During, Spring 2017 The APEX (African-American Panoramic Experience) Museum in Atlanta, Georgia founded by Mr. Dan Moore, had an exhibit on the Atlanta BellSouth Black History Calendars, produced from 1984 until 1996. Each year the calendars focused on African Americans and Black-owned institutions in Georgia. The curators of the project were Pamela Pryor and Jo Edwards.
The Atlanta BellSouth Black Calendar exhibit layout at the APEX had the content organized by years. The exhibit design was missing detailed information on the history of the calendar and providing visitors with more contextual information on the individuals mentioned. The solution was to develop a project that would have a digital and physical artifact that would give information on the calendar in a way that would be interactive, engaging, and leave the user with a rewarding experience.
Master's Project - 1 year, completed April 2018
Key Contributions: User Research and UX design
Protoype: Axure Prototype
Tools: field research, sketching, wireframing, mock-up, prototyping (Axure, Adobe XD), Photoshop, Illustrator
The difficult aspect of developing the project was framing all of the content. The calendars included a wealth of information on the individuals in the community. The project started with redesigning the layout of the exhibit but due to time limits, it narrowed to only using three calendars as the main source of information.
Drawing from John Dewey's book Art As An Experience, the goal was to use the calendars to create an experience that would engage individuals at various educational levels. The main goal was to apply Dewey's belief that, "Experiences like breathing it's a rhythm of intaking and outgivings."
Readings and Research
Another project goal was to make the artifacts create an experience that leaves the interactor with wanting to explore more. However, I had to conduct a series of research and readings anchored in storytelling, design, history of blacks in Atlanta, and Afrofuturism.
The main texts that were used in the process were:
1. John Dewey's Art As Experience which focuses on how interaction, design, and art are various forms of experiences that can engage the user.
2. Adriana Cavarero book Relating Narratives, using literary and philosophical thinking to consider how these forms of storytelling offer a new perspective on human identities.
3. Arthur Frank develops a theory in the book on how stories shape our lives.
4. Kodwo Eshun's paper that provided an in-depth look into how Afrofuturism relates to the past, present, and future.
Afrofuturism applying to Black History
After, completing the initial research, I began the process of framing and determining ways the artifact could be developed to tell the stories of the African Americans and black-owned businesses. One way was Afrofuturism. Defined by Ytasha Womack as the “intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation.”
I chose to anchor the project in Afrofuturism for two main reasons:
1. Allows Black voices at the center from design language to the content and form.
2. Future Blacks are free and liberated and not oppressed.
There are several projects that combine Black history with Afrofuturism.
David Crownson’s graphic novel Harriet Tubman Demon Slayer. Abolitionist Harriet Tubman as a slayer of demons in the 1800’s. Both projects play with this element of past, present, and future as a way to explore and better understand history.
Kindred by Octavia Butler, where the main character Dana has to go to the past to save her slave-owner descendent so she can exist.
Focused on several museum exhibits that combined digital and physical elements to preserve historical information creatively. I started looking at museum installations because I initially was hoping to create an interactive display or tabletop feature that shared knowledge. The goal was that the digital and physical artifacts would be in a conversation with another thinking about the present and future.
Physical: Black Women in Atlanta Poster Series
Audience: families, visitors at APEX Museum, Teachers, students, academia
Situation: Provide another level of access for people who may not have the materials to access the digital form.
Purpose: Develop a series of posters on the black women featured in the calendar to pay homage to the original curators Pamela Pryor and Jo Ann Edwards.
Digital: Interactive Afrofuturistic Map
Audience: families, visitors at APEX Museum, Teachers, students, academia, speculative designers
Situation: Using Afrofuturism as a method to retell history from a futuristic perspective. Providing a platform that will allow individuals to consider how will remember and preserve these stories in the future.
Purpose: The goal is to preserve, celebrate, and remember the BellSouth Black Calendar using audio and images to share information on figures included in the calendar.
The physical artifact was a poster design series of black women featured in the Atlanta BellSouth Black History calendar. The women were chosen based on their commitment to serving and helping citizens in Georgia and nationwide reach for their full potential.
The final designs use the women’s quote about what it means to them to be women in society and projects that quote in a unique font. The women are then rearranged in various positions on the page with text juxtaposed next to them. In future iterations, the pictures of the women would change I would play with opacity and lines and color to abstract the women in the design as well.
The goal of the digital artifact was to expand on the posters designs and provide the users with more history and contextual information. As mentioned in the framing section the goal of the digital artifact was to engage the user through a story that retells the stories from the BellSouth Calendar from an afrofuturistic perspective.
1. The story based on the year 2164, which represents 200 years after segregation. Chose the year to
consider how issues of oppression and inequality would be reflected
2. The map is designed by the character Remembrance “REM” Pryor
3. REM's ancestor is Pamela Pryor (curator of Calendar); her family has passed down a copy of the Atlanta BellSouth Black History calendars
4. REM designs the map of Atlanta to preserve black history in the City of Atlanta
The final map inspiration was African and African American artist, such as bold colors, bright patterns, and lines. The buildings on the map use similar concepts of remixing and drawing inspiration from the Ndebele Tribe in South Africa to inspire and create bold and unique designs.
Once the user clicks on a building on the map, it opens a window that describes what the place is on the left side. On the right is historical information from the calendars that include, text, audio, images of people or person connected with the building, as well as their contribution to the city.
As an example, when the peacock club is selected. Description of what the importance of the club and its history appear. On the left is a playlist of musicians from Georgia who have performed at the club.
In completing the project I learned more about ways that interface design and user research are important in developing a site that is effective and able to easily draw users. Through this process, I implemented ways that I could cause people to want to learn more about the BellSouth Black History Calendars. In designing these tools I wanted a system that would combine future and present to challenge people on characters and stories told.
In future iterations the following matters would be conducted:
Install the digital artifact in local museum around the Atlanta area to increase awareness on Atlanta Black history
Develop more features like personal interviews or noises from places
Test if people learned more about the calendars from this experience