My Family Tree

Quick Summary

This is a short glimpse at the final products of a school project in which each student had to figure out how to present a large and complicated body of information. The professor gave each of us a different topic by having us draw scraps of paper from a hat, and I drew “My Family Tree.” At first I thought I'd have to draw again because I was adopted and didn't know a lot about my biological heritage, but then I realized that being adopted was what could make my version of a family tree interesting.

  • Interviews
  • Genealogical research
  • Rapid sketches
  • Wireframes
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Pens, notebooks, post-its, whiteboards, etc.
  • Poster
  • iPad app demo video
  • Learned that I can sometimes turn a complication into a defining trait
  • One of two posters that was chosen by faculty to be displayed in the hall

iPad App

For the iPad app, I focused on two different views: individuals and genreations. For the individuals view, I was inspired by Zeno's paradoxes of motion. The basic idea is that by using pinch-to-zoom and having each “step” be half the size of the one before it, I could have an infinitely long family tree displayed on the screen in its entirety, started with the currently focused individual.

For the generations view, I used a more conventional timeline. The idea here was that since I was doing something experimental for the other view, I would refine something a user would find familiar for this view.


The goal of this poster was to provide different amounts of information depending on how far away a viewer was standing. At the maximum distance, a viewer might only make out the title text: “My Family Tree.” As they get closer, they can see that one side of the graph is for my adoptive family and the other is biological. Continuing to move closer, they can eventually see the individuals making up the tree and even read a few interesting stories.



I learned a lot about myself during this project. I also learned a lot about how to let the content drive design. What began as complications that made me think I'd have to pick a different topic ended up being what defined the overall direction and made the final results stand out.

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