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Impact#6 – Portrait of Ian Ardouin-Fumat: committed interaction designer

Impact#6 – Portrait of Ian Ardouin-Fumat: committed interaction designer

“Interpreting information depending on the research context”

After graduating from L’École de design Nantes Atlantique in 2012, Ian Ardouin-Fumat began his career in the United States where he developed a critical practice of data visualization. After a brief spell at the MIT Senseable City Lab, in 2013 he was involved in the launch of The Office for Creative Research, a New-York studio exploring the intersection of the arts and sciences. There he was responsible for interface design and user experience until 2017. Portrait of this designer on a mission.

The African Elephant Atlas run by Ian and The Office for Creative Research is a slightly crazy project based on the census of 350,000 elephants that are geo-localized in 19 African countries.

Thanks to the development of a data visualization website, this census can be explored and correlated with many other factors (drought, war, economic and social factors, etc.) Each user, whether the general public or professionals, can then interpret this information depending on the purpose of their research.
This unique tool, born of long and thorough fieldwork, meetings and tests, was presented at the conférence CITES and led to the signature of a key agreement promoting the protection of elephants in Africa. “A real source of pride” for Ian, an interaction designer who admits that it is very rare to develop “a tool with such a huge impact on real life”.

“You have to be able to sculpt information”

The development of this website is the conclusion of a three-year project involving dozens of scientific teams in Africa and the United States. “Designing a visualization tool demands creativity and strategy,” explains Ian, “especially when dealing with a great deal of complex data. You have to be able to sculpt information and consider every possible angle beforehand, based on user experience. What’s more, we use prototyping methods which help to assess different concepts quickly and easily. As a designer, you have to be prepared to use tools like programming, a powerful tool which helps you bring data to life”.

“Design becomes the pretext for tackling endless themes”

From health to data security, climate control or politics, design becomes the pretext for tackling endless themes and that is the incredible thing about this profession,” he remarks. “Creating interfaces requires know-how which helps you understand many issues and have a tangible impact on real life. Bringing information to life is a great privilege and I’d like to continue using it to further social justice,” explains Ian, who is currently working as a self-employed information designer.

The goal: to track elephants’ progress live.