Antarctic krill powers the Southern Ocean ecosystem, but for how much longer? Our report design and visualizations reveal the secrets and significance of the little crustacean ‘that could’.
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Euphausia superba is an unassuming crustacean you’ve probably never heard of. That’s a shame because it does some amazing heavy lifting for ecosystems.

Better known as krill, in the Antarctic this miniature shrimp is fundamental to the Southern Ocean food web. But its impact goes well beyond the local icy water, for this little critter also helps to maintain atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Now, the fishing industry is putting krill populations at risk.

To show the importance of krill and the dangers of intensifying fishing, WWF roped us in to illustrate how intimately these minute animals are enmeshed into the Antarctic marine ecosystem. In doing so, we were building on years of collaboration with WWF’s marine teams to put oceans on the global agenda.

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The centrepiece of the report is a visualisation that shows how krill ‘pump’ carbon deep into the ocean, while feeding species such as whales and seals.

When it comes to communicating issues or processes through visualisations, getting the conceptual symbol right is critical. 

In this case – a circle that anchors the role of krill where the sky meets the sea, all the way to the ocean floor, and radiating connections to other life forms. We tried to strike a balance between what the images could ‘tell’, and some textual support to expand the story further. All in all, our design strives to align with the central theme of the report that positions krill as a powerhouse of the Southern Ocean. 

But getting the concept right is not enough – the design style needs to be sufficiently compelling to draw the eye. Given the technical nature of the report, we decided to approach the visuals with a scientific feel. For the illustrations, we created monochrome, hatched, photographic silhouettes of animals and objects, while adding colour and combining small symbols to balance out the ‘dullness’ of the base photos.

Exploring style options, what we call moodboarding, was a delightful immersion into the world of scientific illustrations. We were particularly taken by the work of Ernst Haeckel, who's exquisite representations of the natural world influenced our treatment of phytoplankton.

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Through this visual ode to the modest krill and its carbon storage capacity, we brought to the surface a crustacean who lives out of sight, but whose fate could prove determinant to the global climate.

Read the full report here.

"The design was unique and innovative which made for an engaging report."

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