Sustainable Food & Farming Iconathon

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Agriculture has changed dramatically in the past few decades. Multinational corporations dominate an industry once made up primarily of small farmers, with vertical integration threatening those who remain. The majority of the food we eat is produced by a handful of companies, using technologies designed to increase efficiency, but often at significant cost to public and environmental health. Practices like industrial scale meat production and increased reliance on chemicals in crop production have drawn criticism from environmentalists and animal welfare advocates, as well as from consumers. More and more people recognize the importance of ecological farming practices and are joining the sustainable agriculture movement.

In an effort to help communicate the importance of sustainable farming, we are teaming up with GRACE Communications Foundation and Mother Jones to host an Iconathon around this important topic. The goal is to create a set of universally recognizable icons that will be used to help increase communication around food issues. Sustainable food experts from TEDx Manhattan, GRACE, and Mother Jones will work side by side with volunteers and designers from School of Visual Art‘s MFA Interaction Design, SVA|NYC program to create these icons. The final icons will be released into the public domain for use in journalism, local/sustainable food marketing, online sustainable food directories and mobile applications.

The publicly open design workshop will take place on March 2nd at the School of Visual Arts in New York. The Iconathon is free to attend, but space is limited so please RSVP.

Iconathons are organized to engage the general public in the design process and participants include both designers and non-designers. No design or art skills are necessary, all are welcome to participate.

Image by Christopher Paquette

Climate Change Awareness Game Icons

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Climate change is a huge global challenge that we’re all faced with. Last month more than 12 million people in the Philippines were affected by Tsunami Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms on record. Homes and crops were destroyed, many people were left with nothing and have to start rebuilding their communities from scratch. How can we address issues like natural disasters that are out of human control? Maybe the answer is through education.

In many cases, people are suffering due to avoidable reasons, often because they lack knowledge of disaster preparedness. With the increase in weather-related disasters people need to be educated on how to prepare for such disasters. Pablo Suarez, Associate Director for Research and Innovation at the Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre, is tackling this problem by teaching people with fun, participatory games.

The Climate and Gender Game is used to raise awareness of climate adaption strategies. During these games participants experience real life scenarios and must make quick decisions based on made up forecasts. The decisions they make are followed with hypothetical consequences. People work in teams and learn first hand how to make smart, reactive decisions for potential weather disasters. They learn how to make smart farming choices that will impact their income and ability to provide food for their families. There are rewards, winners, and losers. While playing the game people are laughing and having fun, and most importantly learning how to make effective choices. It beats a boring power point any day!

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We hosted an Iconathon to create symbols that will help people navigate through decisions in the climate change game. Since these icons are intended for use during a game, they have a more playful aesthetic than out traditional Iconathon symbols. The characters show more emotion and have personality to emphasize the good or bad possible outcomes.

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The symbols are now available for free download as public domain. Thank you Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre, Pablo Suarez, and our civic minded volunteers that helped create these icons.

Innovation in Education Symbols

We are happy to announce the release of some amazing, new icons! In October we hosted an Iconathon with Duke University and the Innovation Co-lab to make symbols that visually communicate the changing landscape of education. As more and more people around the world gain access to technology and the internet, the more opportunities people have to educate themselves. Inventions like Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC) allow anyone to take college level courses from some of the most prestigious Universities, for free! We teamed up with Duke, the Innovation Co-lab and volunteers to create icons that communicate and explain these new innovations in education.

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We started off the event with an inspiring and illuminating talk by Julian Lombardi, assistant vice president with Duke’s Office of Information Technology. Julian asked us to re-evaluate the current education system. What is the real value of a college degree if one can learn the same skills and information online? Julian affirmed that universities will have to adopt to the new realities of a world connected through technology.

New concepts like Flipped Classrooms and Blended Learning are utilizing the internet to make class time more effective. Open access information gives people the chance to educate themselves in order to provide for their families and communities. And things like Mircolectures are becoming more prevalent for teaching information online.

