This year, the prestigious award went to 24-year-old PhD candidate Joycelyn Longdon, a self-taught designer studying Artificial Intelligence for Environmental Risk at the University of Cambridge. Longdon’s winning project, Climate In Color, is a visually appealing educational resource for anyone looking to assuage eco-anxiety. The website also offers more accessible ways to get involved in the fight against climate change and deepen your knowledge of the issues, such as a bi-weekly email newsletter that counters alarmist headlines by prioritizing good news, a corresponding Instagram page with infographic resources, as well as online. Courses that examine the relationship between particular environmental issues, such as the global food supply system, and colonialism.
In an email to CNN, London Design Festival curator and juror Jane Withers noted Longdon’s “remarkable achievements in applying her academic and design skills outside of academia, and her promising future at the intersection of climate science and social justice.” .
What is the origin of your design and your career so far?
I didn’t study design but I’ve always been creative. Whatever I’m doing, I’m doing something creative on the side. When I was doing my degree I created a studio called “Black on Black”, which was a space to expand black, brown and marginalized creators. Visual arts, writing, photography, it was such a space. And that led me to Somerset House and their scholarship program. So working in that space, and somehow deepening my personal practice, which was mainly in web graphic design. So basically I’m self-taught and learning as I go. I work freelance designing for different brands and charities and organisations. Then when I got accepted into my PhD program, I decided, okay, “Black on Black” was kind of over. A PhD is quite a long academic journey, I can’t do that without having a creative practice at the same time. That’s why I started Climate In Color, and I was studying for my PhD looking at ways to communicate knowledge, but in a beautiful and design-led way. Any spare time outside of PhD preparation, I spent designing, designing, designing and putting together resources and publishing them on the website.
How can design inform or support climate dialogue?
If you have a good design stuck in someone’s head, it provides a point of reference. It is much more difficult to remember facts and figures. Designers have a very important job of taking really complex ideas and concepts and presenting it to the public in a way that’s not intimidating, but accessible. And beautiful The way data is represented and visualized is very important.
How has the response to Climate In Color been so far?
It was really amazing how fast it grew. I remember my friends forcing me to start. I said, “Well, if I get 500 followers by the time I start my PhD that would be crazy.” And that was in April. I think by September when I started learning it already had 5,000 followers. It just kept growing and growing. I think that’s a testament to design: that people want to share and that people feel comfortable and confident sharing. Making designs that attract people and tend to share them was how the page grew, and introducing new concepts to people who hadn’t met them before.
How does it feel to win the Emerging Talent Award?
It feels amazing. I was very surprised when the email arrived. I feel incredibly honored.