GOOD

Ekene Ijeoma

Meet the innovative mind revealing the human face behind data.

Ekene Ijeoma refers to his cozy, fourth-floor studio in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, as “The Treehouse.” Green metallic vines cover one wall, making me feel as though we’ve secluded ourselves in some kind of futuristic canopy. At first blush, the 31-year-old designer strikes me as laconic, though a playful sense of humor slowly begins to emerge. We joke about how no one uses the option to donate to charity while checking out at Rite Aid, before he wonders aloud, how do we get people to do good?

As an artist and designer, Ijeoma is a unicorn—a sought-after rarity, utilizing a multitude of mediums, like interactive media and installations, and tools, like code and data, with ease. He is careful to note though that these decisions are always made depending on what best serves the concept. And while Ijeoma has worked on commercial projects, his talents and passions converge in his socially conscious work. One piece, The Refugee Project, is a collaboration with design studio Hyperakt that aims to increase awareness of the ongoing refugee crisis. He shows me a now-famous photo of a Turkish police officer carrying a drowned Syrian refugee boy from the beach—a heart-wrenching image that drew international ire. “I was thinking about how much empathy this image created for the issue. How could data visualization do the same thing?”


What emerged was a map that traced global refugee migration since 1975, noting how destinations changed over time and including personal stories to “see the refugee crisis through the eyes of the refugees themselves.” The project is being exhibited in Design Museum’s Designs of the Year and was published in MoMa’s Design and Violence, a digital experiment exploring societal brutality.

“I see design as a way of understanding these issues in a way that you can’t from news,” Ijeoma tells me. “It brings it to a different space.”

Another project, Wage Islands, was inspired by fast food workers’ fight for a higher minimum wage and New York magazine’s historic Hurricane Sandy cover, which showed the city blanketed in darkness. Ijeoma wanted to illustrate the “haves and have-nots” of New York City using two metrics, wages and housing inequality, to explore what he calls a “geography of access.” If the city’s minimum wage were to increase from the $8.75 minimum an hour to $15, how would accessibility change?

[/vimeo]

The result is an interactive, 3D physical model that depicts the relationship between income and geography. Made of over 500 pieces of laser-cut acrylic, the model rises and falls in a dark pool of water according to the wage selected on an attached control. The above-water peaks of the island represent where an individual can afford to live on that particular wage, while what remains submerged is unattainable. As the wage increases, so does the space above the water. At $8.75 an hour, the model begins almost completely immersed. “It was, for me, a poetic way of looking at the issue,” says Ijeoma.

Throughout our conversation, Ijeoma keeps returning to the idea of humanizing data—finding the faces behind the big numbers. “With data, you can tell whatever story you want. Someone asked me once, ‘When you’re working with data like this, isn’t there a risk of telling lies?’” He considers this for a moment. “In the scientific process, you’re trying to answer questions using facts. But in my artistic process, I’m mostly asking questions to inter- rogate facts and reveal broader perspectives of issues that narrower media doesn’t.”

Features
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health