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The Innovation Co-Lab is a creativity incubator which facilitates events like this Iconathon that encourage students to take a more active role in their technology experience and participate in shaping the future of learning at Duke.

Thanks to Michael Faber and the Innovation Co-lab for making this event possible. And a huge thank you Julian Lombardi and all our volunteers!

The entire set is available for download and all the symbols have been released into the public domain.

Innovation in Education Iconathon at Duke University

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We were recently contacted by Michael Faber, the IT Innovation Program Manager at Duke University, with a great idea for an Iconathon. Michael runs a program called the Innovation Co-Lab - a creativity incubator that focuses on how emerging technologies are reshaping research and academics within higher education. The program aims to elevate and inspire Duke students who are solving problems through the rapidly changing technological environment.

Michael came to us with the idea of holding an Iconathon around the new, technology-orientated teaching models practiced at some of the top universities. Right now one of the hottest topics in education is the use of massive open online courses (MOOCs). These are open access classes aimed at large scale interaction and participation via the web. Duke is a leader in this new space and was one of the first schools to offer courses in all areas of studies to people around the world to enroll for free.

This distance learning is an online revolution, making education accessible to all parts of the world. People who would not normally have the chance to take university level classes now have the opportunity to enhance their skills and gain valuable knowledge from some of the best schools. These programs are exciting because they create global communities of people around a shared intellectual endeavor. More importantly they are helping people better their lives, their families lives, and improve their communities.

Technology is also affecting the physical classroom in higher ed institutions as well, not just in the world of online education.  Educators are incorporating technology into traditional teaching methods including “flipped classrooms”, game-based learning, and badge systems to revolutionize our expectations of how we learn.

The icons generated at this event will help with the multilingual interactions between peers, students, and teacher assistants. We’re hosting the Iconathon on Saturday, October 5th to help create a visual language for this education revolution.

Iconathons are organized to engage the general public in the design process and participants include both designers and non-designers. No design or art skills are necessary, all are welcome to participate. The Iconathon is free to attend but tickets are limited, please RSVP.

Event Details:

When: Saturday, October 5th from 11am to 4:00pm (lunch provided)

Where: Perkins Library (Room 217), 411 Chapel Dr,Durham, NC 27705

RSVP: Space is limited, RSVP for free tickets.

New Health Care Icons added to public domain

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We recently had the pleasure of hosting an Iconathon at the Denver Art Museum in the beautiful Denver, Colorado. We teamed up with the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to create icons around the topic of expanding healthcare access and coverage. The goal of the event was to create a set of icons that will help people quickly navigate across the new healthcare system set up by the Affordable Care Act.

Members from the Medicaid community, including technical workers, providers, stakeholders, and other state employees participated in the event. They collaborated with designer volunteers and sketched ideas for concepts like Integrated Health Systems, Preventive Health Care, Coordinate Patient Care and more.

The symbols generated will be used in a variety of applications, including training materials and brochures. The icons will help the Department and others in the Medicaid and health care community communicate important Health Care Access and Coverage ideas visually, reaching across language, cultural and socioeconomic barriers.

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A huge thank you to the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and all the volunteers who participated.

The entire set is available for download as public domain.

Cultural Heritage Symbols

We recently hosted an Iconathon with The Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO). Our goal of the workshop was to design cultural heritage symbols intended for use in institutions like libraries, archives and museums.

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The set we are releasing today visually communicates to patrons the different services and activities offered by cultural heritage organizations. Our volunteers worked to iconify concepts like job center, business incubator, makerspace, and art conservation. We made it a priority to give these symbols a playful yet elegant aesthetic.

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Here are some of our favorites:

Interactive Exhibit stands out as a favorite because it clearly illustrates an action occurring without looking static. The use of the index finger puts strong emphasis on the fun and exciting things that can happen in an interactive setting.

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The most challenging symbol to create was Digital Object because it is such an abstract concept. Digital objects exist in many different forms, so it was also a challenge to design a symbol that could represent all types of digital objects. For the final design we used symmetry and drew inspiration from computer circuit boards.

