Progress on my story application

At the confirmation post-mortem, Andi and I’ve decided to re-focus on the visuals and let the creative writing take care of itself for awhile. Pre-confirmation I was struggling to balance the creative writing, the academic writing and the visuals (not to mention teaching two days a week) and I think the visual elements definitely suffered as a result.

I’m going back to the drawing board – this is my favourite part of the creative process. It means, there are no limits and no commitments and ‘research’ means anything from a trip to GOMA to sitting around a café drinking coffee and people watching. It also includes checking out the library archives for magazines – actual non-digital magazines stretching back thirty or forty years. Here is a collection I pasted up for inspiration on my i-scheme and i-plot board



I’m going to cut back on the academic research until June in order to work on a design prototype for this story app. The first thing we decided post confirmation was that Love in the Age of Time Travel is just too big a story to be completed within a doctorate. The two options were to deliver it as an advanced prototype or else to scale back the project to something manageable.

I decided to scale it back which means I’ve changed the story but retained the core themes of movement through time and the relationship between the written/ visual text and user interface.

The story will now be set in an apartment block. It’s about the residents in this apartment block on Valentine’s Day every year between 1981 and 1991. Each story is a vignette, a snapshot of these people’s lives on Valentine’s Day, loosely connected by the building. The visual interface will be the interior design of the apartment block with the literary text narrated by the occupant of the apartment. The relationship between the interior design and the character is key to this story. As time progresses, the visual style will change to reflect the age. More importantly, the objects within the apartment speak about the character living in that apartment. The character may say something that is a contradiction to what is in his/her house revealing them to be an unreliable narrator. Alternatively, the visual objects may add a second layer of meaning to what the narrator is saying. Sometimes the objects in the house may have an interconnected story with objects in another apartment.

This was always going to be one of the side stories that appeared in Love in the Age of Time Travel. Everlasting time travellers always had the option of going back to this old man’s apartment and watching him and his room age over 70 years. He existed because I liked the idea of everybody’s lives being connected through space and time. So I’ve held on to this core idea that visuals can show aging better than words hence having more impact in a time travelling story.

Here is the first play design for the apartment block. I liked the idea that the apartment is unwrapped like a map and with a spinning camera in the centre of the model. As the camera spins around 360 degrees, the contents within the apartment ages one year.

paper prototype paper prototype 2


While researching design interfaces for story apps, Gordon put me on to a digital publishing company called Magplus. It is a plugin for Indesign that allowed for greater customisation and creative design for content, interactivity, visuals and audio. The I am Zlatan digital magazine provided the first breakthrough into how the design interface utilised movement through layers and the Z plane.

I came across a contemporary fashion, music and lifestyle magazine called SHK ( that inspired me in terms of user interface design, specifically the movement and juxtaposition of layers. Below are a couple of examples from the magazine:



I broke down the user interface of SHK focusing on how the layers interacted with each other and how the user navigated the magazine. The navigational system was simple to understand being based on skeumorphic design eg the play button for videos, a schematic drawing of a finger tip to show how to swipe left or right. On top of the screen was a map of all the pages laid out like sheets so you could always see what ‘page’ you were on within the overall magazine.

rough diagram


Based on the Magplus examples, I came up with some alternative user interface design.

rough diagram2


In this scenario there are four apartment blocks separated by a stairwell. The occupants within each apartment block change over a ten-year period. Each apartment has a window through which the city skyline can be seen to be slowly morphing. To switch apartments, you scrawl across the screen. To see further into the apartment you scroll down the screen. The story behind the apartment is revealed in layers of text as you scroll down the page along. There are also illustrations or significant objects on separate layers that you can click onto to reveal parts of the story. Within the stairwell, there is no text, only sound of what is happening inside the apartment. The story is mostly non-linear so the order in which you reveal layers doesn’t matter.



Here is the mock up of what I think the set design will look like….



And an alternative design where the apartment blocks are in a vertical stack. Each level indicates a separate year. You get into the apartment through a door at the end of the corridor.


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