Communicating the complexity of children’s needs and aspirations to the designers of info-graphics
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Info-graphics are designed to make complex information accessible. They are visual representations of data designed to convey information in a succinct and efficient way  (Newsom and Haynes, 2004; Smiciklas, 2012). An example may be a pictogram or public safety sign designed to warn people of a hazard. Such communication devices are currently developed through designer- centered, adult-led processes. While many adults are able to interpret public signs correctly,  Siu et al. (2014) question whether children understand them, even when they are exposed to public signs in child-friendly spaces such as playgrounds or schools. In a bid to enhance sign design and improve children’s understanding of infographics,  Siu et al. (2017) make a case for including children in their design, as children’s drawings can give new insights. However, the challenges of engaging children as co-designers in infographic research are yet to be addressed. In this paper, the author reflects on her involvement in the Together through Play project  (Holt et al., 2014), a three-year, Leverhulme Trust funded project aimed at developing understanding of children’s needs and aspirations through the process of co-design. With the intention of addressing the power imbalance between adults and children in co-design research, the researcher employed and adapted methods of cooperative inquiry, an approach to creating new designs for children, with children  (Druin, 1999). This paper focuses specifically on the participatory approaches, strategies and methodologies employed to encourage designers to truly listen to the voices of children, and their relevance to visual design research. Twenty-two children aged 7 to 11 were recruited to participate in the study from four UK-based mainstream Primary Schools. At least one child participant from each school had a recognised physical impairment and at least one of their co- participants did not. Six disabled children and their non-disabled peers took part in the study, with four of these children having physical impairments relating to cerebral palsy. One child had dyspraxia and one child had a hearing impairment. Undergraduate students from Product Design and Engineering programmes at the University of Leeds were recruited to work alongside the children as co- designers. Their involvement included realising the children’s design ideas as prototypes and producing a series of critical artefacts as tools for discussion. Through semi-structured interviews with the researcher, the students reflected upon their experience and involvement in the study. Where focus groups with children have traditionally been used as a means of verifying design solutions, this project aimed to actively engage children in the design process from conception to completion. Rather than focusing on the end product, feedback and interaction with prototypes was used to develop understanding of the barriers encountered by children and their aspirations for inclusive play. It was anticipated that this dialogue would be more insightful than straightforward interviewing alone  (Holt et al., 2012). Previous attempts to include children in research, particularly in the area of childhood studies, have emphasised the pre-existing power differentials between adults and children that lead to the silencing of children’s voices  (Kay and Tisdall, 2012). However, the Together through Play project identified that many other factors can contribute to the silencing of children’s voices in design research, with the attitudes of other children identified as one of the most significant barriers. In this paper, reflections on the methods employed in the Together through Play project are used to inform a set of guidelines for designers of infographics seeking to work collaboratively with disabled and non-disabled children in the future. It addresses the communication barriers identified that warrant the attention of infographic designers. It also highlights scope for infographics to be used to bring a greater balance of power to co-design projects with children.