Faculty Biennial Forum: Arlene Birt | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Faculty Biennial Forum: Arlene Birt

Auditorium 150 and Online, Central Time
Artist Talk
Gallery Exhibition
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Co-Design with ClimateScientists: The process of creating visuals in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The reports produced by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are collaboratively authored by hundreds of climate scientists around the world, who assess thousands of scientific literature about climate change. These reports are reviewed, collaboratively edited, and adopted by 195 governments before they are published. This may be one of the most intensive examples of co-design that exists at the global level.

As Graphics Officer with IPCC, I collaborate with 30+ climate scientists around the world to develop figures for the Synthesis report of the 6th Assessment Report cycle (AR6). The Synthesis Report provides an overview of the state of knowledge on the science of climate change, and is a synthesis of six other scientific reports developed during AR6.

This presentation outlines the role of the co-design process in bringing consensus–in particular as societies formulate their own adaption to the impacts of climate change. To build cooperation to adapt to climate change and to communicate how it impacts all regions and populations in different ways, we designers need to adopt processes that allow for significant community engagement and dialogue. Building upon co-design techniques established within this Assessment cycle (AR6), this presentation describes the challenges and opportunities of designing in the IPCC global collaborative space: In an environment where the ‘messiness’ of the design process flexes to accommodate multiple rounds of iteration, collaboration, and the mandated timelines of global IPCC procedures.

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About Arlene Birt

Arlene Birt is an infodesigner, visual storyteller, public artist, and educator. She runs Background Stories, an infodesign consultancy that translates complex ideas, systems, and metrics into clear visuals to help people (especially non-experts) understand sustainability. Her work visually explains the stories behind products and places, incorporating behavioral psychology to help individuals connect emotionally to seemingly distant environmental topics.

Between fall 2021—spring 2023 Birt is Graphics Officer at UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) where she collaborates with climate scientists around the world to design graphics to explain the latest climate science. These graphics are part of the UN IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report - arguably the world's most important summary of climate science over the past 7 years, and adopted by 195 member governments.