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It’s been a while since something I’ve done has gotten personal.

You know the feeling - when something is important, and it’s really important, but it’s not even just important to you. It’s important to everyone.

I read this article, and I knew it was going to be that kind of project. At one point, my schedule was looking sort of crowded, and there was talk of another designer getting the article, and my heart was just ripping out because I knew I had to do this right, and not that I don’t believe in my coworkers, but what if they just don’t get it, you know? I took every ounce of my strength and determination and heartbreak to casually suggest to my project manager: “Well, I’m not working on anything else just yet this week, why don’t I get a head start on the design and we can go from there?”

I did the whole article.

Designing for something you’re so invested in is difficult. Everything I read resonated with me. I’ve thought a lot over the past year about what it is that makes your career important, and like Marcia, I came to the conclusion that it isn’t glamour. I want to be a good person and help people be more tolerant and understanding. I think a lot about what I leave behind and what I use. I wish others did too. And here it was, an opportunity to help tell the story I wish more people understood.

It’s the first time in a while I’ve wondered if I would really be able to do one of my projects justice. There is no dancing around the fact that this is an article about death. It makes you ask some difficult questions about your own life. You wonder, why her?

How do you even design for that?

I knew a focus on photos, like we normally take with these articles in the header image, wouldn’t be appropriate. So many In Memoriam type pieces show a person, lively and pretty, in their prime. And it’s not to say Marcia didn’t have that, but the true impact she had on me was through her words and her beliefs. I had a few glimpses of her journals, and I knew if anything should be the visual focus of the article, it should be those.

The article, in some sense, feels like a conversation between Susan and those journals. I knew I wanted to animate Marcia’s writing in. I wanted it to feel like she was there with you, commenting, laughing along. I put in writing and scribbles and notes exactly where, if Susan was explaining my life and I was helping tell the story too, I’d interject a comment. That part was easy.

At one point, I toyed with the idea of a single, slow doodle, pacing along, abruptly veering off violently and fading away. I couldn’t put it in. Even in my head, it felt way too real. So in the design, she just stops writing. I thought about taking her writing back away once you hit the part where they talk about her funeral, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that either. She was important. Her ideas shouldn’t be lost.

Presenting this was brutal, because I really cared a lot about this one. I was confident this was the right direction, but afraid I wouldn’t be able to see it through. I’m lucky that I work somewhere that lets me run with my ideas.

Without the article, I had a couple of people note the animated writing was cute, neat, and the like. Once the article text came in, I suddenly got words like haunting and understated. Bingo.

I hope I did her story justice.


This article ran in the winter-spring 2016 issue of Bostonia. I was responsible for design and development of the web version of the article, which uses SASS, Javascript, and GSAP to animate in Marcia’s writing through SVG.

This article was recognized with a 2016 Bronze Hatch Award in Websites: Editorial.

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