Writing in Online Environments

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DP & Mood Board


Friday, January 31



50 points total: design plan 40 points & mood board 10 points (approximately 5% of final grade)



  • mood board with your list of adjectives attached (hard copy)
  • a 500-750 word (approximately 2-3 pages double-spaced) design plan submitted via the Writing Studio dropbox. We will do this together in class to make sure everyone knows how to use the dropbox, so please bring a Microsoft Word copy of your deign plan to class on the 31st.



As Karl Stolley tells us at the opening of his book How to Design and Write Web Pages Today,

Whether you are building a Web site for yourself, or for a business or organization, there is no more important reason to write for the Web than to build a stable, custom online identity that you control. It is no secret that schools and employers search the We for their applicants’ names as part of their admissions or hiring process. And yet for many people, the results that show up in Google and other Web search results are far from ideal in conveying an accurate, well-rounded identity. (p. 3)

One of the goals for this course is to teach you how to create a sustainable web presence, one in which your persona is carefully designed and executed. This takes planning, and this assignment is part of that planning. You will use the Design Plan Approach to production and analysis to write up a design plan for your web identity. The goal is to 1) decide what identity you want to create for yourself and 2) to figure out how you will create that ethos in the following three online formats:

  • a blog that is subject- or theme- driven; that is, your blog cannot be a personal diary. It must be either informative or provide critique. For example, a past informative blog kept by a CO302 student provided readers with digital photography lessons. Past critical blogs included film and movie review blogs.
  • a website requiring three predefined static pages—Welcome, About, and your Long-Form Webtext—and one page of your choosing for a total of four pages.
  • a long-form webtext that focuses on a topic related to your blog topic. The final product can take many forms including, but not limited to, an online magazine article, podcast, video, e-book, or website.

The blog and website are one graded project with many steps that are outlined in the series of pages listed below. The long-form webtext is a separate project in which you will extend your online identity in the creation of a stand-alone text. You will create your website and blog first and design your webtext in the second half of the semester. You don’t need to know every detail for these projects to develop your design plan, which is the first step in this process. In fact, focusing on the details will constrain your thinking too much. This is the big picture phase of creating your online identity.


design plan guidelines

In class we will complete Vishen Lakhiani’s “Three Most Important Questions” exercise. Use your answers to those questions to craft a manifesto paragraph to begin your design plan. What do you want to experience in life? How do you want to grow as a person? What do you want to contribute to the planet? And finally, how have your answers to these questions helped you define your blog/website/webtext topic for the semester and the online identity (ethos) you want to create for yourself?

After writing your manifesto paragraph,  explore examples of blogs already on the web that are related to your planned topic or subject area and take some time to develop a brief design plan for your blog. (Search Technorati or the list of blogs in Alex Reid‘s article to find blogs similar to the one you plan to keep.) You need not answer every question below, and you may address each aspect of the design plan in whatever order you wish. Also, remember that this is an exploratory document–you don’t need to have every aspect of your blog project worked out right now. Blogs often evolve based on the comments readers provide, so your ideas might change throughout the semester.

your design plan should begin with an analysis of purpose, audience, and context—your statement of purpose (20 points for each element):

  • Purpose: Why do you want to communicate to an audience about the issue, topic, or subject you have chosen? How does your issue, topic, or subject fit into your overall “online identity” as you defined it? Do you want to inform on an issue or provide factual information or instructions or advice? Do you want to offer informed opinions or persuade your audience to adopt your viewpoint or take action on an issue? Are you offering social criticism, for example critiquing American eating habits or television programing? Is your purpose to entertain and if so, why do you think this form of entertainment will be interesting to your audience?
  • Audience: Who is your ideal audience? What is the audience’s demographics (age, gender, race, etc.)? What are their interests, hobbies, political and/or social leanings? How might they answer Vishen Lakhiani’s three questions? How will reading/viewing/listening to your work help them get to know you?
  • Context: What background knowledge are you assuming your audience will bring to your work? What is the social or cultural context in which they will evaluate you, your topic, and the way you communicate on that topic? Will they find it through your Twitter or Facebook account, some other online space, and how will the point of access frame your work for that person? How do you imagine the situation in which s/he will experience your work: will they be drinking their morning coffee in a comfortable chair, sneaking a break at work, sharing your blog with friends or family?

now consider the following (5 points for each element):

  • Medium: Why will your topic work well in a blog space? For example, why do you want to communicate with your audience over an extended period of time through many short posts rather than through one single, unified piece of writing? How will your topic translate into a longer piece for the final project?
  • Arrangement: How will you visually organize your blog and website? What colors, graphics, and organization of information appealed to you when you were exploring the other blogs? How might you arrange your posts? For example, if you are writing about music, will you provide audio clips? If you are writing about events (politics or sporting events for example), what information do you want to provide on your welcome and about pages (you might establish the perspective from which you will be analyzing the events: isolationist foreign policy, Keynesian economics, a belief that the designated hitter is the ruination of baseball…)? What information might you save for your posts (an analysis of the Freakinomics phenomenon or of Moneyball?)? Also consider how you will use the category and tagging functions of your blog—these functions help readers search your blog to find the information that they are looking for. How will you carry your blog/website arrangements through to your long-form web composition?
  • Strategies: How will you establish your authority or believability as an author? Will you present your work in a formal, academic style or is it more appropriate to be conversational or funny? Will you provide evidence that you’ve been thinking about and/or researching your topic extensively such as quotes, links to other information on the web, embedded audio, video, or still images? Do you want your work to appeal to your readers’ sense of logic and objective reasoning or to emotion or to both?


mood board guidelines

Mood boards are used by graphic and industrial designers at the beginning stages of a project to focus on the emotions they want the product they are designing to evoke in users. Just think about how different the image of the Mac (sexy, hip) is from that of the standard issue PC (boring, nerdy), and you’ll understand why designers are concerned about at the beginning of the design process. Mood boards also allow designers to concentrate on the image of the product (in this case, the product is you) before focusing on technological constraints such as the cost of materials or the laws of physics (for example, you can’t put a spinning hard drive and all the other components of a computer in too small of a case or it will overheat). For this project your main constraints will be time and technological ability.

Your mood board should answer this question: what personal image do I want my projects to evoke and what colors, textures, and shapes might I use in my design to create that image. Start by brainstorming a list of adjectives that you would like people to use to describe you. (make sure to turn in your list with your mood board!) Next create a collage using cutouts from magazines, scraps of paper or cloth, and other small objects that you think would evoke those adjectives. Your mood board need not be more complicated than a cut and paste collage done on a plain piece of 8.5 x 11 inch paper. However, if you use cloth or other weighty objects, you might want a piece of cardboard or foam board. For examples of mood boards, visit this page of the Design Skills website.