What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

Visual Guides to Sustainable Seafood

May 14, 2010, 5:04 PM

Over the past couple of years, marine sustainability has risen to the top of the environmental movement's concerns -- from sustainable seafood policies for retailers to cultural landmarks like $100,000 prize TED awarded ocean researcher Sylvaia Earle in 2009 for her efforts to protect the oceans. But in a supply/demand market economy, our seafood choices as consumers have a significant impact on the issue. So how can design help consumers make smarter, more sustainable seafood choices?

Information visualization seem like the perfect design solution to what's to a large degree an awareness and education problem, empowering well-meaning but confused consumers to make the right seafood choices. Today, we look at three visually-driven guides to marine sustainability for the dinner table.

Last year, the Monterey Bay Aquarium released a sophisticated portal for seafood recommendations, including a set of downloadable pocket guides tailored to your specific geographic location. But the true highlight of the effort was this fantastic free iPhone app enabling sensible seafood choices at the epicenter of the decision-making process: on the go, in restaurants and at the grocery store.

But despite the rich and practical information, neither the pocket guides nor the mobile app were really feats of design, utilizing only bare essentials like color-coding and a basic column-based layout. To make the recommendations more, forgive the pun, digestible, there had to be a more visual and intuitive approach to presenting this information.

That's exactly what GOOD Magazine did in their excellent The Right Fish infographic, part of the ongoing Transparency series presenting information visually. GOOD took the various location-specific Monterey Bay Aquarium guides and visualized them in a single, succinct, visually compelling blueprint to sustainable seafood.

In a slightly different take, Seattle-based oceanographer, humanities teacher, and computational artist Neil Bass recreated the Monterey Bay Aquarium recommendations as a visual pocket guide, with additional information about fish toxicity besides the ecological considerations, adding a layer of human health to the original environmental health perspective. The guide plots various fish species on a Cartesian system of ecology and toxicity.

Though not as visually and typographically sophisticated as it could be, Bass' guide offers a comprehensive yet user-friendly decision-making tool for a complex issue and an overwhelming spectrum of possibilities, and is available as a free downloadable PDF.

Finally, as welcome as these visual guides to sustainable seafood are, they are only as powerful as their reach. While a handful of environmentally-sensitive retailers like Whole Foods do offer such guides to their customers, most don't. Yet they should be available in every grocery store in the world, every fish counter at every farmers' market, every restaurant and every diner. But until then, we have to fend for ourselves in respecting the oceans -- so grab the Seafood Watch iPhone app and print one of the visual guides for your wallet. Earth's most precious resource will thank you.

Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of miscellaneous interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine and Huffington Post, and spends a shameful amount of time on Twitter.


Visual Guides to Sustainabl...

Newsletter: Share: