University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences works closely with policy makers, practitioners, NGOs, government agencies and businesses to inform their research on land use and environmental planning. Always looking for exciting ways to engage their broad spectrum of stakeholders, they worked with Scriberia to add some visual communication to their surveys, questionnaires and interview formats.


Challenge:

The University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences works closely with policy makers, practitioners, NGOs, government agencies and businesses to help inform their research about land use and environmental planning. Their challenge is finding innovative and exciting ways to engage this broad spectrum of stakeholders with new research projects.

Marc Metzger, Senior Research Fellow at the School of GeoSciences, says: ‘We’d been running workshops with participants using professional facilitators, flipcharts and post-it notes, but we knew that this format wasn’t as exciting as it could be. Worried about people getting bored, we were looking for a more engaging way to get participants involved with our research questions.’

They were also looking for an interesting way to present their research back to their stakeholders.

Solution:

Marc and his team were enthusiastic to explore how visual communication could aid conversations with research participants: ‘We were working on a project that required a vast amount of illustrations for a multiple choice survey. One of our professional facilitators showed us Scriberia and we were really excited by their work.’

Scriberia began working with the University on their VOLANTE project, which looked at potential approaches to land use across Europe in 2040. Looking for a way to engage a diverse group of stakeholders with their crowdsourcing questionnaire, they commissioned Scriberia to produce a set of visuals to be used across the web survey and on a final poster design. After which, Scriberia’s visualisers designed three intricately detailed rich pictures, each illustrating a futuristic vision of land use in Europe.

Persuaded of the power of pictures to engage participants, the University contacted Scriberia to work on STREAMLINE; a face-to-face interview format designed to make it easier for people to take part in policy, planning and science. On this occasion, Scriberia were tasked with producing a much larger body of work, featuring interactive visuals, small graphics and large poster designs.

To culminate the end of a five-year project, Scriberia’s creative director, Chris Wilson, scribed at their concluding seminar, helping to summarise the project in a visually appealing and highly memorable format for everybody involved.

Result:

Marc says, ‘The visuals have proven to be really effective prompts during workshops. People are always curious about what the next set of pictures will be.’

And this positive feedback rings true across the politicians, businessmen and other stakeholders that participate in their projects: ‘We thought the visual storytelling would work well with the younger generation, but were amazed to find that older participants thought it was great, too. Even those who at first think it’s childish to have drawings suddenly see the value in them.’

Despite the long geographical distance, Marc and his team found working with Scriberia a seamless experience. ‘Working with Scriberia’s illustrators is a really collaborative experience. I’ve always been impressed with how quickly and efficiently they respond to my feedback.’

Similarly, founder of STREAMLINE, Aster de Vries Lenstch, says: ‘Scriberia did an incredible job. There’s a distinct feeling of ‘Christmas come early!’ about the office when we receive the designs...really excited, really impressed. Our compliments to the quality that’s always delivered at such short notice.’

While James Paterson of the Land Use Research Group, working on the VOLANTE project, says: ‘Scriberia listened to our needs, suggested ideas and interpreted our detailed vision descriptions to produce three gloriously rich and punchy drawings that encapsulate the depth and breadth of the stakeholder ideas. We’ll be back for more!’

What’s more, the visuals have proven valuable in a variety of other contexts, too. Marc comments: ‘We now have a really nice library of different visuals that we can use for other projects. They’ve been great for livening up student lectures and PowerPoint slides and I’ve even framed some of the artwork for my office. I’m now looking to pull some of the different visuals together to create an engaging web page.’