Ohio University

International visual storytelling conference to be held at OHIO Nov. 7-11

Published: September 27, 2019 Author: Staff reports

Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication and the School of Visual Communication announce the 2019 Visual Discovery Conference. Following the inaugural conference in Venice, Italy, in 2018, this visual storytelling conference will be held on the Athens Campus Nov. 7-11, 2019.

The conference brings together undergraduate and graduate students from throughout the United States, as well as some from as far away as Germany, to collaborate on regionally themed projects with guidance from noted international faculty members.

“The Visual Discovery Conference is organized by a consortium of educators who are committed to pushing the industry forward,” Scripps College of Communication Dean Scott Titsworth said. “Working together to make positive change is something we as a college do very well, so we’re especially excited to be hosting because it aligns so closely with who we are.”

Participants will explore the latest trends, technology and concepts in visual storytelling including data visualization, photography, video, mapping and printed or interactive timelines.

“We help students identify methods for combining data and information in a visual format that helps make the stories or messages they are trying to tell easy to follow and understand,” said Timothy Goheen, director of the School of Visual Communication. “Visualizing information allows your audience to look below the surface of a story to gain a clearer understanding. That is why visual storytelling is so powerful.”

Project topics are intentionally broad, designed to allow participants free creative rein.  Lara Perrin, a senior Visual Communication major from Pomeroy, Ohio, attended the 2018 conference. Working from the theme “Venice: Past and Present Days,” Perrin’s group created an infographic comparing historical maps and data with their modern versions.

“Since Venice has such a storied history, along with its unique architecture, it was really interesting to compare the ways in which the city has and hasn’t changed over the course of 200 years,” Perrin said. “We traveled around the city to collect the data and experience the places we were researching first-hand.” 

The other two 2018 themes centered on the city’s famous gondolas and the weather phenomena called “Acqua Alta” (“high water”), which causes flooding throughout Venice. This year’s themes will be announced the week before the conference so all participants have an equal amount of preparation time.

“This region is so rich in history and culture, and our partners across campus and the county have given us so many great ideas for themes and resources,” Titsworth said. “I can’t wait to see how the students respond and what projects they come up with.”

The conference was conceived in 2017 when a group of visual design faculty members from universities across the world identified a problem: professional conferences are a valuable networking and learning resource for students studying visual storytelling, but they often prove to be prohibitively expensive. To keep costs low, there is no registration fee for the Visual Discovery Conference and faculty presenters forgo their usual fees.

“Why should students have to pay for a conference?” John Grimwade, professor in the School of Visual Communication, said. “We thought, if we brought faculty together to work directly with participants, we’d have a lineup that’s as good or better than the professional conferences.”

So that’s what the group did. The first annual Visual Discovery Conference in Venice brought together approximately 60 students as well as faculty members from Italy, Germany and Switzerland, and from several U.S. universities (including Ohio University).

The 2019 conference will begin Thursday, Nov. 7, with the Visual Discovery Public Symposium, a free public event held at the Athena Cinema in uptown Athens. Faculty and students will present work and teach sessions on topics such as historical information design and extended reality (XR) design.

“We like to call this ‘the learning conference for students and educators,’” Grimwade said. “With Thursday’s symposium, we hope to extend that learning to an even wider audience and provide an opportunity for students from multiple disciplines—as well as the public—to learn skills related to all forms of visual storytelling.”

Students will spend the days following the symposium researching and developing their projects. Optional field trips to locations around the county are being planned, and organizers are working with Alden Library, the City of Athens and the Southeast Ohio History Center to provide data and other resources.

Featured faculty members attending the conference in advising and teaching roles include Karl Gude, director of the Media Sandbox at Michigan State University, who will present on creativity, and Michael Stoll from Augsburg University in Augsburg, Germany.

Project presentations will be held in the Schoonover Center for Communication on November 11. In addition to conference attendees, guests from the University and Athens area will be invited to view the projects.

For more information about the Visual Discovery Conference, email visual-discovery@ohio.edu