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The symbols are now available for free download as public domain. Thank you Metropolitan New York Library Council and thanks to civic minded volunteers that helped create these icons.

Iconathon for Games that Explain Climate Risk

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We met Pablo Suarez nearly a year ago at our Urban Disaster Preparedness Iconathon in Washington, D.C.  We were immediately drawn to his passion for helping people around the world learn about and make choices around the different risks associated with today’s changing climate.  Pablo is the Associate Director for Research and Innovation at the Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre.  He’s one of the most well traveled people you’ll ever meet and is never in one place for long – most of our conversations have been during the seldom few days he’s in the States before jetting off to some of the most remote areas of the world.

Not many people will deny that there is clear scientific evidence that climate change is already happening, and will be one of the main global challenges for humanity in the coming century.  We are unfortunately continuously reminded of the sharp increase in weather-related disasters and extreme weather events.  People suffer due to entirely avoidable reasons, often lack of preparedness despite forecasts of imminent floods, hurricanes, or food insecurity due to drought. Many losses are avoidable.

But how do you educate people of the complex decisions and choices ahead of them?  How do you explain managing the risks of extreme weather to policy makers, farmers, ministers, shanty town dwellers, fishermen, and make sure the information is not only understood but also sticks?  This is where we became vested in this project.  Instead of asking people to passively listen through another PowerPoint lecture, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre decided to use a different, more active approach – participatory games.

Just like in real life, during these games participants experience decisions with consequences. They receive incomplete information about risks, have to allocate limited resources in a limited amount of time, and lose if the outcomes are unfavorable.  People work in groups, debate over decisions, and learn first hand the difficulty of making these life-altering decisions based on forecasts.

We’re hosting an Iconathon on Saturday, September 7th to help create a visual language around these Climate Risk games. The symbols we create in the design workshop will be released into the public domain, and used around the world to help navigate people through difficult decisions.  Plus, we’ll get to experience the fun intensity of one of these games first-hand!

Iconathons are organized to engage the general public in the design process and participants include both designers and non-designers. No design or art skills are necessary, all are welcome to participate. The Iconathon is free to attend but tickets are limited, please RSVP.

Event Details:

When: Saturday, September 7th from 10:30am to 3:30pm

Where: American Red Cross of Greater New York at 520 W 49th Street (between 10th & 11th), New York, NY 10036

RSVP: Seating is limited, RSVP for free tickets.

To learn more about Climate Centre’s Participatory Games for Climate Risk, check out the videos from Boston University and Senegal.

*Image of flood in Bangladesh by Amir Jina.

New: IconLocal Independent Iconathon workshops

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Since launching Iconathons two years ago, we’ve heard requests from people around the world wanting to host their own design events.  We’re excited to introduce IconLocals - independently organized Iconathon workshops held on a local community level.  The Noun Project created IconLocals to allow independent organizations and civic minded people to host self-organized workshops.  We believe this will help spread the social design movement around the world.

IconLocals are a great opportunity to host an event around a civic topic you’re passionate about.  But just like with any event, organizing an IconLocal requires a time commitment and hard work.  You’ll want to make sure the participants attend an interesting and insightful event, and the symbols created communicate their intended concept elegantly.

To help you get started, we’ve created an application questionnaire that will take you through some of the important points to think about when considering hosting an IconLocal.  Once we know you’re committed to hosting an exciting event on an important topic, we will provide you with guidance and materials to help organize & promote your workshop. We look forward to working with you and announcing the new events on Iconathon.org.

Check out our new IconLocal page to get started! #IconLocal

*Image of Istanbul copyright by Moyan Brenn

Cultural Heritage Iconathon

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The Noun Project is excited to announce a new Iconathon on Cultural Heritage, sponsored by the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO).

Iconathons are organized to engage the general public in the design process, so no design or art skills are necessary – all are welcome to participate.  The Iconathon is free to attend but tickets are limited, please RSVP.

