This Is Trash

Click on the image below to download the full This Is Trash PDF.

This Is Trash cover

Skills I used: competitive analysis, persona development, mood board creation, creative visioning, wireframing, interaction design

Collaborator: Michelle Lew

My partner and I were given the challenge of imagining and designing an iPad magazine from a single article of text, Modern Architecture by Eliot Gregory. Through a process of conducting competitive analysis, developing personas, creating a mood board, deciding on an appropriate design language, and envisioning a system for navigation and user interaction, we created This Is Trash.

This Is Trash is a monthly interactive e-zine that has been converted from a traditional, handmade zine format. Each issue contains one article featuring a unique perspective of someone who has lived, or currently resides, in New York City. Readers can co-author the article by adding comments in the sidebars and publishing their new version of the article on the site. The result is an active community of readers and writers inhabiting a digital space, who discuss and bond over the issues they encounter in urban New York life.

Competitive Analysis
We perused various magazines, taking note of their style, audience, and visual language.

Competitive analysis of magazines

We ultimately decided that the content was more of a reflection on cities and urban change than on architecture itself. This led us to conceptualize our publication as an independently made zine.


Client Persona: Jackie moved to New York City thirty years ago when she was 32, after the dissolution of a tumultuous, short-lived marriage. She started This Is Trash in 2005, sharing it with her friends and neighbors who identified with her discontent. Readers have expressed interest in sharing their own stories and experiences of change in New York, so Jackie wants to transform This Is Trash into a digital landscape where people can read and respond to the various perspectives her zine represents.

Client persona

Customer Persona: Juniper is a 24 year old recent college grad from a small town in Nebraska who moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn two years ago to pursue her dream job as a photographer.

Client persona

Mood board
We chose gritty images for our mood board to emphasize the cynicism of both the client and customer personas, and displayed a juxtaposition of old and new aspects of urban landscapes. Most of the colors are muted, but splashes of brightness serve as points of contrast and irony.

mood board

Design Language
We kept our color palette consistent with the images in the mood board.

color palette

Physical materials were included in our design to retain the handmade feeling of the original zine. Shown below are splashes of real paint, blue tape, and a ruler–all of which we scanned into a computer and added to our digital files.

physical materials

Similarly, our fonts consisted of a mix of actual handwriting and type.

fonts used

UI Sketches and Design Decisions
We sketched out various interactions on paper before choosing the right style for This Is Trash. One of the design problems we encountered was showing various people’s perspectives in a limited amount of space. We initially considered displaying everyone’s reactions to the article in the sidebars at one time, but decided that this would be chaotic and would take away from the opportunity for each reader to make a co-authored version of the article that is a personal, public artifact showcasing a unique perspective.

We also considered featuring scanned hand-made pages (such as the one below) as main pages of the zine, but decided that this approach would not be properly utilizing the digital tools made available in our conversion to the iPad.

handmade screen

We initially envisioned small chunks of text appearing on the screen, so that a reader could comment on each chunk and move through the article piece-by-piece.

page with small amount of text

However, we ultimately decided that it would be more feasible to retain the carefully constructed, hand-made quality of the zine if there were less pages to make. Our final screen designs, which can be viewed in the PDF available for download at the top of this page, show the process of our customer persona, Juniper, reading and interacting with the article.