Preceding this assignment (in the same course) were two other modules: one a series of web-based interaction exercises (taught by me); the other a Montage project (taught by Kermit Bailey). The Montage required students to choose a theme and represent it in a complex poster (I am simplifying here). Building off of Kermit’s assignment allowed me to bypass some project definition and get more quickly into method. Staging earlier brief exercises in HTML and CSS took some technical burden off of this module.
Demontage was incorporated into the sophomore-level Imaging II course at NC State’s College of Design, as one of four “modules”—the assignment was given in turn to both sections of the course. The class is a 3-credit support studio that meets Mondays and Wednesdays for 2 hours. Students at the College of Design have dedicated desks with 24-hour access.
The students began by decomposing their earlier Montages. The result was a listing of visual elements and embedded concepts. Through small and large group discussions, they generated ideas for interactions with that material (pointedly ignoring the formal characteristics of the Montages). We spoke in terms of how the material could help stage an experience, and they were planning in those terms.
The project brief ★ described the task as such:
A strict requirement was that the site had to be dramatically different from its original source (the Montage). This helped keep the project from becoming a tedious repetition, but more importantly it drew a distinction between an expression of the same conceptual material in a printed poster and an active website.
Criteria for Judgment (grading):
We spoke about three core aspects of an immersive site. A site is built on repetition, nuance, and stupefaction…
Repetition: Our understanding of how to move through a site’s space comes from internally-consistent structures determined by the architect (you). These structures take the form of repeated elements and positions (the structure of the screen), and conventions (the stylistic regulations). You can rely on established conventions (don’t), or you can make something new. To do so, it’s critical that your site follow its own internally-consistent logic; and that the logic must be made apparent to a visitor.
Nuance is what justifies a site’s existence—without it we should make a single page and go home. The nuances of a site are its points of interest. The truth is in the details…
Stupefaction: If repetition is the bedfellow of boredom, then stupefaction is the first smooch of true love. To be stupefied is to be engaged, and a site must engage a visitor if it hopes to be noticed and remembered. We tend to retain the memory of our most devastating (and most exhilarating) day in high school over the second day of the second month of our second year.
When working in a new medium, it’s often productive to provide some leading suggestions, to begin to delineate the designer’s purview. These points were provided as “things to consider”:
Being the first (and for some the only) exposure to actual web design, this project was disorienting and demanding—and especially because the available software was poor. I knew we couldn’t achieve the same kind of refinement possible with other kinds of projects, and so I made it clear that my major concern was with the modeling of experience—a great deal of sloppiness was necessarily tolerated. The results were quite interesting. This project is certainly not an “authentic” website, but it’s an early project (sophomore year) and served to engage students in truly interactive principles.