Class 4. Conversation 1.
Conversation 1 of 3
From “Vacuuming and Digesting,” a fall conversation series at Yale about interactive design
November 14, 2017, 1:30pm
Yale School of Art, EIK (32 Edgewood Ave)

Suggested reading: Dan and Jack Balkin interview

Speakers (in order of appearance):

Dan Michaelson (Critic), Laurel Schwulst (Critic), Ayham Ghraowi (Fellow), Sheila Levrant de Bretteville (Director of Graphic Design), Bryce Wilner (Graphic Design ’18), Lucy Lindsey (Sculpture, ’17), Nilas Andersen (Graphic Design ’18), Micah Barrett (Graphic Design ’19), Nate Pyper (Graphic Design ’18), Simone Cutri (Graphic Design ’19)



  • Introduction
  • Launch Date
  • An Interface Linking Designer and User
  • Identity of an Institution
  • Relevancy
  • Formal Lineage
  • A History of Itself
  • Community
  • Governance
  • A Continuing Project
  • The Messy and The Democracy


Dan Michaelson: Should we start?

Laurel Schwulst: Yeah. Thanks everyone for coming. This is the first conversation of three in the Interactive Fall Series. Today we’re talking about

But before we do that, we’ll introduce ourselves. I’m Laurel. I teach interactive design to preliminary graduate students and undergrads in the spring. I have my own design practice now, but before that I worked with Dan’s studio he co-founded, Linked by Air, for a long time.

Ayham Ghraowi: I think everyone knows me. I graduated last year from Graphic Design. I’ve been doing a fellowship at Yale this year. Responsibilities include hovering around this space and having countless projects that include this one.

Dan: I’m Dan. I’ve been teaching the interactive classes in the graduate program since 2005. I teach one class for first year grad students in the spring, Networks and Transactions, and then a follow-up class for second year grad students in the fall, Mobile Computing.

Laurel: So, all of you might be wondering, “Why are we doing this?” We’ve been noticing a need for more interactive focus as the years go by. I’ve been teaching since 2013, and every year Dan and I say to each other, “We should link our classes more.” But it always evades us. This year, with Ayham’s help, we thought, “What if we have conversations in the Fall, record and then transcribe those conversations, and then that material becomes the ‘food’ for both of our class readers?” That way, everyone is on the same page with the foundational ideas we're talking about.

Dan: Like Laurel said, the conversations that come out of this series could be re-purposed into a kind of reader that all three of us use in our classes in the coming year. It’s a generative project as well. Also, we definitely see this as a participatory project. Everyone feel free to chime in at any time.

Launch Date

Laurel: Okay, great. I want to begin with the history of, because we have Dan here who designed it with Tamara Maletic. When did the site launch?

Dan: launched in 2006. I was a student here until 2002. Then I started teaching here in 2005. Around that time, the art school site was a kind of “brochure-ware” static site that acted as a view book. A committee at the school asked us if we wanted to redesign the site. So we made a proposal. Because we had such an intimate connection with the school already—I was teaching here, and Tamara, my partner, was also a graduate of this program, that’s where we met—we knew what a vibrant place it is and how students’ workspaces are always changing. So we had a few goals from the beginning: one was that the site would change all the time. Students are always making new work. We had this obvious thing in front us: this existing website for the school that was static and never changed at all. It didn’t reflect at all what was actually happening within the school.

If the site was going to be dynamic, we needed to be strategic. This is a small school within a much bigger university, so there is no real communications staff here. We figured out that the only way the site was going to have new content every day was if students made it. That’s where this radical idea emerged from. (Although now it feels like we’re exploiting the students and their creativity and skill in a desire to project a good image for the school.)