change their behavior unless there is tangible benefit to themselves or their families. No one will care about bees because of the longer term risks (difficult to quantity or imagine) to biodiversity and food production. People care about their homes and their families, and may be persuaded to change their practices if they can be convinced:

  • It provides a health benefit to them/their family
  • It looks good
  • It is easy
  • It is aspirational

Could my project be to convince people that less cultivated, more bio-diverse gardens could in fact be what they want? And in turn, what impact could that have on the pollination system?

Image result for lawns aerial images

7 Days of Making: Day 7

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On the final day of making, I photographed the origami bees with some flowers.

The idea was to highlight the role of bees in the pollination process. The paper bees are oversize against the flowers, but, like the flowers, the bees are very fragile. Some of the images work quite well – particularly from a structural perspective. Although the bees do not really sing against the color of the flowers. In my opinion  the images are too far on the aesthetic spectrum and do not send a clear message.

To take this further, I would want to make the bees become a practical intervention in the pollination system, for example, they could be made out of paper which is peppered with wild flower seeds, and printed within information about CCD, protecting pollinators etc. The bees could be used as a tactic to get people engaged with the idea of planting wild flowers, or increasing biodiversity in their gardens.

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7 Days of Making: Day Five

I started thinking about the fragility of bees, and there dependence on so many different factors (mono-culture, pesticides, habitat loss, mites etc.). I was also quite frustrated by the fact that no bees are around at this time of year, so I have not been able to see any!

I decided I wanted to make my own bees. That combined with the idea of using a fragile, (possibly disposable material) led me to the idea of origami. Small, quick, cheap and fragile!

I used some simple instructions online (although, I realize that my origami method is slightly off) to form the foundation of my origami bee: http://www.origami-resource-center.com/easy-origami-bee.html

Et voila!

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