Yale AIDS Memorial Project


Electric Memorial

The YAMP website officially launches today. If you go to yamp.org, you’ll see that it starts as a long paragraph filled with various colored and underlined words. The paragraph is made up of sentences: each sentence is a mini biography of a member of the Yale community who died of AIDS. You don’t have to click anything here, but there are many things to click: the site is a memorial built from a hypertext weave. Clicking links that correspond to Yale colleges, majors, activities, images, locations, dates, and places, you can begin to see AIDS at Yale as an epidemic that impacted a diverse, interconnected, and specific community; as well as a series of individual losses. As more profiles are added to the website over time, this network becomes both denser and broader.

The oxygen of YAMP is this hypertext. Memorials are often static. They may be fixed places of grieving or contemplation; a wall, a fountain, a statue. Instead, a social network for the dead: a bit morbid; but at the same time, what’s more alive than a regularly updated Facebook profile? Mourning is already done online; entering a lost friend or family member into Google’s search bar is a plea to be reconnected. Browsing online creates a momentum of discovery: grief is research. Here grief can be experienced as a shared thing, part of a transcendent, even celebratory movement.

Each profile page triumphs the life of an individual. These pages are simple to navigate as one long scroll. As designers, we encouraged that length through the invention of table of contents tabs on the right hand side. Using these tabs, you’ll see that the bulk of these profile pages are primary source reminiscences — memory fragments written by friends and family. They are very alive and raw, and help a reader piece together a narrative that will continue to grow over time.

The homepage asks a similar question, but about a community. In what ways are people’s lives distinct, and in what ways are they connected through their school, their city, their causes, their hobbies? We prompted YAMP to write one-sentence-long biographies for each person to appear on the homepage. While these sentences are trivial alone, they create their own monumental paragraph block. This paragraph reorders itself each time it’s viewed.

While the site is made to connect members of the Yale community who died of AIDS, it is also a network in which content consumers are encouraged to contribute content. The site presents simple pink forms to enable this. The site is also easily updatable by YAMP’s staff. This is made possible through our modular content management system, Economy, that is also at work on whitney.org, art.yale.edu, and other websites that like Yale’s community and like YAMP, are meant to grow and evolve organically over time.

The site is set in Univers. The color palette references AIDS’ visual history. Early users have said the site is both happy and sad at once. Its conflicting messages, like all dynamic systems, might remind us of our own mortality as inspiration.

Originally posted November 20, 2013 on yaleaidsmemorialproject.tumblr.com

Special thanks to Richard, Serena, Charles, Michael, and Nick – your vision, ambition, and creative attitude were amazing.

Year: 2013  Client: YAMP
All work