Job opportunity

Are you a people person, with an eye for opportunities and getting details right?  Maybe you are fed up with helping sell more ‘stuff’. Or working in a large organisation where your skills are not recognised?

New York daily co2.jpg

We are seeking an amazing all-rounder to work alongside our Creative Director in our shared office in Hamilton House, Stokes Croft, Bristol.  You will be resourceful and motivated to take on key responsibilities which include business development, customer liaison, managing and running social media, updating website and project management. 

The role is initially part-time, two days per week, but if you can help us grow and maintain the business then this can become a full-time salaried position, perhaps with a Directorship further down the line. Pay will be commensurate with experience and results.

Email us your CV with a single paragraph on why you could be the best person for the job.


Rethinking data visualisation

In a striking scene in An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore mounts a hydraulic platform so he can be lifted into the upper reaches of a giant graph of atmospheric CO2 concentration over time. 

(youtube clip here

That’s state of the art climate communication, circa 2006. More than a decade later, we’ve thought harder about how to do it. And there’s a growing body of research-based advice on how to mix words, images and data graphics to best effect. We’ve had a bunch of useful reports just recently, geared to the IPCC’s latest reporting on the 1.5 degrees C target, not least the handbook produced by the Tyndall Centre and Climate Outreach. 


Most of this advice is great. How to understand audiences? How to tell stories that engage? How to show data clearly? All taken care of. Is there anything to add?

We think there is. Real World Visuals is a small data visualisation outfit that specialises in quantitatively rigorous, science-based image and film-making, helping people relate more directly to abstract data. As we ponder climate change communication, we agree with pretty much all the advice that’s been published. 

Some of it can be developed a bit more, though. Take this enjoinder, the second headline recommendation from the IPCC guide just published:

“Talk about the real world, not abstract ideas - Although they define the science and policy discourse, the ‘big numbers’ of climate change (global average temperature targets and concentrations of carbon dioxide) don’t relate to people’s day-to-day experiences. Start your climate conversation on common ground, using clear language and examples your audience is likely to be familiar with.”

Well, yes. Except that it’s not exactly straightforward to find examples of concentrations of carbon dioxide that people are familiar with. And if there’s more of it does not register on the human senses until we’re in danger of suffocation. This is the awkward fact that had Al Gore climbing on that hoist. Carbon dioxide, like the other greenhouse gases, is invisible. As Richard Hamblyn and Martin Callaghan remark in Data Soliloquies, “Increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases occur invisibly, and though they can be measured and plotted on scary-looking graphs, the fact of their invisibility remains a constant barrier to action. If the sky changed colour as a result of increased carbon dioxide, there wouldn’t be a problem now.”

But how to overcome that gaseous invisibility? Our approach draws on our wider thinking about how people relate to presentations of quantity. (explained in more detail here The key thing, we’ve found, is to represent a quantity physically, rather than just numerically. More, the physical representation needs to be on a scale that is comparable to the ones we relate to in every day life. We intuitively relate to things that happen on a bodily scale and tempo. Things happening outside that realm are harder to engage with. That goes with the invisibility problem to ensure that most people have no sense of ‘how much’ a kilogram or a tonne of carbon dioxide is.

We’ve done lots of visualisations of carbon emissions now - from global output to greenhouse gas produced by a whole city, a single building, or an individual car. An approach that seems to work is to translate mass into volume, and display volumes against a backdrop that helps people grasp their scale.

Like this, which shows one metric tone of CO2 at atmospheric pressure. 


Pile those up, and you can depict a day’s worth of global emissions, like this.


Or, perhaps giving a better sense of scale, like this.


This is just one example of an approach that, cumulatively, begins to allow one to “see” carbon dioxide as a presence in the world. It isn’t a substitute for the excellent image libraries about climate change, such as the one on this site, but can complement them. One does, notice, for instance, that images of causes - as opposed to consequences - of climate change still lean heavily toward smokestacks (or plumes of steam) as surrogates for the actual greenhouse gas that we are concerned about. The carbon dioxide, as ever, remains invisible in the photos.

And one can build on this approach to help instil new intuitions about local emissions, as we have done with a simple real-time emissions tool, which allows anyone to create a moving image of CO2 emissions by entering some basic data.  See:

We still admire Al Gore for having the chutzpah to be hoisted aloft while talking to a live audience and being filmed. But we like to think we could offer him other ways to make his point now.


