Reading response B
Identity of an Institution
Laurel: What was the initial reception of the site? Both within the School of Art and then elsewhere?
Dan: In the very beginning, it won a design award from the AIGA (a graphic design trade group) not long after it launched. Many designers were inspired by it. Probably around a year after it launched, students began, among other things, using the site to create a fake school within a school. Students started something called the “Department of Anthology,” which was a bootleg film series, and a number of “office hours” sprang up. That is, appropriated official, or quasi-official, language took over in some unexpected parts of the site. That was interesting, in an ironic way, that it bestowed power or language of power on the students.
Ayham: You mentioned in a previous interview that art.yale.edu’s audience is both current students and prospective students. And the site is a channel connecting the two. The interesting ways students use the site tell the public about the culture at Yale's School of Art. I’d also like to hear from everyone else: How has the site provided an image of the culture of the school? What kind of expectations did it set? And did the school meet them?
Personally, for me, the site did a lot in communicating the spirit of the school. It may not have been completely accurate, but it did communicate something "more” than other institutions of its type did.
Also, please feel free to be negative.
Dan: Yes, I also don’t want to make it sound like I have only positive things to say about the site.
Bryce Wilner: My experience before coming here was that I really enjoyed the site’s energy. I did notice that it gives a good overview of what graphic design at Yale is like, but that’s only one of the four graduate majors. I often wonder what other departments’ experience of the site is because I don’t see as many sculptors, photographers, and painters.
Lucy Lindsey: I would say the site does not really provide an accurate idea of the work being produced by students in the entire school.
The main impression from the site is how incredibly different it is from any other school site. I've heard people say the site is particularly potent given Yale’s status as a school, that is, in juxtaposition to the prestige, the history, and the Ivy League status.
Ayham: How much do you think that’s because of the type of imagery used on the site versus its structure as a wiki—students can change and contribute? How much is it one or the other, or is it both?
Lucy: The thing that’s most immediately apparent is how it looks and that it moves. It seems like it’s sort of pasted together. I think this primarily comes from it being a wiki, but exactly how to use it isn’t immediately apparent.
I think if someone were to say, “We’re redesigning the site,” I would be aghast—not because I would be losing functionality but because what the site represents and says about the school. While the site doesn’t always live up to what the school actually is, I would be sad to lose it, regardless.
Wenwen:To me the first thing impressed me was how unique the Yale website looked like, and the apperance or the decorative feature nudged me to figure out why it looked such different and how it worked. It's kind of like a synesthesia contributed by both images and its structure. What is more signficant is what I feel about the website is quite similar to what I feel about the community of art school.
Nilas Andersen: To me it fits within the category of schools that have a little bit of anti-establishment aesthetic. Coming from Europe and looking at the Yale website, it looks very different, but also it looks European. It’s completely different from any other American school. I think you see more of things like this in Europe, but not necessarily because they came before. They may have come after this.
Ayham: I wonder if you could talk about the anti-establishment aesthetic. What are all the identities rolled into that? It’s something very unique to making work on the web—that the identity isn’t necessarily just a logo but there’s specific ways of working that can communicate these ideas.
Dan: This site is a good example for how, just like you guys have been expressing, an identity of an institution can emerge not just through logo or visual form, but through user experience and the way in which the site evolves over time. It can have a relationship with other schools or maybe influence other schools or be influenced by them as a system.
This is a project that generates its own history. There are anecdotes that you can tell about this project because it’s been around a while. Also a symbol, I think Lucy expressed it really well. It’s both how people actually use it but also what it stands for—that this school is willing to do this in the first place. It shows the school’s values.