Hannah Williams :)

ideas. design. open data. social change.

Public Art: Infographics

In October 2010 the City of Cape Town put out a call for proposals for artists and designers to create an artwork on 13 of the new MyCiti bus stations as part of the integrated rapid transport (IRT) project. The area allocated for the artworks was on the glass panels at the entrance of the stations. As part of Black hat and Nimbus with Mark Henning, our proposal was favourably received and we were comissioned to complete work on 6 of the 13 stations.

Click on each artwork below for more images and details or scroll down for an overview of the project and the conceptual approach.

  • Medium: Vinyl on glass. Bus station entrances.
  • Client: City of Cape Town
  • Collaborators: Mark Henning
  • Year: 2011

We believed that the artwork could be more than just a pretty picture, so we defined the following challenge to address:

As a commuter you move through space in a discrete manner – you get on at a station, then you’re on a bus (or a train etc) and then you get off in an entirely different location. You miss all the inbetween interactions you might have with the landscape and people within it if you were walking, cycling or even driving. This means that commuters are to some extent isolated and disconnected from the landscapes they travel through, so we developed the goal of connecting commuters in some way with the landscape they’re travelling through by creating graphics representing information related to the area – infographics as artworks.

The conceptual development of the artworks was influenced by several factors:

  • The area allocated to the artworks was in the entrance corridors of the stations, so people were more likely to be walking past it rather than standing next to it waiting for a bus. Therefore it would be logical if the graphics told some sort of linear story.
  • Most commuters travel the same route regularly and are exposed to the same artwork everyday. Therefore it would be ideal if the artworks had enough detail for commuters to see something new each time they passed it.
  • Because the artworks are on glass panels they are also visible from the outside, so it was also important that from a distance they created an aesthetically interesting visual.
  • The nature of data visualisations means that the visual is largely dictated by the information used. Therefore the visual challenge was more systemic in nature – rather than directly designing an image, we needed to design a visual system into which the data is inputted to produce a graphic.

Artists' statement:

In our increasingly complex world, design has become an indispensable interface between us, our environment and our technology. Visual symbols and information systems govern things as simple as choosing the right size trousers, to as complex as finding your way around an unfamiliar city. Public visual information systems influence the way people interact with their environment and bridge the gaps between conceptual and physical spaces. Although most public visual information exists as part of formal systems with a very practical purpose (such as traffic signals, maps or signage), as a medium it has the potential to be used within a broader conceptual context and provide multiple layers of “meta data” to any space, and this is where the boundaries between design and art begin to become less distinct.