When Adobe commissioned Jessica Walsh and her creative partner, Stefan Sagmeister of Sagmeister & Walsh to reinterpret our Adobe MAX logo back in March, little did we know that Jessica was in the middle of a courageous, curious, and very INTENSE dating experiment: 40 Days of Dating. Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman, friends for years, each with different relationship histories (she: dive in; he: avoid), had decided to date each other for 40 days, documenting each step of the way, asking their friends to contribute creatively to the online project. Now, Jessica and Tim are sharing their experience with the world.
We’re hooked and wanted to know more. So we interviewed Jessica and Tim, along with their friend, Eric Jacobson, who designed and developed their site. Make sure to explore the site from the beginning. NO CHEATING!
So in reading about your 40 Days of Dating, it seems clear that the concept was batted around for months before formalizing it. Still, inquiring minds want to know: who initiated the project?
Tim Goodman: It was an idea I had about a year ago, but I didn’t really know the ‘what’ or the ‘how.’ Then one day on our way to Miami for Art Basel—when Jessie was heart broken about a guy, and I was dating too many girls at once—it became crystal clear. We ran with the idea, and it really became something entirely different after that.
Jessica Walsh: We were waiting in line for egg sandwiches at a deli in JFK en route to Art Basel when Tim mentioned an idea he had for a dating project. I instantly felt that doing a personal project around relationships was a great idea. We started throwing crazy, nutty ideas back and forth during the plane ride, and by the time we landed in Miami we had a pretty elaborate and crazy plan for “40 Days of Dating.”
There’s such an interesting design tension to this project: you both are putting yourselves out there in such an intimate, public way, sharing very personal, often spontaneous experiences. Yet at the same time, you’re both talented designers, highly aware of presentation, form and of course, design. So can you elaborate on this tension?
TG & JS: It was important to us that 40DD have an identity, but it wasn’t until the project was over that we designed the site, shot the videos, photographed our items, asked for lettering contributions, etc. We wanted to approach the project with as much honesty as possible, first.
We worked in tandem to finish everything. None of it was possible without the amazing help from our website developer, Eric Jacobsen (whiskyvangoghgo.com), as well as Santiago Carrasquilla (santiagocarrasquilla.com) and Joe Hollier (joehollier.com) who shot and edited all the videos. Furthermore, we are extremely honored to have so many talented friends and colleagues contribute to a typographic piece everyday.
For example, what design elements did you know you always wanted to include? What was discarded? Were there disagreements in the design stage between the two of you?
TG & JS: While we waited to make decisions on the design until afterwards, there were a few things we had to do before we started the experiment: 1. We decided it would live on a site with daily questions, so we wrote those questions out before hand. 2. We purposely kept things (tickets, gifts, etc.) along the way as documentation. 3. We wrote the synopsis and agreed on the dating rules before we started.
There were plenty of design disagreements along the way, but for the most part we worked extremely well together. We split up tasks, and assisted each other along the way.
In terms of the “public” presentation, you’re employing a variety of forms – video, type contributions from friends, and your own drawings, to name a few. Even with the vibrant variety, I’m curious about the gap between design and experience. To put it another way, having lived through the 40 days and dates, do you feel like anything is missing in what you experienced and how the public is receiving it?
TG & JS: Great designers make the audience see something wonderful through their own lens. This was our own experience, so there’s always a degree of sensitivity about this. Are we getting our story across efficiently? Are we being misunderstood? What if mom is judging me?
Obviously, we didn’t videotape our experience, so the audience is forced to experience the story through writing, photos and illustrations. Ultimately, it’s been difficult, but also very liberating to release it to the public. Our individual stories, issues and approaches aren’t very different from a lot of folks. We knew that if we were going to do it, we had to go the full distance. We’re happy that people are connecting so much to it
Eric, when you were first told about the project, what did you think?
Eric Jacobsen: I thought it sounded a little bizarre, but very intriguing. I believe that “dating” in America is effectively broken, or at least in a painful stage of some sort of radical transformation, and am interested in anything that tries to creatively break down and analyze it.
How much of the final vision of the site was articulated and how did it evolve? For example, was the two-column grid included from the beginning?
EJ: The site was executed very closely to the submitted designs. I had a bit of input in the nuances of the transitions and animations, but really it was all quite straightforward.
Can you talk about the any web design and development challenges that you faced when building the site?
EJ: The challenges were perhaps a little mundane; the site is graphic-heavy, so a lazy-load script was necessary. I wanted the graphics to be retina-display-ready; Daan Jobsis came up with a solution wherein retina graphics could be generated both with greater detail and smaller file size than standard images.