The Mao Era in Objects

Teaching Resource


The website introduces twenty-four different objects that were made, used, talked and written about during the Mao Era. Some of these are famous, others less so. Some are large decorative objects, others solely intended for everyday use. Some might seem a more obvious object to examine than others. Visitors will find that some of the more famous objects associated with the era -- bicycles, ration coupons, chopsticks, pens, to name a few -- are currently not represented here. While biographies of these objects may follow in future, the website does not aim to present a comprehensive history or function as an object encyclopaedia. Contributors each write about their object from a different vantage point, variously focusing more on its making, representation, circulation, and use. The result is a selection of readings and interpretations that reflect contributors' individual expertise and research interests.

The project was lead by Dr Jennifer Altehenger, with the research software engineering team from King's Digital Lab.


I designed the overall look and feel of the site and also the functionality and user experience. I worked with two other developers, an analyst and the project lead and project assistant. I started with some user research by attending workshop arranged by the project lead to find out more requirements from one of the main user groups which were teachers. Then designed and prototyped the landing page and the object page to test the responsiveness and interactions, and continued working on it on the staging server alongside a developer. I went on leave near the completion of the project and another designer tied up the loose ends.

labels of the sitemap with boxes to group and arrows to show their connections
Site map work in progress
top left: images in circles  with straight connecting lines, top right: images in squares, center left: grid of square images faded in background with large square image and text in front, center right: grid of square images some faded, section of checkbox list of text filters overlaid
Mockups of various parts of the site
from top: title and menu, introduction and information button, search box, filter button, grid list option, collage of square images of a mix of Chinese illustrated posters, photograph of people and objects from the Mao era arranged in a grid, footer with logos and text
Screenshot of the new site landing page