Design Practice Intervention: Experimental Approaches to Mapping Different Data

Rachele Riley
Assistant Professor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

As a graphic designer and researcher, I am focused on probing the visual language of maps and developing experimental strategies for representing geographical space, myth, and the dynamics of meaning. In this presentation, I will share two current design research projects in which different methodologies are used. Ranging from the poetic and language-based framework to precision in mapping and library/archival research, my interests lie in uncovering official and unofficial data, and in mapping ephemeralities at multiple scales. The first project I will present is The Evolution of Silence, which visualizes the information and location of over eight hundred nuclear detonations that occurred in Yucca Flat of the Nevada Test Site. The project embodies a shifting perception of conflict and control, and visualizes the environmental and mythic transformation of a contested landscape. The second is a series of projects called Different Data (a collaborative research project with Joshua Singer and Dan McCafferty) in which critical design methods are applied to the collection, manipulation, and interpretation of data of various environments. The Different Data project is executed in real-time as public working demonstrations and involves a high-degree of fluidity and in-the-moment discussion among ourselves, as collaborators—as we work to combine layers that are evolving, imaginary, emotional, and disorienting. Both projects intervene in the traditional understanding of graphic design. By working to situate the viewer in a reflective space, these projects provide open-ended experiences and ‘seamful’ (as opposed to ‘seamless’) constructions. My presentation will offer insight into these projects as examples of graphic design as a critical design practice.