📝 Penn Week 2b Notes – Topic Vs. Story, Narrative Arc, Net Artists


The idea of storytelling comes up frequently in design and in writing, but what does it actually mean? The most explanation for a story would be a traditional narrative arc like you see in movies and literature, but there are additional ways of communicate something in a less direct way. As we begin this semester, let’s consider what kinds of strategies we have for adding interest to our work and explaining what our projects are about.

Topic VS. Story

Sometimes when you begin an open ended project, you might start with a topic rather than a story. Topics are big picture concepts about an idea, while a story is a more specific iteration of that topic. Positioning your work as a story rather than a topic is an easy way to add interest to your pieces and push yourself to explain what you’re actually talking about and why anyone should care.

For example:
Contemporary ikebana artists using non-traditional materials in their work during the pandemic

Traditional Narrative Arc

A traditional narrative arc is as follows:
In other words: we’re introduced to an event, the event progresses and reaches a boiling point, the event gets resolved, the main character learns something.


  • Eva Stories on Instagram (2019) (Sensitive content)

Non-Linear Storytelling

Non linear storytelling is where there isn’t a clear start and end. Literally, this could take the form of a “choose your own adventure” book, and in a more abstract way, it could be a story through suggestion. There’s not necessarily a narrative arc, but the story is about something that you realize through the design and content.

Craigslist Mirrors – Eric Oglander
Pics or it didn't happen: images banned from Instagram – Arvida Byström; Molly Soda; Chris Kraus (2017)
My Boyfriend Came Back from the War – Olia Lialina (1996)
Keeping Up Appearances – Mendi Lewis Obadike (2001)
LOVE – Group Z (1995)
Desktop Is – Alexei Shulgin (1998)
It’s a Beautiful Autumn Day to Run For Your Life – YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES
Carly Ayres Website (~2017)


👩‍💻 Introducing Figma

Everyone should be designing in Figma in the Art of the Web S21 Workspace. Please use the folder with your name on it for all design projects in this class – you’ll create a new document for each project.


📌Tips for Designing Websites (Figma and otherwise)

  1. Make sure you have an art board on your page
  1. To do so, press the keyboard letter “a” and select one of the presets on the right.