Sunday, Cambodians will vote in elections to their parliament, the National
Cambodia has
the largest youth population in South East Asia and low levels of formal
education. Lots of young people will be of voting age for the first time this
year but they are a quiet majority, discouraged from speaking up in public and
taking part in civic life.

BBC Media Action's multimedia youth engagement initiative, Loy9,
aims to address that by giving young Cambodians information and ideas to help them get involved in life
outside their homes and school.

Young Cambodians take place in an event organised by Loy9 in Phnom Penh.

One of the
current aims of Loy9 is to explain what their National Assembly is, and
this is where I come in. I lead the visual journalism editorial design team
that creates information graphics for BBC News on mobile, tablet and PC, and
earlier this year, I was invited to mentor the Loy9 team in producing

Before I
knew it I was in Phnom Penh armed with post-it notes, marker pens, and mosquito

It was an incredible experience to arrive in the searing heat, and
swap my normal London commute for a speedy £1 tuktuk ride and my cheese
baguette lunch for an amok trey, a delicious fish curry.

But why

Well, they're great for getting around low literacy which is
important for a rural Cambodian audience, who typically watch Loy9 on a
small TV that runs off car batteries, and is shared between a few village

They are
visually stimulating and can bring order and simplicity even to huge, complex
amounts of information – crucial when politics and government are not familiar
concepts. They can make that information less threatening and more human in
tone. And they're not expensive to produce.

by YouTube

When I
arrived, I was surprised at the technical ability of the team. While some had
formal design training, many of them had taught themselves advanced techniques
from YouTube tutorials.

I realised
that the most useful thing I could share with the team was my knowledge of the
creative process. Among all the YouTube tutorials, you can't really find
guidance on the best process to follow to get from a design problem to an
effective design.

I explained
to the team that I wanted to follow a problem-solving process commonly used in
design that draws on what we call "divergent and convergent thinking".

thinking" means generating and exploring as many solutions as possible. So the
team began by gathering dozens of facts about the National Assembly.

They then "converged" – ie agreed the single best solution – by selecting the few key facts that we
would include in the infographic.

The team
diverged again by each creating their versions of the graphic, and then converged
by deciding on the strongest version.

The team discuss the most important facts to show in the infographic.
We spent two
days working very hard on the production of three different graphics, during
which I spent a lot of time directing the team in maintaining visual simplicity
and consistency.

Our graphics
relied on a range of icons to represent things like school, voters,
representatives and the National Assembly. We wanted to be confident the
audience understood these icons, so decided to run some user testing.

under trees

The team set
off in pairs, managing to interview 30 people despite the legendary wet season
rain forcing them to shelter under trees during parts of the interviews.

Now that we
had the guidance from the audience, we could converge our design thinking.

We worked up
one final sketch of the structure of the graphic and then a final sketch for
each of the icons. This formed the basis for the digital version of our graphic
that appeared in three TV episodes of Loy9, each of which were viewed by
at least 2 million people. 

The finished product: part of the infographic as it appeared on screen.

It was great
to get the chance to show everyone the process of divergent and convergent
thinking, as this process can be applied to help solve any creative challenge;
from designing Loy9 T-shirts, to deciding what merchandising campaign to run.

My two weeks
with the team were just the first step in the training process. I have
continued to make myself available to them, and have kept them up to date with
all the important developments in the BBC design teams, and wider infographic
design community.

And I enjoyed the experience so much that I returned in
February for a couple of weeks, but this time it was a holiday – the post it
notes stayed in London!

A very proud team: (from left) Sorthy, Sopheak, me, Chantraboth, Lyna, Sothea, Sonina.

Looking back
on my time with the team, I am optimistic the infographics we created can help
young Cambodians understand what the National Assembly is and why it matters.

A visually
engaging, clear and simple presentation of the key facts, which can be
understood even by people who cannot read, has to be one of the best ways to
reach this audience.

A picture tells a thousand words no matter where you are
in the world!

Related links

BBC Media Action's work in Cambodia

Visit the Loy9 website and their YouTube channel.

Follow BBC Media Action on Twitter and Facebook

Go back to BBC Media Action