We are initiating a new category in our blog that will feature Web projects we have done, detailing the focus of each, how we approached design and development, etc.
We are kicking off this series with the Autobiography of Mark Twain website. Enjoy!
This Is Mark Twain Project Overview
Mark Twain stipulated that much of his autobiography not be published for 100 years so that he would be “dead, and unaware, and indifferent,” and thus free to speak his “whole frank mind.” In 2010, the 100th anniversary of Twain’s death, UC Press published volume one of the Autobiography of Mark Twain, in its entirety and exactly as he left it. As it turned out, the book was the runaway surprise hit of the season, sitting for weeks at the top of the New York Times bestsellers list and becoming the #1 bestseller at Amazon.
- CLIENT: University of California Press, one of the most distinguished university presses in the United States, advancing scholarship in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.
- PROJECT: A dynamic website to promote and extend the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol 1 with interactive biographical tour, video and audio.
- URL: ThisIsMarkTwain.com
- TECHNOLOGY: Flash, HTML5, ActionScript 3
Our Approach to the Design of the Mark Twain Website
Our designer, developer, and Project Manager met with the entire UC Press Mark Twain staff for a brainstorming session to begin the project, looking together at all the current expressions of Mark Twain on the Web, along with other sites that had fresh or innovative elements they liked (both graphic and interactive) in opposition to the typical “Mark Twain” look.
Using Mark Twain’s own manuscript handwriting for a constructed headline, rather than choosing an “old-timey” typeface, for the site was one of the successful responses to this research. We created a design that allowed the compelling Bancroft Library’s photos and archival materials making up the content of the site to both entertain with expressing the two “paths” that the Autobiography of Mark Twain naturally provokes by its non-linear ordering of events, as well as educate by featuring the fascinating content.
The “right path” was Mark Twain’s preference and autobiography order, expressed by the fun, falling, wiggling circular snippets of the photos, and is in opposition to the “wrong path” of a typical straight and rectangular timeline that most biographies follow.
- Photos from the archive, captioned with interesting historical details;
- Audio of actors reading from the autobiography;
- Video of archivists and scholars talking about the project and the books;
- Interactive timeline and interactive non-linear animated selection;
- Detail pages with enlargements, captions, audio, video;
- Fun, engaging, interface encouraging exploration and discovery;
- Information about UC Press, other Twain books, links to purchase;
- Destination for social media and media exposure links (radio coverage, newspaper articles, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
A Word About Using Flash
UC Press wanted to incorporate Flash to accomplish some of the more sophisticated animation effects in the non-linear timeline. We looked into achieving the same effects with HTML5, but this was not doable. Understanding that Flash doesn’t work on Apple devices, and advising the client of this, we used Flash and ActionScript and, utilizing the power of HTML5, we provided alternate content for users accessing the website on their iPhone, iPads and iTouches, or who otherwise couldn’t view Flash.