ID student Yuqing Zhou devises a ‘novel’ way to represent the world’s ocean life

Around the marine world in 360 spreads

To call Yuqing Zhou (MDes 2019) an avid traveler would be something of an understatement—she has been to 30 countries and more than 100 cities. Perhaps the most meaningful moment, though, came three years ago when she was learning to scuba dive near the island of Sipadan, off the coast of Malaysia.

“When I thought about oceans and seas, the pictures in my mind were just blue. But then I discovered a beautiful, colorful world underwater,” says Zhou. “The fish were swimming around me, and that was just such a new and exciting experience.”

This experience inspired the IIT Institute of Design student to create Latitudes–Oceanic Worlds, a two-book collection that explores marine life around the world. Zhou recently launched Latitudes on Kickstarter and, as of this writing, has received $6,147 of her $25,000 goal to complete and distribute the books.

I started by thinking about how I can make a map that focuses on the ocean and not the land, then iterated on that. I made a bunch of prototypes for how an ocean and sea life map might look, and how I can show this information and these surprising and interesting moments through a product.”

As such, Latitudes is distinct from other educational illustrative books in its unique approach to layout and information design. The most notable feature is the relief on the book’s paper edge that resembles the topographic surface of the ocean floor. The low, flat sections along the edge represent land, while the raised portions represent the ocean, with the highest portions depicting the deepest trenches of the world’s oceans.

Latitudes sample page

The book is called Latitudes because each of the 360 spreads in the volumes represent marine life at a half a degree of latitude. Readers begin the first book in the Arctic and finish at the equator, then pick up book two at the equator and finish at the Antarctic.

In the process of designing the book, which she did outside of her regular coursework, Zhou drew upon lessons from ID—from the rendering and prototyping skills she learned in her product design course, to the storytelling and data visualization she learned while studying digital media.

When I designed the pages, I was trying to figure out how to visualize data in an interesting way that also has all the information in it. How can I lay out the pages to make sense of the hierarchy of the information, the illustrations, the texts, and the proportions of that? That knowledge came from ID.”

Zhou says that Latitudes is the product of a year and a half of work, and a labor of love. Expecting to graduate in December 2019, Zhou suggests that other students who might have similar ambitions approach them with a similar devotion.

“If you want to launch a product, you need to really love it, because you are going to think it over thousands of times and talk about it thousands of times,” she says. “And start doing it today. It always takes longer than you think.”

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