Stanford Humanities Laboratory
Of the many Stanford University projects we have undertaken over the years, the interconnecting sites for Stanford’s Humanities Lab are among our favorites. One of them, titled “Crowds” has been described as “a virtual laboratory for exploring multiple perspectives on the cultural impact of human collectivities (aka “crowds”) on civilization.” It contains “virtual galleries,” curated by artists, scholars and students from all over the world, as well as virtual artworks and installation pieces.
Our “Revolutionary Tides” website provided a virtual counterpart to a Cantor Center exhibit of the same name. Both site and exhibit featured more than 120 objects, mostly posters from the Hoover’s Institution’s vast collection, concerning “the emergence of a common graphic vernacular for depicting multitudes as political actors.” Despite phrases like that last one, both exhibit and website were designed to have wide appeal. And evidently they succeeded. The site garnered the coveted Communication Arts Site of the Week award, an SF Bay Area Addy, and a New Horizons Interactive Media Silver metal.
Though “Crowds” and “Revolutionary Tides,” are, as mentioned, interrelated, we approached their design very differently. Our objective with “Crowds” was first to reference the phenomenon of the crowd. We accomplished this with our opening Flash animation, which depicts, abstractly, a large public gathering and creates from that gathering the logo that brands the site. Since the purpose of the site, however, was to corral and disseminate information about “crowds,” we also had to “manage” the crowd once we established it—that is, we had to structure it and render it navigable. To do this, we relied on visible grid lines, a reference to official crowd assessment and control.
The grid-made-visible also plays a central role in the “Revolutionary Tides” site, though there its purpose is to create a virtual analog to a traveling exhibit. Through the use of gridlines and thumbnails to scale, the Posters page gives visitors to the site an overall sense of the exhibit’s organization, scope, and scale. It also facilitates inspection and study of each of the exhibit’s 119 posters.
Working with Tenfold on the Stanford Humanities Lab Crowds project and Revolutionary Tides exhibition websites was a genuine delight. Tenfold brought to both of these tasks not only high-level design skills and considerable experience in the design of websites for non-profit institutions, but also a critical intelligence and understanding of the scholarly nature and ambitions of the Humanities Lab's projects that made our work together at once gratifying and productive.Jeffrey SchnappFounder, Stanford Humanities Lab and faculty co-director at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society