Last night we went to a talk at the Information Design Society delivered by Chris Campbell who creates infographics for the International Criminal Court in the Hague. It was a very interesting (but upsetting) look at how design is being used to aid analysis. He creates maps, timelines, and other graphics which are used in investigating war crimes. Since being employed at the Court he has worked on war crime trials from central Africa including Darfur and the Congo.
Campbell was initially employed by the Court on a short-term contract as they did not really understand how an information designer could assist their work. In fact, the first job he was given was to design some “Wanted Dead or Alive” posters as they thought that was the sort of “fun” job that a designer was interested in. The Court has since been convinced of the merit of his work as they are able to use his maps and timelines to succinctly outline the scope and scale of war crimes that would take hours if delivered orally.
All of the work he was able to show us was distinctly monotone. Campbell explained that this was a carefully considered choice as to use too much colour (especially red) would be thought of as too emotive. Sober design is design is respected, colourful and bright design is flippant and not suitable for the court. He is cognizant that by reducing murders, rapes, and mutilations down to a set of soberly rendered graphics takes the ‘human’ element out of the story. He has therefore started to add photographs to the graphics so that the human scale of the atrocities can be felt by the Court.
The photographs he showed us were taken by Brian Stiedle, a former US marine captain who was employed by the African Union to document the conflict. Campbell wondered how he could still be alive, but he is, and there is a film out about his experience. The film is called The Devil Came on Horseback which is the literal translation of the word Janjaweed which is given to the horseriding militia who support the military in carrying out the acts of genocide.