Graphic Design Seniors

Spence Nelson, class of 2017

August 16, 2017


the project

Arbor was an educational app that is meant to give people insight on the many species of native trees living in our region, as well as provide a framework for beginning to understand deeper spans of time. More broadly, the project explores the relationship between play and learning, and asks the question whether a game can provide a catalyst for the development of a more complex understanding of the world around us.

The idea for this project came out of an interest in the species of trees encountered in urban environments, originating from all over the world. Native species like the oaks and maples, sycamore, and introduced species like goldenrain, crepe myrtle, and tree of heaven mark our cities. Additionally, it seems that—as many of the ways humans impact the planet can’t be felt from one year to the next—in order for people to feel compelled to think about themselves as part of a greater ecosystem, they first need to perceive longer spans of time. By viewing the growth of trees highly accelerated in a playful environment, maybe a user could start to imagine trees in the real world as following the same motions.

The app itself consists of three sections. The first is a musical toy that allows the viewer to compose a melody through placing stylized trees on a blank field. The second is a visual encyclopedia using leaf images created by Finding Species, an organization dedicated to documenting animal and plant life. The third is an interactive map that pulls data from the DC department of urban forestry, showing the locations of the highest quality and healthiest examples of street trees planted in the district.


spence's advice

Treat yourself gently. There’s probably always going to be people who are doing the work you wish you were doing, and there’s probably always going to be people who you feel are doing better stuff than you are. try to just honestly try, push yourself in different directions, and mine your personal experiences, talents and interests for your work.

treat others gently. critiques are an opportunity to make someone else’s project better, not an opportunity to demonstrate your own taste or knowledge. Think of how you can get someone who might be stuck or frustrated or lost to get excited about a new direction they can take their project. Don’t be a jerk, and don’t belittle other people’s work even among friends. Theres something worthy in absolutely any project, and it can be fun to try and find it, rather than putting it down.

Show up and keep plugging away at your project. Don’t skip out on class sessions no matter how bummed out you might be feeling about where your project is. Try and make a little progress every week. Even if it feels like you aren’t getting anywhere on a project, just the act of working and thinking is worthwhile.