Rotating Sandwiches And The Weird Internet Of Yesteryear

Rotating Sandwiches is the award-winning website built upon dozens of trips to the deli.

There are many prominent websites that boldly declare their own importance—"Democracy Dies in Darkness," "Make every second count"—and there are some that realize the value in being completely devoid of mission or message. With many millennials out there longing for the younger, sillier internet of the early '00s, Lauren Walker has given us a gift: Rotating Sandwiches.

Click on that link and you'll find exactly what you're promised, which is to say, dozens of GIFs of sandwiches spinning hypnotically against a white background, free of captions or even an "About" page to explain itself. Stumbling upon Rotating Sandwiches in the vast landscape of the 21st-century internet feels like unlocking an earlier internet era when content didn't exist to be monetized—it existed because it could, its worthiness self-evident.

"I'm always looking for creative outlets," Walker says, noting that Rotating Sandwiches is a worthwhile project "just because it's fun and weird." Now, the website is officially a decorated success: It won the inaugural Tiny Awards prize this summer, beating out 300 other sites to be declared, in the words of the Tiny Awards, "the website which we feel best embodies the idea of a small, playful and heartfelt web." A good sandwich is a powerful thing.

The Tiny Awards will return in 2024, but there's no guarantee the winning website will be as food-focused the next time around. The Takeout spoke with Walker about why sandwiches feel right at home within the throwback internet we all deserve.

The Takeout: What led to the creation of this project?

Lauren Walker: I saw this great post that was circulating on Twitter from the Internet Archive, where there are several repositories of GIFs of rotating food—not just sandwiches, but all sorts of food. I'm talking hundreds of these. I think they were probably produced as assets for video games, and part of that process [involves creating] a rotating GIF of those assets.

I'm not really on that side of tech, but I did realize I kind of had all the skills and equipment, a background in photography, everything except for a rotating jewelry display. I figured out a workflow, I know enough Photoshop and Premiere and After Effects, and it just kind of clicked: If I can do this, I probably should, just because it's fun and weird, and I'm always looking for creative outlets. I really like sandwiches, which seemed like enough reason to do it.

TO: There are about 45 sandwiches currently on the site. How long does it take to produce each one?

LW: The process is pretty quick now; I've got it down to about 15 minutes from the time I get the sandwich to my apartment. I do have a rule that I don't take my sandwich equipment out [to restaurants]. That's a little bit too weird, to show up someplace with a light box and all that.

I started in October. There's about 40 on the website—I need to update it, because I have more than 100 GIFs and I should put them up there, but just the server load from all those GIFs loading at once kind of wrecks people's computers. [laughs]

I still do one or two every now and then, but for the most part, I've caught all of the big sandwiches I wanted to do. Everything except for a Dagwood—that's my white whale.

Sandwiches are expensive, so I can't really do it too much. Especially in DC. Cost of living is pretty high this year.

TO: So all of these sandwiches are from local shops in DC?

LW: For the most part. One or two are my office cafeteria, and I think I made one of them. A couple are from my last trip to New York. But most are DC. Bub & Pop's is the place I've rotated the most sandwiches from. It's a local deli, my personal favorite in town. A. Litteri is an Italian deli that's on there. Most of them are DC local, and that's part of the appeal for me, to be able to highlight some of my favorite restaurants.

TO: It's obviously generated a lot of interest, and it won the Tiny Awards. Do you get lots of feedback on your site? Any negative feedback?

LW: A lot of emails I've gotten are very cute. People who click with the project and really like it a lot, that's very rewarding. Anytime someone says something like, "My kid saw it and wants you to rotate an ice cream sandwich!"—that kind of thing is always a lot of fun.

I'm kind of sick of people emailing me about hot dogs being on there. It's just a very 2016 argument to have. I don't care. They are sandwiches; I don't entertain any debate on it. [laughs] It's just like, come on, guys. You've got to move on with your lives.

TO: Do you think you have any other food-centric projects in your future, or is Rotating Sandwiches a one-off?

LW: I think this is a one-off; it's kind of the limits of my technical capacity as a web designer. I'm not really a programmer, I'm not really great with anything more than basic front-end tools, and I don't have any interest with rotating, like, salads—there's no creative juice there at all.

But it's fun to make little projects, and I would really love to see other people do stuff like this—that's why I like the Tiny Awards so much. It's like that "old internet" where you could come across weird, quirky things all the time.

TO: With the downfall of Twitter, Rotating Sandwiches might become the new place to be.

LW: That's true. It's going to be an "everything app" soon. Messaging, payments—everything through Rotating Sandwiches.