Visualising Holistic

by Hannah Smith

Posted: 20.07.2016

Tactical Tech has a long history of using and advocating for design in activism. For the Holistic Security Manual, the challenge came in working out how to best present 94 pages of dense text in an appealing and accessible manner, without losing valuable content in favour of brevity. To achieve this, we were keen to create a strong visual identity which would help communicate some of the complex and abstract ideas present.

From the outset, we wanted to avoid the traditional, militaristic, and gendered visual tropes which often come hand in hand with topics of security, as well as the polar, yet equally stereotypical imagery which can be found in all things “holistic”. Try a search if you're interested... these some examples from the first page of Google Images!

Security Inages Google Search

Screenshot of a Google Images search for the term 'security', 13th July 2016

Holistic Images Google Search

Screenshot of a Google Images search for the term 'holistic', 13th July 2016

We began with the idea of having one central image, of which different parts could be displayed or seen in greater detail throughout the website. We considered creating a single highly detailed illustration for this purpose.

The key concept we wanted to communicate was of many individual, but densely interconnected parts which make up the whole; the inter-linkages between different aspects of our lives, the threats we face, our strategies and tactics which come together to form our security.

Too often, we saw (and were party to) the artificial separation of different aspects of human rights defenders' security and well-being. Trainings on digital security would fail to take account of the psycho-social and physical aspects which directly impact on both participants capacity to learn and the efficacy (in terms of use) of digital tools that they are taught. Likewise, and equally unhelpful, was the lack of digital awareness among trainers of other disciplines.

We worked with our long-time associates, La Loma, to create the visual identity for this work, beginning with the web design, through the creation of the sculpture, the diagrams, and ending with the logo. Over the years we've worked with La Loma on various projects (see below) so when they suggested moving away from the idea of an illustration and towards a sculpture we were excited to see where their ideas would lead.

Models made by La Loma for  the White Room - part of the Nervous Systems exhibition

VIFA Cover Image  WHRD Guide

Cover art of Visualising Information for Advocacy and The Women's Rights Info-Activism Toolkit, designed by La Loma

The final result was a hand-made, three dimensional sculpture, created using wire, thread and modelling clay. While remaining in the abstract, the sculpture seeks to communicate the complex inter-linkages between the different parts of our lives. With regard to the manual, these 'parts' refer to the four sections (Prepare, Explore, Strategise and Act), and the individual Chapters which make up each Section.

Biluding Holistic Holistic Security Annotated

Images courtesy of La Loma

The sculpture also aims to capture the idea of our security as a cyclical process which is central to the holistic approach; the process continually repeats, yet it evolves and changes in every repetition, without a beginning or an end.

The images used on the website and in the forthcoming print edition of the manual are digitally enhanced photographs of the original sculpture. The sculpture, which now hangs in our office, also formed the basis for the Holistic Security logo and the diagrams were created by La Loma in collaboration with TercerMundo.    

Getting to this point was the result of many months of close collaboration with La Loma and we're thrilled with the outcome!