Initial Proposal

My project will be a long-form, experimental website that explores the American front lawn from its origins to the present day to the future. For the content of the site, I will research the American front lawn from different angles—pertaining to both its social and ecological qualities. I will outline the history of the lawn, roughly tracing the following track: its precursors in England, its rise in tangent with the parks movement in America, its mid-century boom in the suburbs, and its present decline due to drought in the West. My research will then dive into current concerns with lawns: water usage, fertilizer use, and possible alternatives. This research will likely touch on topics of sustainability as well as the ethics of lawns in the Anthropocene. Ultimately, my research will question the necessity of lawns for the future, and what, if anything, might take their place. This project is intended to a) inform users about a seemingly unconsidered, but common landscape, and b) provoke a reaction in users to consider their environments more closely, question the landscape’s purpose and origin, and possibly, decide what the future of their lawn will be. As for the design, I want to retain readability while still experimenting with the medium of web design. I also want the user to be engaged throughout the entirety of the site, despite the possibility of heavy text. Therefore this project will also include the creation of photos, illustrations, charts, graphics, and animations to accompany the research and bring it to life on a digital setting.

 

I hope that my project will add to the growing pushback against web design that only considers what is ‘above the fold’ and join those that embrace scrolling as an intuitive motion. I want to experiment with how users interact with information through the act of scrolling—what if scrolling does not move the page down, but instead, triggers another reaction? How might I incorporate multiple medias seamlessly into a single page? (I expect even more design challenges that I have yet to consider will come along in the process.)

The final form will be a single web page that is functional and readable. The execution will (in the simplest terms) have three parts: research, design, and building. I expect to execute them roughly in that order, but I also expect substantial overlap. Additionally, I know there will be many other parts to this process, including, among others: outlining, sketching, learning, editing, and testing.

I have minors in both American Culture and Sustainability—the American front lawn is right in the middle of that Venn Diagram; most of my studies throughout the past three years have been related or closely related to this topic. The design side of this project will be the challenge, as the world of web design is larger and more unknown to me. Previously, I have mostly worked with print design, but I am excited to transfer my skills to a digital platform. To prepare for this project, I have been looking at more websites and critiquing them on their functionality, peeking at code, and sketching some designs. So far, I have gathered a collection of  other long-form websites and experimental sites. Below are some sites that I thought did well to keep my attention, incorporated different media, and used scrolling in a unique way:

everylastdrop.co.uk/

nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/05/yellowstone-national-parks-bears-video/

series.hashtagsunplugged.com/lovewins

I have been gathering initial sources for my research on lawns. Some standouts below:

michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/why-mow-the-case-against-lawns/

thelawninstitute.org/

99percentinvisible.org/episode/lawn-order/

I also have some prior experience with the subject; my research last year on the plastic pink flamingo in Print Publications spoke briefly to the rise of lawns in America. As for experience with design, I have taken several graphic design courses over the past three years, including web design, where I learned some basics of HTML and CSS. I also designed websites for MHacks (however, these designs were handed off to web developers to build). I know the scope of this project will extend beyond my current knowledge of web design, especially in regard to coding; I know that I will have to do a lot more research and self-teaching to get the result that I want.

It is that reason that I chose this medium—I want to branch out into digital platforms to round out my design background. I also want more experience with code. I want to become more familiar with HTML and CSS and dabble in Javascript as well. Hopefully, I leave IP as a more versatile designer comfortable designing both for print and digital platforms.