From the outset, Hubbub has committed to exploring many different forms of communication to inspire people into taking environmental action. We also share these experiences wider so others can learn from mistakes made and replicate successes.

Creating playful public installations has been central to many Hubbub campaigns. Engaging installations help bring to life more complex and abstract issues, such as air pollution and microplastics, to make them feel more accessible and tangible. Now, based on the experimentation we have done over the years with materials, messaging, interactivity and more, PhD student Francesca Curtis has developed a guide on ‘How to create installations that are impactful and effective’ with the support of WRoCA and using both Hubbub case studies and others we’ve been inspired by.

Here are seven unique ways installations can communicate environmental issues, which are explored in more detail in the Installations Guide.

1) Data visualisation

Helping people to visualise the scale of a problem can be highly effective in enabling people to rapidly see the impact their actions have on the wider environment. The Hubbub coffee cup cube installed outside of the Tate Modern comprised of 5,555 coffee cups representing the number of disposable cups the UK gets though every minute, with the black cups representing the tiny proportion (4%) of that number that end up being recycled in the UK.

2) Experiential

One great strength of installations is their ability to generate an emotional response through immersion and interaction. The Pollution Pavilion installed by Hubbub in London’s Covent Garden made the invisible visible using giant, coloured balloons to represent the levels of air pollution in different areas across London. Similarly, the artist Michael Pinksy’s Pollution Pods allowed people to directly experience different levels of air pollution across the world.

3) Community Engagement

Installations can successfully act as community engagement projects by being something that the community can either use or create themselves. Hubbub’s ‘Giant Present’ installed in Doncaster invited local people to have their say on what they would like to see more in their neighbourhood. Another example is in New York City, where they have a swale food forest located on a barge travelling to different piers the city allowing people to harvest fruit, vegetables and herbs for free.

4) Performance

Performance, actions or stunts have the benefit of not necessarily needing huge investment. Hubbub’s stunt ‘Message in a bottle’ had a plastic bottle placed on a pathway next to a bin. If a passer-by binned the bottle, a flash mob then appeared to celebrate the act by waving flags, playing instruments and handing over a medal. This was a high impact, low-cost way to raise awareness.

5) Light and Sound

Light can be a fascinating way to create an aesthetic experience, amplify existing spaces, architectures and environments and is extremely cost-effective with no waste... or need for storage! ‘White River’ was a light projection funded by Hubbub illuminating Norwich Caste with messages highlighting the amount of milk wasted by households.

Sound installations can help people to appreciate the natural world. The Great Animal Orchestra created by Bernie Krause was designed to bring people closer to a range of different ecosystems helping them develop an emotional connection with the world around them.

6) Digital

Digital technology is increasingly popular with contemporary artists concerned about the environment. ‘Rising’ is a virtual reality experience that places people face-to-face with an artist in a glass tank slowly filling with water. The only way to save the artist from drowning to make pledges to protect the environment.

7) Narratives

A narrative approach uses a strategic space to tell a story using visual cues. The Hubbub ‘For Fish Sake Cube’ showed Londoners how they connect to the River Thames, how it is littered, who cleans it and what people can do to reduce the problem.

The Installation Guide explores each of these approaches in more detail, giving a range of examples and highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of each. You can read and download it below.

We hope it helps to inspire new and creative ideas, and would love to hear from you if you use it.