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Fish Slaps A Baby, a Q&A with Jason Santa Maria

How would MFA Interaction Design students approach the design of a website for clients? How might they approach designing an optimal reading/writing environment for the intended audience? And what if those clients were only between five and twelve years old? That was the challenge for the final project in their “Craft and Communication” course. MFA Interaction Design students designed a custom website, “Fish Slaps a Baby“ and 15 unique blog templates inspired by the stories of 826NYC students. This week, we unveiled a new exhibition in the studio that highlights the project, and caught up with faculty member Jason Santa Maria to learn more about the design process:

MFA Interaction Design: Fish Slaps A Baby?

Jason Santa Maria: “Fish Slaps A Baby” is a blog for students of 826NYC (a nonprofit dedicated to supporting young students with their writing) to post whatever they like. Because it’s a blog, not only are they exercising skills to write, but it’s immediate and there’s feedback.

MFA IXD: You taught a class of graduate students to design a platform for 826NYC students. How did that work?

JSM: 826 students — who we treated as our “clients“— came up with 15 different category names and a story paired with each — for example, one category is called “Pancake TV.” With those stories, MFA Interaction Design students worked with them to discover how that story might be interpreted visually using mood boards and design comps.

MFA IXD: Can you describe the design process?

JSM: Our development partner, Paravel, came up with templates and deconstructed various parts of what the posts would be. Once there, we decided on parts that could change and set up constraints that students could play with.

Benjamin Gadbaw designed the “Fat Chicken” template as part of “Fish Slaps A Baby.”

MFA IXD: What made this different from one of your more typical client engagements?

JSM: Our clients were 5-12 years old, but surprisingly, it wasn’t that much different. They were really insightful, passionate, and invested in the final result. I knew they were very creative (of course!), but can’t account for the imagination that kids have — unbridled imagination. There is something just really inspirational to me about that. In the normal client world, it’s all about constraints, and it’s nice to have something different.

MFA IXD: Tell me about the typography.

JSM: My “Craft and Communication” course was at once basic and advanced, so this site allowed students to focus on legibility and what the reading experience would be about.

MFA IXD: What about the logo system?

JSM: The design system was created by Frank Chimero, who came up with a system for what the logo would look like. A simple circle with knocked-out type and a fish became the elements of the system, and each student could work with basic elements to develop their story. The logos all look different but use the same system.

A big thanks also go to our partners at Soundscreen Design for their ReFRAMEs. We use ReFRAMEs to swap out and feature student work in the studio. They are easy-to-use, and a great way to show case projects. Thanks Soundscreen Design!

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