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Growing Infographics from the Grassroots

By Terri Stone

Jessica Bellamy knows the power of infographics. With their combination of words and imagery, infographics have a unique opportunity to convey messages that move people to change. That’s why Bellamy, a designer with a strong social-justice focus, is conducting what she calls “Graphic Ally Hackathons.” Each event pairs an organization that has a message to spread with people who want to help, as Bellamy instructs and encourages throughout.

Recently, Bellamy brought together St. Anthony’s, which feeds, shelters, and clothes San Franciscans struggling with poverty, and employees of Chronicle Books, a publishing house also based in the city. For two hours, the Chronicle staff learned about communicating with data and how to use that communication in aid of St. Anthony’s goals.

Click to watch a video captured at the August 2017 Graphic Ally Hackathon in San Francisco.

In every hackathon, Bellamy walks participants through several key concepts (including data equity and conscious, responsible design) and covers some infographic fundamentals.

When Bellamy conceived of the hackathons, she pictured events lasting one or more days, with participants bringing their laptops. But as they’ve evolved into more intense, sprint-like experiences, she’s realized that asking participants to draw by hand removes technology and cost barriers. To build confidence in their abilities, she involves people in quick-draw exercises that demonstrate how simple sketches are enough to portray objects and concepts. “Because we share some cultural ideas, we can interpret visual shorthand,” Bellamy explains. “Even if making visuals isn’t your forte, you can create something that is translatable and relatable.” 

These slides are from Bellamy’s presentation at the San Francisco hackathon. You can download a PDF of these and more slides by clicking “Jessica Bellamy’s Graphic Ally Hackathon.”

Bellamy is an Adobe Creative Resident. For more about her and the residency experience, see “The Art of the Infographic: Designer and Activist Jessica Bellamy.”