Follow the thing: A blood drop's journey

An illustration, produced by Dr Stephanie Sodero, follows the surprising journey blood takes from donor to recipient.

The world’s first voluntary blood donation service was set up in London in 1921, with donations transferred directly from one person to another.

Fast forward to the present day, and both blood donation and transfusion have drastically changed.

But do we really know the true distance blood travels from vein to vein?

Dr Stephanie Sodero’s research focuses on vital mobilities – movements that impact life changes such as blood, vaccines, and oxygen.

She set out to understand how such medical supply chains work and in what ways they are vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, such as flooding – information that is key to contingency planning.

View the results of her work, in the form of an innovative illustration, on Prezi.

Flooded landscape.

“By following the drop of blood, you get a sense of just how complex the blood donation journey is in terms of time, space, and pace.”

Visualising supply chains

Based on her fieldwork and research, Stephanie developed nine fictionalised vignettes tracing the journey of blood in her paper titled ‘Vital mobilities: circulating blood via fictionalized vignettes’, published in the journal Cultural Geographies.

By using non-traditional qualitative methods, Stephanie was able to represent and communicate complicated processes.

At the same time, it raised questions on how vital mobilities are prioritised politically and logistically.

Building on this, Stephanie worked with the Methods for Change research group to explore creative and accessible science communication methods.

Collaborating with illustrator Jack Brougham, they developed a scrollable journey using the ‘Follow the Thing’ method, which traces the journey of a fictional blood droplet through visual storytelling.

You can view this illustration on Prezi.

Blood bag
Stephanie Sodero

Get in touch

If you use the guide for your own research or teaching, Stephanie would love to hear your feedback.

Journey from vein to vein

Starting at the point of donation, the scroll then follows the journey of the bag of donated blood via a droplet character.

It highlights the many miles and processes involved, alongside external factors such as extreme weather, fossil fuel consumption, and complicated logistic chains before finally being transfused to a patient in need.

By fictionalising this process, it allows the reader to gain an understanding of processes that are unapparent, as well as to explore and emphasize novel themes, such as climate mitigation and adaptation, lending a unique perspective that draws connections with broader societal issues.

Teaching and research resources

As part of the Methods for Change project, Stephanie co-created a guide on how the ‘Follow the Thing’ method can be used to help communicate the interconnections, complexities, vulnerabilities, and injustices of supply chains.

The guide can be used as a teaching and research resource and provides a step-by-step guide on applying this method to your work.

This work was funded by ASPECT via the Methods for Change project and supported by the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute.