Early Project Development

Boy with messy brain

The Vision

First, you begin with a vision.

Sometimes your vision is clear. Sometimes it’s a little fuzzy. But every vision has potential.

The goal of my individual project is to create a digital space for women and girls to strengthen their understanding of sexual assault to fortify themselves with knowledge. This idea grew from a speech I gave about the importance of reporting sexual assault and how doing so embraces the feminine nature of being a protector.

The Project Idea

Second, you take your vision and make it an idea when you give it a concrete framework for how you will share your vision with the world.

This part is fun. It’s where you get to think about your skills and resources. 

My initial intention with the project was to create a video interviewing individuals who were part of the reporting process, such as police officers and nurses. Considering this further, I decided that the sensitive topic and the camera shy tendencies of most professionals might make finding people to speak with me difficult. It was still my desire to create intimacy within my digital project with faces of real people though, so I thought that pictures with quotes would be an impactful alternative. I envisioned two separate parts to my online project within a single website. One part would be dedicated to educating woman and girls on the process of reporting and explain the steps in conjunction with the faces and voices (through textual quotes) of the type of people they would encounter along the way. The other part would focus on defining sexual assault and the importance of reporting. This was where my thought process was in the arch of development when I submitted my project proposal. Ellen Lupton talks about the importance of storyboards. Storyboards can help make your vision feel wayyy more concrete and allows you to share your project idea in a visual way with others “Designers use storyboards to communicate their ideas to clients and collaborators” (Design is Storytelling pg 38).

The Mess

Third, things get a little messy.

This isn’t the BLAH type of mess you shove in the closet when guests are visiting. This mess is productive it might lead to many different prototypes, or it might just refine your project slightly. But it’s your brain’s way of trying to find the best way to share your vision. 

Robots in a row.

My thoughts and intentions with the project have morphed since then. In another class, I read an essay analyzing the Iliad. The author, Simone Weil, uncovers the truths about the human condition in relation to war. Reading her text I was struck with how the relationship she drew between war and the human condition spoke to the experience of rape, specifically in a quote I recalled from a woman who had survived the Rwanda Genocide. I am writing a paper encapsulating my thoughts. This connection feels important to me. It explains something about rape and sexual assault that is difficult to understand. This is a piece of my work that can serve as my longhand text exemplifying my writing style more thoroughly than an informational piece could. I can frame it as – why it is important to commit to reporting to protect other women. This can replace the part addressing how to identify sexual assault.

…. haven’t got to the next step yet, stay tuned.

 

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Welcome to Ghana

Every single day as I log into my computer, I encounter this picture from my trip to Ghana from May of 2017.  

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This image was taking in May of 2017 while in a village called Krofu. Krofu is a rural community in between the towns of Cape Coast and Accra.

As I look at this picture while heading to do other things on my laptop, I am met with several thoughts. Some of my thoughts include, how do I exhibit joy like the little girl in the pink dress and what is the little boy in the blue reaching for?

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Ellen Lupton uses a very similar image to show a “map of emotions” on page 61 of her book, “Design is Storytelling”.

Each child in this photo is exuding a different emotion.

Reflecting about the setting of this picture, often brings me to think about what these children were feeling and how I could capture their emotions in a photo.

With that being said, the theme of emotion has been my main focus while developing my project proposal.  Throughout my project, I am hoping to relay my emotions from traveling to Ghana, as well as the other members of our group, and the Ghanaian people we interacted with.  

My overarching goal is for readers to feel emotionally connected to the story. I want the readers to feel the emotions not only I felt, but the emotions of what it is like to be in a place unfamiliar to you.  

The Popsicle

In order to effectively articulate emotions, I am breaking up my story into three acts. The first act is focusing on the emotions I felt before going to Ghana, the second act is focusing on the emotions I felt while in Ghana, and the third act is focusing on the emotions I felt upon leaving Ghana, as well as the emotions of some of my group members. 

In the beginning stages of developing my project, I was not going to segment the story into three acts, rather I was going to try to conquer everything at once.  After trying to see how that would work, I realized that segmenting my story into acts would help the reader experience the raw emotions from each stage of my trip.  I developed the idea of segmenting my story after reading Act 2 of “Design is Storytelling”.

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This diagram can be found on page 62 of Lupton’s book, “Design is Storytelling”.

In Act 2 of the book, Ellen Lupton focuses on looking at the three levels of user experience as a popsicle.  After studying the picture heavily and gathering the concepts of each layer, I realized that I had to change my idea to better match the “popsicle.”

Each layer of the popsicle fits beautifully in how I want my story to be portrayed. For example, the visceral layer will be focused on the emotion prior to landing in Ghana.  In this layer, the readers will gather a feel of “color, form, and texture” of my emotions. I want the readers to be able to feel what I was feeling, while also gathering insight into what I was about to go do. My goal for all of the layers of user experience is for the readers to be able to create an image in their heads of what it is like travel to another continent.  I want the readers to empathize with the story and to feel as though they were a part of it.

After developing a great understanding for the user experience popsicle, I felt confident with dividing up my story into three acts.  I knew that by segmenting what I wanted to say into these acts, the readers would become even more deeply immersed in my story.

Therefore, I feel confident in my final project proposal.  I know that my story will evolve as it is written, but the end goal will remain the same: connecting the reader to the story through emotions.

Nature of Novelty

NOVELTY
nov·el·ty
/ˈnävəltē/
noun
The quality of being new, original, or unusual.
“the novelty of being a married woman wore off”
synonyms: originality, newness, unconventionality, unfamiliarity

The idea of novelty manifesting this post poses pretty comical irony.  The fact that this reflection will encompass the process of me overcoming my overly-zealous response to the novelty and scope of this multimedia narrative project, whilst explaining why and how I landed on the idea of novelty serving as the core motif for my narrative.  In case that’s behind you (flew over your head), it’s ironic because I became a victim of my own soapbox ideology.  I fell victim to The Novelty Effect.  The Novelty Effect was, at first, the main idea that I wanted my narrative to surround.  However, I was struggling with wanting to incorporate so many other ideas simultaneously, and my topic ultimately became a jumbled mess.

Cultivation: An Analogy

So say I’m a gardener.  I’m not, but let’s pretend I was for the purpose of this analogy of my thought process development arc for my project proposal.  I had an idea, a topical seed.  That tiny seed had huge potential, I could sense it.  I had to feed it.  So, I researched.  Every time I found a new idea, I fed it water.  I poured and poured and poured and poured into this sprouting seed.  At first, I was sensing steady growth.  The idea was sprouting.  But, with each new branch came more weight, putting pressure on the over-watered premature trunk.  At a certain point, the tree became top-heavy, burdened by the weight of too many ideas.  The tree grew into a lop-sided representation of where I saw my idea going.  There were simply too many branches on one side and not enough weight or support in the middle.  It lacked balance.  Before I knew it, the tree was toppling over and went crashing into the ground, breaking many branches through its fall.  All the branches on one side weighing it down with their heavy, far-reaching concepts.  The trunk, the core of the story, the main idea, wasn’t big or strong enough to hold it all together.  The tree is my brain.  My thought process.  My topic needed a point, it needed direction, and I have that now.

Why Novelty?

I was toying with the idea of using novelty as a theme to guide this narrative about my time abroad and how I found that everything in Europe was seemingly so much more beautiful than everything back home.  I mean everything from the churches, to the apartment buildings, to the sidewalk.  Yes, the grey, concrete sidewalk.  The one in Copenhagen – where I studies abroad – that likely looks exactly the same as the one across the street from my house in Chicago.   I retrospectively realized that because everything abroad in a new environment seemed so extravagant and beautiful because of the sheer fact that it was all so novel.  Thus, the birth of my topic brainstorm.

How Did I Get Here?

One word: M I N D M A P P I N G.  Mindmapping!  Look at the diagram below.

sample mind map
A Curious Brain: always the core of a good idea

 

We spent some time discussing mindmapping in class one day, so I decided to try it out.  Let me tell you what, mine certainly did not look like the piece of art you see above, but it worked wonders for my thought process and the development of my idea.  I started with novelty, added in finding beauty in the mundane, drew a branch for Denmark, Danish culture, Hygge, cultivating Hygge at Furman, discovering novelty at Furman, exploiting the redundancy of life, so on and so forth.  It allowed me to really gain a better understanding of the direction I wanted to take my story.

When I started branching off with the idea of novelty in the middle of my mind map, I found myself coming to the conclusion that my branches seemed to be jumbled and lacked connection.  But, when I put “finding beauty in the mundane” in the middle, I found it much easier to make “chapters” out of this title.  The branches seemed to be more visibly cohesive – in terms of each one’s purpose – and connect to the main idea.  Finally, a sturdy tree trunk.


What I have discovered through Ellen Lupton’s insightful text, Design Is Storytelling, is that the multimedia elements I incorporate are truly going to matter, in terms of setting the scene, painting a picture of mundanity, and evoking emotion.  I’m a big believer in the idea that pictures tell a thousand words.  Hence, I need to choose my pictures and videos wisely and determine which photos from abroad will serve as assets, rather than fog the story with tangent-esque visual anecdotes.   I know I will need to be careful with not over-using to create a cloudy scene.  One of my biggest challenges thus far, and what I presume will continue to be a feat, is culling pictures from my time abroad and deciding how to frame new pictures in a corresponding manner so that the story flows and applies in context at Furman.

Our reading in to Seth Gitner’s Multimedia Storytelling has really helped me cull through photos.  His explanation of strategic explanation of visual storytelling, there are four different languages that a photo can speak:

  • Informational
  • Graphically Appealing
  • Emotional
  • Intimate

His description and depiction of these four categories really helped me determine how I want my photos to speak to my audience.  After reflecting on Gitner’s lessons, I have a vision of my photographs serving as the main component of the message I am trying to convey.  They are the main event, the novel, the movie, and the text is their narration.  Effectively, I want my words to explain my pictures, but for the two to support each other and have a balance of helping the reader see my point and understand my motif.  The pictures should ultimately all portray mundanity.  Hopefully, their mood will transition throughout the narrative to feeling somewhat challenged by bleakness and a scarcity of color or zeal, into a feeling of pure content and appreciation for the beauty that each of the images hold.

 

So, am I content with my current direction?  Yes.  But, that is incredibly subject to change.  I am still feeling uneasy about the flow and consistency of my story, simply because I do not know how to pick and choose what to include from my time abroad and what not, nor what to include from my time at Furman and what to not.  I know one thing for sure, I will be starting with explaining the concept of novelty, how it came to effect my life abroad, and how it allowed me to take time to appreciate and recognize the beauty of every day mundane life.

Stay tuned!

– Morgan

Narrative is Key

When I first started this project, I had a vague idea of where I wanted the concept to go but was having trouble committing to certain multimedia details. After submitting my initial project outline, it was clear that my concept was very reliant on my more comedic writing style. However, it wasn’t yet portrayed in my proposals. This project initially seemed like more of a challenge in terms of executing advanced multimedia elements (an animated compilation of my logo sketches to show the design process). My logo design evolved from the image on the left to the image on the right.

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But I quickly realized that there are endless instructional resources that helped me learn to animate the logos, and the real work was going to be writing the copy. I’m striving for the body copy to genuinely sound like a colloquial take on design thinking and my design process for my Visit Copenhagen branding project.

Having Empathy For Your Reader

The text titled Design Is Storytelling by Ellen Lupton has been extremely helpful, as the chapter on co-creation lead me to really think about how empathy will impact my project. How will I create a feeling of empathy that will impact the reader? I have a unique upper hand in this situation in that I have been through the same experience of my target audience. Just over a year ago I was an inexperienced designer with the passion and drive to create things. However, I didn’t know where to begin. Should I sketch ideas? What if I can’t draw, should I just skip the sketching part? How do you even begin choosing a typeface for a project? All of the questions that I know plagued my mind before facing an intensive design project are the same questions I strive to answer in my own project. The question that I keep going back to in my head while writing this piece is “what would you have wanted to hear/ read before you went to Copenhagen?”

Using Design Thinking to Write About Design Thinking

While this project is instructional/ educational at its core, I definitely didn’t want it to end up feeling like an abridged version of some design textbook. I needed to keep in mind that I am first and foremost crafting a narrative that leaves the reader with helpful tips about applying design thinking to their creative processes. The chapter of “Design is Storytelling” titled “Narrative Arc” was also a great resource by driving home the idea that every narrative has rising action, conflict, conflict resolution, and falling action. I initially thought that trying to make my story adhere to this arc structure would be difficult, but the the design thinking process inherently mimics a very similar structure. While the design process is not a strictly linear one (see image below), the jagged line of the story comes from design challenges (aka conflicts) like the first rendition of my logo not working when scaled down for use on a small business card.

design process

Organized Narrative, Happy Author

While I was initially expecting the multimedia elements of my project to be the most challenging thing to execute, making sure that the written copy follows a narrative arc and actually tells a story has become the most challenging. Now that I have a clear sense of where the narrative is going, the multimedia elements appear to accent my points nicely instead of interrupting a clunky, instructional body copy. I am now much happier with my proposal that includes a developed narrative arc and I’m eager to start the production phase of this project.

Getting Personal with Personal Brands

Until recently I felt very unsure about who I wanted to be in the age of technology.  Did I want to curate some highly curated professional presence, or go for a more gen z aesthetic? I found myself grappling with the fact that I had to graduate and besides a very tailored resume I had nothing to show for it. But, this resume which I created with at the school’s career center, in my opinion, gave a false representation of who I was.  The resume lacked creativity and personality and made me feel as if I was just another student in the masses trying to get a job. I have always considered the content I put into the world to be very polished.

After reflection and some mind-mapping exercises, I settled on the idea of Personal Branding for my individual project. While personal branding was something I had never formally explored or written on it is something I am passionate about, and while I may have been naive in thinking to find my topic would be a hard part it was now time to decide how to create this presentation. While studying abroad, I created a travel blog, but only ever scratched the surface level and used the blog as an informative tool to update my friends and relatives.

This project will push me out of my comfort zone since it will require me to put introspective and personal content into the world. Even though I am excited for this story to take life, it will be something that will change the way I look at my personal brand and curate content for it. With this project, I will be able to pair my knowledge of the structure and functionality of society, tap into my passion for social justice along the lines of women empowerment, and allow for a creative outlet with the use of multimedia elements. The rhetoric surrounding person brands is harsh: “Do this,” “Post this many times a week,” “Use this domain site.” My hope is not to provide a “how-to” method but to show that the most essential person in building an online presence, getting a job, or cultivating something special is you. I want to show that there is no standard that one must fit in, that it’s ok to change your brand as you develop as an individual and within society!

Design Thinking

My original proposal took hours to create, and while I lacked specifics on how I would tell the story of Personal Branding I have since decided to use the Design Thinking Model to help in curating the best possible narrative I can.

The Design Thinking Model uses five interactive stages to provide a solution based approach to problem-solving, and I will eventually work through all five steps, however, at this point in the project, I am working through the first three.

Empathize – this process immersed me into the world of personal branding. I have my own thoughts on what a personal brand is, but through interviews of mentors, professors, and peers I am coming to understand what a personal brand is through their perspective. Through informational videos, blog post, and self-help guides I am also researching the conventional wisdom surrounding creating personal branding.

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Define – in this stage, I am tasked with figuring out what problem I will be addressing. Based on my research there is a need to just start the conversation of what a personal brand is and to assemble some resources, and testimony from hiring managers, collegiate faculty, and current students on how to create a personal brand, and how to keep curating your brand. While I recognize that I have no authority in this realm, I want to go through this process with my own brand to show authenticity with my audience (current college students) and provide my own narrative on what worked and didn’t work for me.

Ideate – Ideally my problem I have identified is a compelling one for in this next stage I start to brainstorm how all my research will manifest itself in my story. This is something I am doing daily as I compile my research and work on solving the previously mentioned problem. To start, I have made a word map of the common words that have overlapped in research and interviews.

Screen Shot 2019-02-10 at 9.08.04 PM
These fourteen words will guide me during all my phases. It will be a resource as I formulate and iterate my long-form story.

While I was very content with my original proposal, I have expanded and altered some aspects. I imagine that it will keep moving away from my proposal  I leave this post with a quote from the book I am currently reading to help guide my own narrative in being comfortable with sharing a more personal side of myself. Rachel Hollis in her book “Girl Wash Your Face” says

 “decide that you care more about creating your magic and pushing it out into the world than you do about how it will be received.” 

Projects, Pre-Production, Proposals… OH MY!

Projects.

Projects are what you make of them, you can put maximum effort in and see tremendous results or put average effort in and see average data. The more time an individual works with an idea the better it can be produced and executed. Running simulations and making sure the user experience is something that is both visually appealing and easy to function is a time-consuming task. And this brings me to my current ever-growing and changing project proposal. From a simple travel video to now an idea that encompasses family values and compassion, I have come a long way.

