How Many Elephants?
Hello English language learners and friends of Blue Noun English Language School in Scotland. This is our second look at the How Many Elephants (HME) design campaign. In our first blog we looked at their World Female Ranger Day (WFRD) , which HME launched last week. In today’s blog, we’re teaching English for designers by looking at the design campaigns and activism of HME founder Holly Budge.
To be clear, all images are used with permission. HME want to spread the word and were happy to grant us permission to publish them on our blog.
English Language Skills for Designers
I adore Holly’s design work, ambition and activism. By showing you her campaigns – and discussing them, I want to give you professionally relevant art and design English phrases – and demonstrate some of the great conversations we could have, should you ever join us live at our English language school for creatives.
For example, Holly is a talented designer, but I think her vision is also one of a skilled conceptual artist. Read on and see what you think.
Meet Holly Budge
It was International World Rangers Day that first introduced me to the How Many Elephants campaign. On further research, I discovered that its creator Holly, while known as a designer and fundraising charity founder is perhaps even better known as a record-breaking explorer and adventurer.
I think it is this ambition that makes her design work so engaging. I hear about elephant poaching and I think, ‘how awful‘. She hears the same information and thinks, ‘let’s stop it!‘.
Holly has a website advertising her services as a keynote speaker which describes the day she decided to move halfway around the world to become a sky diving camerawoman – with just one skydive under her belt and no filmmaking training.
Her design work is simple and confident and sharpshooting. Perhaps if you skydive off mountains you become precise and efficient in every walk of life.
Holly is a conservationist, a voice for Africa’s elephants, and a passionate supporter of female wildlife rangers. She is also a world-class adventurer, Everest summiteer, and the first woman to skydive Everest.
World Female Rangers Day website
Life-Changing Design | Awareness Raising
In fact, the whole How Many Elephants charity began with the concept of the ‘96 Elephants a Day‘ necklace. Holly created it when studying for her masters in Sustainable Design. It went on to win many design awards, including the prestigious Arts & Crafts Design Award.
The necklace is a stark visual representation of data. Visually, it has some of the attributes of traditional indigenous African carved jewellery with its pure materials and large, chunky parts displayed familiarly on dark African skin.
However, unlike traditional African art, at first glance, there are none of the freeform abstractions that get favoured over naturalistic representation, which characterises much of the continent’s creative work: abstraction which attracted Western artists like Picasso and Modigliani who were trying to break free of such rules of constraint – and who admired and were liberated by what they saw as its simplicity, sincerity, and expressive power.
But it’s not just a simple, naturalistic representation of elephants either. Instead, there’s a third path of visual representation which is simultaneously both perfectly representational and perfectly abstract. It’s an Infographic.
The Graphic Illustration of Data
For any readers not familiar with the term, infographics present statistical information visually. It’s highly skilled design work communicating whole and complex concepts and information as simply (and as beautifully) as possible within a diagram.
When it’s done well infographics are easily read – and because the brain has to work slightly harder to decode the information, they are a very memorable and powerful way of presenting information.
If anyone hasn’t already found the Information Is Beautiful website, check it out here.
The Unimaginable Gets Imagined.
Within Holly’s design are further messages to decode. The principal medium is vegetable ivory which is an ivory substitute nut product.
The medium speaks optimistically: it doesn’t have to be this way.
To keep it real she has placed one elephant made of hand-cut brass to represent the poachers’ bullets. One elephant is facing the other way to represent hope that this crisis can still be turned around.
With these tiny differences between the elephants they stop being statistics and become individuals – and every one matters.
“Using design as a powerful communication tool to bridge the gap between scientific data and human connection”.
35 Thousand Elephants
Holly has developed a ‘travelling design exhibition’ which moulds itself site-specifically to galleries and public buildings, showing the visitor what the annual poaching rate of elephants in Africa looks like. Her elephant silhouette is repeated across every surface of a room.
The HME exhibitions are accompanied by outreach work with local schools and community groups. (The WFRD website is accompanied by free school educational resources and activities).
The content is safe for her young audience. She has chosen to depict live elephants rather than the gory scenes they represent. Her shock tactics are simply the facts of the numbers – which she makes unavoidable.
The power of partnerships
Holly’s vision includes mutually beneficial partnerships in which corporations can promote themselves by supporting her and the HME / WFRD campaigns. Her strong graphic skills and adventuring attract top clients. She provides a readymade graphics package to drop into her patrons’ social media and email newsletters.
Raising awareness – to what end?
And this is the conceptual beauty of Holly’s vision. She doesn’t leave her audience baffled and depressed. How Many Elephants has a sister campaign, World Female Ranger Day. They each drive traffic to each other, with HME being a fundraising charity supporting female rangers to protect the elephants.
It is grass roots. It is empowering and enabling women and (in my opinion) it’s genius. In addition, it meets three UN sustainable development goals which in turn validate it and will spread its message and model internationally.
What began as a concept for a necklace has become a world changing charity raising £400,000 to date.
It’s sister charity, the WFRD website has a live feed when you can see donations dropping in real time, and they are flooding in as people donate the specific price of a pair of boots (£10) or upgrades to a patrol vehicle (£100). You can read our blog about it here.
It’s tangible, result-driven activism-art and I love it!
Thank you for reading this far.
Find out more about Holly here.
The How Many Elephants campaign is here.
Get involved with WFRD here:
A huge thank you to Margot Dempsey for taking the time to explain How Many Elephants to me over Zoom and answering all my questions. Thank you to Holly Budge for being an inspiration, for imagining the world a much better place and for setting about making it happen.
English for Designers | English Language Skills for Creatives
And thank YOU for reading about Holly Budge and How Many Elephants. I hope you have found the content interesting and the language useful. We are an English language School in Scotland offering English language holiday courses and online coaching to Internationals across creative industries.
English Language Tip
One final tip: Some languages still use the term ‘Primitive Art‘ to talk about African, Indonesian or any other non-Western art. This is an outdated prejudiced term with derogatory connotations. Use the term ‘Ethnographic Art’ instead.
We cover a broad range of topics in our language school blogs – some a lighthearted look at Scotland, others an in-depth look at art and culture. There’s something for everyone.
Blue Noun English Language Challenge
Your Blue Noun English Language Challenge is:
“Tell us about a good design used for social good”
Practice here! As usual, write as much as you like in the comments – and if you would like us to check & correct your English, write CP (correct please) at the end.
Live language learning!