Etchics Lab Conceptual Illustration - Unfold
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Ethics Lab Conceptual Illustration

Ethics lab approached Unfold to create a set of illustrations to communicate four core concepts. We aimed to tell the organisation’s story in a fresh, relevant way. To do this we had to listen intently and ask many questions. We created a tailor-made visual workshop that served as a guided brainstorming session. Together we looked at carefully grouped visual styles and explored patterns and symbolism.  Two distinct styles came to the forefront, a collage style and a bolder approach that we called “vibrant mark-making”. These two styles combined became the foundation of the illustrations.

How to say science visually

One of the key questions in our exploration was ” How do we show science and ethics and avoid any visual cliches? We found answers by looking at similarities between textile patterns and the natural growth patterns in a petri dish. We were intrigued by how a biological shape like an amoeba could look like a flower. We liked how a map of our human settlements looks like data blocks when simplified. We used this overlap to create marks that can be interpreted as human, biological, and technological.

With our visual style and palette set, we developed a visual narrative for each illustration. We worked through many iterations and found some failures and successes along the way. Through the process, we were impressed with how the team from the Etchics lab delivered constructive feedback that added to the visual story told in each illustration.

Africa centredness

From a harsh dry environment grows scientific advancement and leadership, represented by the SALT telescope in Sutherland. A quiver tree represents resilience, growth, and optimism. African skies and soil are the birthplaces of vibrant cities, science, and creative ways of living. A new narrative about Africa is created by Africans. The African continent is formed by African representation in written and spoken word as well as images. The overall image talks about people from Africa who paint the continent in a new way.

The convivial scholar

The  Scholar believes knowledge is composite and made up of different learnings drawn from all walks of life. They embrace being incomplete as a basic fact of life. This brings an openness to connect with others and a need to build a collaborative public sphere, where people engage as equals.

Academic Acitvism

The scholarly pen is mightier than the sword. In this case, a guinea fowl quill places us in Africa. With institutions like UCT as an academic backbone, scholars can stand together for a better world. A stylised sun represents a new tomorrow and pincushions speak of an African aesthetic and optimism. A hand-drawn map of Masipumelele provides a pattern and represents some of Africa’s very real challenges.

Curiosity and disruption

A scholar unpacks a new idea with excitement and without reservation or biases. She’s willing to investigate unconventional ideas and connect seemingly unrelated concepts to form a new picture of the world. This is done with science thinking and scientific methods as a basis combined with creativity and discovery through play.


The set was also adjusted into square format that can be used on Social media