Posted in Visual Storytelling

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch


Pollution has been a problem for the Earth for hundreds of years. Garbage would be left out in the street, with rarely anything cleaning up (save for a Good Samaritan or the street cleaners). Pollution is only even more prevalent today. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now more than 600,000 square miles in size. For reference, Alaska is approximately 663,268 square miles in size. Now this isn’t just one garbage patch, there are multiple ones that float throughout the Pacific Ocean. Luckily that means we don’t have one garbage patch the size of Alaska floating around the ocean, but we do have two patches that could each roughly be half the size of Alaska. That’s still not good and something has to be done. Luckily for us the cleanup is finally underway.

This is a map of both great garbage patches, and the routes they take around the ocean. It’s a very educational image. It doesn’t so much grab the viewer’s attention right away, but it educates them. It’s a great example of science visualization. “Science Visualization helps scientists overcome communications barriers through visual storytelling” ( An image like this makes it much easier to convey where each garbage patch is in relation to the land and the other patch.

Here we see the effects of the pollution from the great pacific garbage patch. Many animals, not just birds suffer from ingesting the garbage we throw out. This picture gives the viewer a visceral response. “From the user’s point of view, Visceral responses involve an automatic evaluation of the perceptual properties of objects, and a quick classification of them as safe or dangerous, good or bad, cold and forbidding or warm and inviting” (Norman). We get an automatic response when we look at this. It’s a cruel image seeing all of our garbage inside of a poor animal, but it grabs attention. It does its job. Draw the attention of the viewer, let them notice how bad this picture is so they read the article and get educated on the pollution problem.

Above is an aerial view of the garbage patch. It’s disgusting that so much of this has been thrown into the ocean and this image is only a miniscule amount of it. I think this image is a strong piece visual to show the horrors of the great pacific garbage patches, because it shows a diverse group of garbage. It’s not just plastic or paper. “A diversity of visual elements enhances the appeal of science communication to a wide audience” ( A lot of that isn’t just garbage from our trash cans. It’s garbage dumped off boats and garbage that hasn’t been recycled properly.

What we see here is the start of the cleanup. “‘The cleanup system includes a barrier that holds a 10-foot screen below it to catch plastics without interfering with marine life’, The Guardian reported. ‘The self-contained system uses natural currents of the sea to passively collect plastic debris in an effort to reduce waste in the ocean.’” ( This image gives us an idea as to how the cleanup will work. Connected with the image above a viewer, without any scientific background, can have an understanding as to how the cleanup process will work. “Visual imagery can say so much more than words alone…” (

This final image gives us the human element. All of the other images above have not had a human touch in it (besides all the garbage). Here we can clearly see that scientists and workers are doing something about the problem. It’s not just a boat and it’s not just talk. We can see them actively doing something about the problem. “The best way to achieve identification is to get your target audience to take the pictures themselves and submit them to your site, so you can display your customers’ images alongside your own” ( We’re all humans on the same planet. Most of us know the environment is in trouble and that we need to do something about it. We can all identify with these people who did take that step. They are out there actively trying to make the world a healthier place. “All stories operate on two levels – these are the action level and the narrative level. The action level (the formal system) describes what happens and the narrative level (the stylistic system) how it happens” (Bergstrom 16). If we take a closer look at this image we can see both levels of the story. The action level is the men on the boat are participating in the cleanup. The narrative level is they are using a special kind of net to drag all the garbage towards them.

All of these images work in tandem to show a story, but they all have their own stories to tell. They tell the story of how we need to be more proactive in protecting our environment.


Bergström Bo. Essentials of Visual Communication. Laurence King, 2009.“

How the Travel Industry Is Using Visual Storytelling to Bring Its Economic Impact into Clear View.” The Content Standard by Skyword, 15 Oct. 2019,, Adrian. Practical Visual Literacy for Science Communication ” IAN/EcoCheck Blog, Visualization,, Pola.

Click to access DESIGNERS%20AND%20USERS_Norman.pdf

“Storytelling Secrets For Creating Images That Connect.” Yotpo, 22 July 2019,

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