by Emily Strowitzki
How can we understand complex natural processes?
If we want to participate in complex biological systems we need to understand what is going on. Drawings are a great way to understand complex systems, for both the illustrator and the observer.
These illustrations show how marsh plants use microorganisms to enrich sewage water with oxygen and filter out pollutants. The drawings demonstrate how visual understanding can be the first step to learn from nature and develop eco-friendly alternatives.
Water is becoming a valuable asset worldwide. The growing lack of resources does not only concern our drinking water, but our use of energy, too. Our conventional sewage plants are using way too much energy, and are due to high costs hardly accessible for most part of the world. The project “ A Natural Approach to Water Cleanse” points to a natural alternative to clean sewage water by using marsh plants, which goes easy on energy ressources and has low costs compared to regular sewage plants.
We need to understand processes in order to use them for ourselves. Lack of knowledge about eco-friendly alternatives leads to us not using them. This project visualizes the complex processes behind the marsh plant’s natural water cleanse by using an easily understandable visual language. The most important processes, from oxygen enrichment over microorganism’s settlement to clearance of the sewage water’s carbon are visually explained in four steps. The project’s goal is to clarify the efficiency of natural water cleanse, raise fascination for the plant and to get more people to use it in their own life.
Finding a Visual Language – The Project in Progress
The question I asked myself at the beginning of the project was: How can I explain the content of a complicated topic in a decent and understandable way. Like I said above the problem with many modern technologies and sustainable alternatives is, that people don’t get them and hence hesitate to use them. So how could one change that? With a visual language which speaks for itself.
Making associations with each of the chemicals involved helped a lot. How does a person feel about the chemicals and how do we perceive them? Do they seem to be heavy or light, swift or stiff, colorful or black and white, what could the texture be like? Questions like these helped to get a first impression of the materials themselves. In nature chemicals are mostly invisible for the eye, but the perception is available anyways.
The first sketches were really simple, but created a first red thread. I came to the conclusion, that this worked as a first attempt, but the style and the process steps hadn’t been precise enough, yet. A storyboard should help.
The steps featured in the storyboard worked well enough to be adopted to the final infographic, but I still had my doubts with the style. Though it was simplified, it seemed too sketchy. My intention with the project was to give people a feeling for the plant and raise fascination for it. I figured observing and studying the real life plant would help finding a solution.
Drawing from the real live plant gave me the teaching and impressions for the final illustrations. I realized, that in order to truly ‘get’ the perception of something and to catch the extraordinary of an organism, one has to get to know it from a face to face situation. Feeling up to the plant, getting to know it’s consistence and observing the water quality it needs gave me the ability to create illustrations that bring the fascination for this plant to the people looking at them.