Principles for effective communication and public engagement on climate change: A Handbook for IPCC Authors.

Climate Outreach, January 2018

Richard Hamblyn and Martin Callaghan, Data Soliloquies, UCL Environment Institute, 2009, p41.

Working with us - a client’s perspective

Our local residents are doing a great job – 80% of the material that can be recycled is, but that meant that 20% wasn’t, and at a significant cost. The brief to Real World Visuals was to produce visuals and creative that would break through people’s apathy and get their attention - reengaging residents the cost benefits of recycling.

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A Breath of Fresh Air: Visualising Air Pollution

Air pollution is notably an issue that is gaining considerable attention around the world in all sectors of society - public policy, industry and health... We have been thinking about air pollution for some time: why it needs visualisation and how best to visualise it for all these audiences; for those dealing with the problems air pollution causes, those creating the problem and all of us seeking a solution. Happy National Clean Air day if you are in the UK... now take a deep breath....

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Little Britain – exploring populations

Population Explorer is a new crowd-vis tool. Pick a number and Population Explorer will create a population of that size that matches the British population. For instance, in a population of 100 there will be 59 Christians and 25 people with no religion. Population Explorer can be used for any population, but more interestingly it can allow us to use population as a way to understand natural and financial resources.

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Crowd visualisation: seeing yourself in statistics

When you can see yourself in statistics you engage with them on a wholly different level. That’s why at Real World Visuals we help people to see people in statistics about people. Sometimes we need reminding that it is not just numbers we are talking about and sometimes we need reminding to pay attention to the actual numbers rather than misguided intuition.

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Cruise ship air pollution

We have created a set of images that show the pollution from a cruise ship docked at the proposed terminal at Enderby Wharf, Greenwich, London.  The images show the total volume of exhaust gas created each day, the volume of specific pollutants, and finally the volume of saturated air to the levels that are considered ‘safe’ to breathe.

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Making a load of rubbish!

Over the summer Real World Visuals brought a pile of rubbish to life in Bristol. Commissioned by the Bristol Waste Company, the two films show dramatic piles of waste and recycling material in Ashton Court Estate in Bristol. 

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Helping lions and people co-exist

How do you stop lions eating livestock, and people from killing lions in retaliation?  How do you improve the relationship between people and one of the worlds biggest carnivores? These are the challenges that have faced renowned lion researcher Alayne Oriol-Cotterill (Lion Landscapes) for the last thirteen years. 

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World Bank Award for our young film-makers

We’re delighted that two of our colleagues, who took on the tricky topic of carbon-pricing, have won a worldwide film-makers competition run by the World Bank.

Bristol-based Dani Tinez and Jay Carter-Coles put together a film that lasts just a minute, and confronts the viewer with the question: Pay now, or pay later for carbon emissions?

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Let there be light…

"Sir, Writing by Candlelight…" was the unimprovable title for a collection of essays by the radical historian Edward Thompson. It captured the aggrieved tone of a particular class of person firing off a letter to the press, during the three day week in the UK, perhaps, when Edward Heath's government confronted the coal miners, or the all out miners' strike a decade later. Don't these people realise how I and others are suffering here? Get them back to work. They have a duty to keep things going; but I (we) have no obligations to them.

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What is the carbon footprint of a VW Golf?

Buying an electric car is good for the environment.  But how good?  Although there are no emissions from the exhaust pipe, the electricity has to be produced somewhere.  And the carbon intensity of that electricity varies hugely from country to country depending on the fossil fuel, renewable and nuclear energy mix.

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An Earth changing combination: Science, visuals, strategy

What connects international agreements, spray-on deodorants, minute organisms floating near the ocean surface and incoming solar radiation? The answer, if you’re still guessing, is the ozone layer. And ozone protection – one of the great environmental successes of the last 30 years – is a story that isn’t over yet. 

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Interactive estates and campus visualiser

Energy use in buildings accounts for around 40% of global carbon emissions.  Yet normally only buildings and energy managers - engaged people are aware or concerned about this energy use.   But ‘non-engaged’ building users can help energy reduction, and enable substantial cost savings, by changing their own behaviours if they are more aware of the challenge.

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