“Institutions like libraries, archives and museums serve an essential function in providing access to knowledge, documenting and preserving history, and supporting the civic and cultural needs of their communities – communities often speaking a wide range of languages. A set of public domain icons will enable these cultural organizations to communicate better with patrons and elegantly and clearly visualize the breadth of services, activities, and collections they support and the vital role they play in society,” said Jefferson Bailey, Strategic Initiatives Manager, Metropolitan New York Library Council.

The icons created will be released into the public domain to be used in signage and interactives, as well as to illustrate on-site services, Web pages, online catalogs, mobile applications, and to identify and symbolize many of the other offerings of cultural heritage organizations.

Event Details:

When: Saturday, June 1st from 10:30am to 3:30pm

Where: Metropolitan New York Library Council at 57 E. 11th St, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10003

RSVP: Seating is limited, RSVP for free tickets.

 

*Image of the New York Public Library by stephs_photos

What might an icon for “encyclopedia-worthy” look like? An update from the Wikimedia Iconathon.

Posted by , Interaction Designer - Wikimedia Foundation.

Symbols serve as some of the best tools to overcome language and cultural communication barriers. The aim of the first Wikipedia Iconathon was to create a set of graphic symbols that convey vital concepts to editors and readers of the world’s largest free, collaborative encyclopedia. The Wikimedia Foundation design team organized the event with The Noun Project, with support from Muji in the form of sketch materials. This is a brief update from the design team, as we work on digitalizing the first iteration of icons from the event.
On a rainy Saturday morning, 6 April 2013, the mood among visitors at the Wikimedia Foundation office was upbeat and determined. Educators, volunteers, civic leaders, typographers, designers and Wikipedia editors joined us and Noun Project staff, coming together to collaborate on a set of 20 icons that represent key Wikipedia terms and concepts.
We began by discussing the core challenges of creating this visual language. First, it needed to work across 330 languages. Second, we had to avoid local concepts or metaphors — such as hand gestures, animals, and local humor — that people from other regions may not be familiar with. If icons conveyed directionality, they would have to be adapted for different writing directions, such as right-to-left languages like Hebrew or Arabic. To preserve cross-cultural understanding, it was critical that we come up with a universal representation, regardless of whether the reader is from Germany, India, or Botswana.
After the general discussion of our objectives, we formed groups and looked closely at our assignment. The concepts we needed to visualize ranged from being self contained, such as “rapidly changing article,” to systems like “anonymous” and “registered” users, “administrator,” and “bots.” Participants unanimously considered abstract concepts like “encyclopedia-worthy” and “no original research” to be the most challenging icons.
As the groups discussed each icon and got to sketching, Wikipedians provided context for the symbols as, answering questions like the following (among many others):

    • Is there more than one context of use for the icon?
    • Does it convey status or trigger action?
    • Should it invite inquiry or is it an entry point when a user scans a list?

We were committed to getting it right, even if it meant pulling out laptops to look at all the sample interface elements. We didn’t expect to get into the thick of interaction and behavior, but it helped align the team on tone, detail and playfulness.

 

After a few hours, we collected the sketches and pinned them to whiteboards around the room. Edward Boatman (co-founder of The Noun Project) moderated an intense group discussion.  Experienced editors helped evaluate concepts in the unique Wikipedia way of community-driven decision-making. We identified patterns across sketches and focused on connotations. For example, anonymous users don’t occupy a persistent identity, but they are an important part of the community, so a negative undertone was inappropriate.

We hope to expand the audience of participants to work with the remaining concepts and enable more people  to submit their ideas for Wikipedia icons. Given that The Noun Project receives more than 300 icon submissions a day from graphic designers, we’re confident we can leverage their network and their experience to develop engaging icons that are useful for Wikimedia projects.

Currently, we are digitizing the first set of icons that participants in the Iconathon collaboratively selected from our sketch stack. The next step, which we are really excited about, is socializing the icons with the Wikimedia community and getting them to respond and iterate on the concepts that we put forth.

Feel free to join the conversation on-wiki or in the comments, and stay tuned here for future updates. You can view more photos of the event on Commons here and on Flickr here.

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