Meetings and Tour
My primary contact for this project is Walt, a brilliant engineer and long-time veteran of co-op living. His main goal is to secure "drip-irrigation funding" - small, recurring donations - for his Biomass to Methanol project.
We talked about institutions that receive such funding - museums, private schools, public radio - and what motivates their donors to give frequently. Upon further research, I found that museums and private schools often assign titles to donors within certain dollar amounts and that the appeals and perks offered all center around the theme of "be part of this thing you believe in, be part of a community". An additional challenge is that the existing donors are mainly engineers themselves and are interested in schematics and blueprints that would go far, far over the average person's head, so the finished product needs to accommodate both groups.
My visit to the research center helped solidify my grasp of the design challenge. There are many inter-weaving ideas, philosophies and clever synergies that make up their village system and to be invested enough, a donor will need to understand the cohesive whole and the B2M's role therein.
After a few sets of ideas, I decided the best approach would be a pictorial, interactive diagram of a B2M village. A user will be able to click through at their own pace and read brief descriptions, with links available to dive deeper into the concepts. In addition to organizing the concepts, the image will act as a "hook" and provide a framework for the information.
Walt emphasized that it's important not to over-promise. Many past green tech projects blow up quickly, and then envelope their creators in other obligations and distract or derail the project completely. Thus, it's important for the feel of the site not to be too cute and/or romanticized while still remaining inviting and humanistic. There should be an element of handmade-ness to support the philosophy that villagers will be very in touch with the land and technology will not replace hard work.
I chose to avoid cottage-looking buildings and elected instead for metal-roofed, utilitarian buildings. To support the hand-made idea, and to communicate the village is purely conceptual at this point (Windward is a research center, though it operates like a B2M village will), I colored the background in a watercolor-esque style with fuzzy edges. The gasifier and other B2M equipment are in the center and rendered red to draw extra attention to them and empathize their central role in the B2M village. Clickable objects react to hover-overs and are colored and outlined more clearly than the non-clickable background.
Website Design and implementation
The graphics of the site needed to walk the line between credible and hand-made while strongly veering away from sleek. Walt was initially very drawn to the header font, so I made an effort to design around it. Walt wrote the copy for the larger paragraphs below, and I advised and guided him on his voice and media strategy.