See Behind the Scenes at Västra Hamnen

Come visit the parascope to ‘see behind’ into the sustainability systems in the Västra Hamnen area of Malmö. The installation is accessible today through Monday Dec. 13 [map]. The project was done as part of a artist-residency at MEDEA Collaborative Research Initiative in Sweden. More information here.

The parascope itself was developed by a collaboration between Unsworn Industries and Malmö Stad.

View the sustainability systems behind-the-scenes of Vastra Hamnen, Malmo


MEDEA Talk on ‘Visualizing Sustainability’

Arlene Birt presenting at MEDEA in Malmö, Sweden on Dec.10 (15:00-17:00 Central European time).

Arlene will present two projects that she’s done as artist-in-residence at MEDEA and a behind-the-scenes view on her work on how to visualize ‘background stories’. One project is a visual mapping of the sustainability-oriented systems at work within the Västra Hamnen area of the city through a collaboration with Unsworn Industries to show this information using the parascope technology they’ve developed. Another project visually communicates the benefits of bicycling – in terms of CO2 saved, money saved and calories burned.

Details on the talk here. There will also be a live-stream of the talk.

Artist Residency to Visualize Impacts in Malmö, Sweden

Arlene has begun an artist residency at interactive center for new media MEDEA, where she will develop work to visualize the impacts/benefits of bicycling for the Västra Hamnen area of Malmö in order to encourage and celebrate a culture of bicycling.

More on the progress of the project, which will run Oct-Dec 2010, is posted on the MEDEA site.

sketch of visualizing sustainaiblity in bicycling


TraceProduct.Info exhibiting at the Spark Festival is a prototype for an in-store, retail-wide system for displaying information on grocery product backgrounds at point-of-sale.

Exhibiting Sept. 29-Oct.2 at the Spark Festival.

I, Pencil – A Sustainability Story From 1958

I, Pencil by Leonard Read, is an essay on the life cycle of a pencil. Written in a way that references all the strings attached and people involved in the back-story of this simple, everyday object; this story is an excellent text to tie products to global social and environmental concerns. And it was written in 1958.

“Actually, millions of human beings have had a hand in my creation, no one of whom even knows more than a very few of the others.”

I, Pencil is referenced in this TED talk by Matt Ridley about the collective effort that leads to innovation,

Chipotle Veggs Out Locally

Food retailer Chipotle has an online animated map showing the locality and seasonality of produce used in their menu items.

Though buried at the bottom of the page (click ‘integrity’, then scroll down), the graphic is a good educational tool: teaching about seasonality in produce.

From the perspective of informational design, it would be great to see it containing more specific data (rather than just being a visual description): I’d like to see what % of the onion used in Midwestern stores is local in the winter.

Regardless, it’s a good place to start communicating sustainability to consumers.

Seasonal Local Vegetables


Straw Bale Installation at MN Landscape Arboretum

A straw-bale bench and accompanying info-graphic is on exhibit all summer at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. As part of the Powerhouse Plants exhibit showcasing the super-human powers of plants.

finished straw-bale bench

Straw Bale bench with information graphic

Entitled ‘Waves of [Multifunctional] Grain,’ this graphic installation shows the life-cycle of grain crops like wheat, barley and rye – and how the waste product from the production of these food-grains (the straw) can be used as a local and sustainable building material.
With the information graphic, we wanted to communicate the potential for a closed-loop system inherent within this plant’s life-cycle: We grow a crop, eat the grain, and can use the waste straw for building and insluation. A perfect cycle.

Information graphic design on the back of a straw bale bench


Grocery Project at Art-A-Whirl

A work-in-progress of the Grocery project is showing at Art-A-Whirl May 14-16.

Artist on the Verge exhibit: works-in-progress at Art-A-Whirl


The installation will display a prototype of a system to trace the origins of grocery purchases at the point-of-sale.


New Media project in-progress at Art-A-Whirl

Grocery tracking project-in-progress installation

Close up of interface design for grocery project

Tracing a lunchtime grocery store purhase

In Development: And in-store tracking system that will map a customer’s produce, meat and dairy purchases. An accompanying online portal will allow deeper browsing into the background of the product’s origin.

The Eco-Savings of File Transfer

An Earth Day Campaign by online service calculates the savings of using digital file sharing vs. printing, burning CDs and shipping.

Though a bit of a stretch to calculate environmental impacts in this fashion, it’s always good to see dynamically-calculated details on your own impacts (and those of all users of a service).

Yousendit earthday campaign calculations

Earth Day Campaign

campaign to calculate sustainablity savings


“Designing Our Way Out” at MCAD

Arlene Birt will present April 22 at Pecha Kucha night in a joint MCAD/American Swedish Institute event on Earth Day.