Visual + Interaction Designer

Still There

Visual Design & Storytelling

Still There


Our project was to craft an engaging (and possibly fictional) visual story that connects all of the provided text from the NPR podcast episode: "The Lower 9 + 10". Our professor supplied us with a table full of random objects that we had to use to tell the story.

This was a half-semester long project for my Communication Design Studio with Kristin Hughes that was focused on designing for complex communication systems. 

My final deliverable was a handmade book. This project received a Judges Choice Award from the AIGA PGH365 2017 Design Competition.

Please click here to see the full process documentation.




It's still there.

Still There is a handmade book that I designed about the loss experienced following Hurricane Katrina. The story focused on victims of the Lower 9th Ward, the area that was hit the hardest during the storm.

It was so destroyed that city official said to "forget it" and turn it into a greenspace.

It's now been 10 years, but the memories are still there, unforgotten, reminding many of the victims everyday of the trauma that they experienced. It warps their perceptions of daily life.

But at the same time, the residents have been resilient against the hardships and trauma that they still live with.

They are still here.

This book is composed primarily of content from the NPR episode: "The Lower 9 + 10" and fictional content of my own.  I also used excerpts from "Weathering the Storm: The Impact of Hurricanes on Physical and Mental Health," which are printed on the yellow legal pad paper pasted throughout.



Concept Development

I was particularly struck by an excerpt from the podcast:

Kirk Washington
Do you daydream?
Robyn Semien
Kirk Washington
OK. I hate daydreaming. Do you have nightmares?
Robyn Semien
Kirk Washington
You see that? “Sometimes.” It’s constant. Do you have illusions of things while you’re driving? Like you’re driving your car, and you think that you driving this Mercedes Benz or this Jaguar? You see what I’m saying? I mean, I can’t hide from it. It’s real.
I know it’s there. I know what the symptoms are. I know it’s impossible for me to treat it. It’s impossible, because daily things are going to bring me to it. Talking to you right now is bringing me to it.
I walk out the front of my house, and I look over at that door, I see my friend. I see Isaac. Then I have to let it go. Let it go. I come down this street. When I’m looking down from the bridge up there, I’m seeing nothing but the top of houses all water. And I’m riding down the same street.
I mean, what? It’s constant. It’s something that — the hurricane was just five years ago.
Robyn Semien
10 years.
Kirk Washington
10 years ago. Look at that. It’s there. It’s still there. It’s just there.

I created a map of ideas I had based off of this scene. I landed on the concept of persistence from the phrase "Still There." I thought about how this relates to their memories of the Hurricane, but also how the people and Lower Ninth Ward have been resistant and fought for their lives and homes. These two pieces of the story became my "yin and yang." 


Warped Perceptions

Through visual iterations, I discovered that the way the victims' perceptions are warped relates to the way that flood water can distort what is underneath. I thought that this tied well into my concept since I wanted to show how the objects are what are causing memories from the storm to resurface. Thus, their perceptions of the objects are forever warped as, well.

This discovery lead to me incorporating warped and water imagery into the book.


Typographic Voices

There are several different levels of hierarchy that I created throughout the piece to tell my story.

  1. Podcast as it was spoken.
  2. Words of the victims. These I made larger so that they resonate.
  3. I used excerpts from "Weathering the Storm: The Impact of Hurricanes on Physical and Mental Health," which are printed on the yellow legal pad paper pasted throughout that I had first let smear underwater.
  4. Categorizations of the objects to show which victims they belonged to and what their significance was. I also tell what memory they trigger from the storm.

Visual Style Iterations

Here are a few iterations that I logged throughout my process of making the book.