The Anthropocene is an educational children’s publication created for my final year project at university. With a passion for education and using design for positive social change, the project focused on raising awareness of humanities impact on the environment. The book explores the Anthropocene, a new era in Earths geological history caused by human activity.
Creating the Anthropocene was a research-driven process which explored multiple routes until the most effective and successful solution was found. The process involved vast amounts of research and experiments including running workshops, interviewing authors and working with educators.
The framework of the project is based on two concepts, ‘The Anthropocene’ and ‘The Nine Planetary Boundaries’. The Anthropocene is a newly proposed Epoch which began when human activity started to alter Earths geological state. An epoch naturally takes millions of years to form, human activity has forced the Earth into a new epoch in just 250 years. The Planetary Boundaries concept presents a set of nine boundaries. Scientists say that once these thresholds are surpassed, there is a risk of irreversible and abrupt environmental change. As of 2009, two boundaries have already been crossed, while others are in imminent danger of being crossed.
Based on current statistics, the next generation will ultimately determine if we cross the remaining thresholds. The aim of the book is to provide education on this topic for the next generation, giving them the knowledge to make informed choices.
With the goal of educating children about the Anthropocene and Planetary boundaries framework, the design process began with trying to simplify these complex concepts into digestible stories for children. Early in the development stages, I produced prototypes to see how the target audience would react to the simplified concepts and if the message would be understood. The results from these tests indicated that children found it easier to understand the concepts through visuals rather than written narratives, resulting in the choice of creating an illustrative children's book.
Rapid production of prototypes was essential to the success of this project. Producing lots of low-risk tests enabled fast and direct feedback from end users. With such a complex topic, assumptions could never be made about the user, design choices had to be made based on clear feedback. This continuous dialogue between the design process and users informed and influenced the final incarnation of the product. Wanting to develop my animation skills further, I started to explore the possibility of making the publication interactive with the use of technology. Early tests indicated that using animation helped to further communicate the narrative to my target audience.
After multiple iterations, the final concept for the publication was an interactive visual story which took you on a journey through Earths past, present and future.
The book is made up of a collection of landscapes which correlate to the planetary boundaries, as you make your way through the book you see the landscapes change as humanity developments. The final section of the publication shows alternate futures of each landscape based on real statistics, which are fully explained at the back of the book. With the use of dates, it helps to contextualise when these events will take place and that it’s not too late to prevent these issues from happening.
The book allows users to scan the pages of the book with a free app, creating a richer narrative and experience for the user. Creating a purely visual story also allowed for the book to connect to a global audience, spreading the message further. Feedback from the target audience indicated that the book was successful in achieving its goal of educating them about environmental issues.