Design Thinking

Initially, I created a travel video of my time in London and Paris with my Grandmother, Bebe, the summer before my freshmen year. Now two years later, I am now revisiting the footage to create something else entirely. The question that is mulling around my head is: How do I create something that already is made? I struggle with reviewing the content I already have because it looks good and it served a purpose… why should I rip it apart? However, I know that the current video doesn’t entirely capture the message I want the viewer to take with them.

So, despite my own creative differences with myself, I am growing and changing my project as I work through it. My current project proposal isn’t something that will be fully finished. I have a very good layout, structure, and an idea of what I want to accomplish. By allowing myself to have a slightly looser proposal, I can creatively design think through the content I have. I am a firm believer that the design thinking process is a crucial part of creating a finished product that aesthetically appealing and functional.

Design Thinking

Inspiration

Creating a long narrative formatted story is something new to me. As I work through the pre-production phase I am encountering ideas that I would like to pursue. But, some of these ideas I find myself lacking the knowledge to produce such a layout. Which isn’t something I couldn’t teach myself or find resources.

An example of such use of advanced multimedia ideas that I would like to incorporate is the NYC Times “Snow Fall” article. The use of multimedia in the article created an in-depth story. It showed the appeal of the powder skiing as well as the danger, reflecting man vs. nature. The author’s use of moving graphics created a very interesting user experience. This is something that I would like to capture in my finished project.

Another consideration with creating a long narrative story and the complimenting video is: what is the overall aesthetics am I trying to target? Throughout the pre-production and proposal phase, I have been color swatching and researching how to convey certain elements visually.

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As a marketer, I like to visualize how others would perceive a finished product. Color, textures, movements, and fonts all go into a finished product (video, website, object, clothing, etc). I look forward to the coming weeks to see where my project will go and what I decide to do on visual aspects.

Design as Positioning the Present

For 12091km, 23 hours, a plane slithered over the vast Pacific Ocean and took me from China to the United States. It’s destination was clearly marked on the map, but what about mine?

The Journey

It was definitely not the first time I took an oversea plane like this — after all, I am now a senior at Furman University, an American college — but the experience was different from my previous trips.

When I spent my four-hour layover in Narita International Airport, I was in the stressful last hours before my graduation school application. I was waiting for next flight in the lounge and typing random things in to my personal statement draft and a surge of lost suddenly came. The surge was condensed into one sad realization of my life: the future was in the fog and so did the past.

Someone said that showing oneself to the others is the journey of self-discover. I agreed with this statement and as I found out, it was also a journey of struggle. I never had that strong feeling of lost again like I did that day in the airport but actually, the thought still lingered in my deep mind even as my applications had finished.

This was why I finally decided to do something with this thought when I pondered for a personal project topic.

A College Student’s Lost in Past and Future? That doesn’t sound like an easy topic for a multimedia project. A good project topic should be both interesting and practical.

During the brainstorming for the project, I listed the unique experiences I have had in the past that might distinguish me from other college students and then the answer was clear. Most of the experiences were linked to my cultural background and my identity as an international student. Hence, I decided my topic as Chinese Students’ Experience at Furman University.

The Turing Machine

Once the topic had been decided, the following planning became a pipeline business. For the project proposal, I set up dates for interview, organized the materials I had, and considered ways to acquire additional materials. It seemed that I had a complete plan for this project.

“But did I?” I asked myself. I was sure, at that time, that something there were something missing in the project. However, I am not sure what it was. I was not content with my project proposal but neither did I intentionally search for the missing stuffs — I didn’t even know where to start.

On the one hand, life is full of surprises. My thoughts on this project got advanced when I was doing my homework for another course, Computational Theory. 

Turing machine is a mathematical model of computation that defines an abstract machine, which manipulates symbols on a strip of tape according to a table of rules. Despite the model’s simplicity, given any computer algorithm, a Turing machine capable of simulating that algorithm’s logic can be constructed.

Turing Machine, Wikipedia

I know most of people might have never heard of a finite automata or a turing machine, so I would simply put it as this: The biggest difference between a finite automata (a functionally limited computing model) and a turing machine (an omnipotent computing model) is that the latter has a memory storage and thus, a current state.

I finally found the significance of my project for myself. Memory and recording themselves are valuable enough for the present and with the present, one would not be lost in the past and future.

On the other hand, during the process of studying about storytelling, I more and more recognized importance of design and aesthetics. Now people like to say that being visually appealing is not the only standard for a good design and there are much more in arrangements and organizations of other aspects in a design but I think for me, I still need to learn more about the basics.