Hi there. My name is Duncan, I’m an information designer living in Sweden, and this is Hello From Duncan - a newsletter where I write about my recent creative input and output. You’re getting it because you signed up for it, and you can change that at any time with the link in the footer.
A few public appearances to share first. The first episode of my data sonification podcast, Loud Numbers, is being exhibited in the Singing Waves gallery in Hong Kong as part of its “Data Art for Climate Action” exhibition. If Hong Kong is a bit far, then you can experience the exhibition online.
Second, I guested on Jon Schwabish’s Policyviz podcast with my colleagues from the Elevate Learning Community. We talked about how and why we started Elevate, what people can learn, and why we think this approach is so valuable to the wider field of dataviz. “I think you’re really going to like this episode,” writes Jon.
About half of my work time right now is being spent at climate charity Possible (currently: analysing the results of a trial where we paid drivers not to use their cars for three weeks, and visualizing the aviation industry’s long history of making promises on sustainability that are quietly dropped a few years later), and the other half is currently going to Conservation International, who I’m helping put together an offshoot of the Exponential Roadmap report, focusing on natural climate solutions.
That doesn’t leave much time for personal projects, but I’ve blocked out a window in April when I’m going to revamp the Loud Numbers website (so it presents us as a sonification studio, rather than a podcast), and try to develop a data sonification module for VCV Rack that we can use in the future for workshops.
I have been working to manage my relationship with the news over the last few weeks, as I’m sure you all have. It’s not helpful to totally immerse myself in it (as I default to), but sticking my head in the sand and ignoring the news entirely feels callous and borderline unethical. The best advice I’ve read came from Oliver Burkeman, in his “The Imperfectionist” newsletter:
Formulating a handful of not-too-rigid personal rules can make a big difference here. (In the last few weeks, I’ve had success with leaving my laptop plugged in in my home office, and my phone in the hallway when I’m home; only checking Twitter during a predetermined two-hour period each day; and deciding in advance how I’ll spend work breaks, so I don’t just slide back into news-checking.) Such tactics don’t make it effortless to avoid doom-scrolling. But they provide enough of a framework that at any given moment I’m either following them, or conscious of the fact that I’m failing to do so, which makes it easier to get back on the wagon.
Working on a construction project? Here’s a pyramid of common materials, and their climate footprints, so you can make smarter decisions about what to build with. Remember transport and lifetime, too - a high-carbon product that lasts much longer than a low-carbon one might be a better choice, but only if the building stays standing that long…
If you think your work situation is kinda crappy, spare a thought for the poor people who worked for design agency Madbird - an agency which turned out to be 100% fictional.
At least six of the most senior employees profiled by Madbird were fake. Their identities stitched together using photos stolen from random corners of the internet and made-up names. They included Madbird’s co-founder, Dave Stanfield - despite him having a LinkedIn profile and Ali referring to him constantly. Some of the duped staff had even received emails from him. Ali told one employee that if they wanted to get in touch with Mr Stanfield they should email him, because he was too busy with projects for Nike to jump on a call.
The full story is remarkable, and well worth a read - if only to know what to look out for next time you sign a work contract.
I loved this long read about Spouge - a syncopated, cowbell-heavy music genre that was birthed in Barbados in 1968, became enormously popular across the Caribbean within a couple of years, and then vanished again less than seven years later. I made me wonder if people will be writing the same sort of thing about Vaporwave in 2050.
Finally, I’ll leave you with the harrowing discovery that All Your Base Are Belong To Us turned 20 a few days ago. I apologise to those of you suddenly feeling extremely old.
See you in 10 days, when we’ll all be another 10 days older.