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OCT 19, 2010

Variate Labs designed the information, content and interaction strategy for the new LAMH.

Variate Labs designed the information, content and interaction strategy for the new LAMH. Our concept was to create one unified content experience and make it accessible, personal and seamless across many different platforms.

The first day we heard about the project, we visited the existing museum and listened to the life story of one of the survivors. We immediately knew that we wanted to play a role in reshaping the museum experience to showcase the stories and perspective of the Los Angeles Jewish community. The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust is the oldest Holocaust museum in the United States and has an incredible collection of physical content. When Variate Labs started this project, the museum’s content consisted largely of physical artifacts, photographs, video testimonials, an outdated website and the stories of living survivors. We reviewed this content and designed a new strategy that would showcase the museums content in an optimized way across many different platforms to create a new type of museum experience. We came to the table with the following ideas to guide the project:

* The physical artifacts are the most important part of the museum. Use technology to provide context to the artifacts by augmenting and enhancing them. Technology should work with the content, not overshadow it.

* Embed and integrate the content and technology into the architecture of the museum itself. The architecture is the collection and the collection is the experience.

* Create one unified content set. All digital and physical content should appear to be part of the same visual system. The way visitors interact with the physical and digital artifacts should be consistent across the entire experience.

* Let content speak for itself. No extra navigation elements or non-authentic things. Keep it simple and focus the visitors attention on absorbing the materials with low barrier to entry.

* Create a personal connection between visitors and content. The museum experience does not need to be the same for each visitor. It is more important to create a long-lasting connection between visitors and content.

Our role in this project exemplifies how we would like to work on all projects. We worked with the museum director (Mark Rothman), the board president (Randol Schoenberg) and Hagy Belzberg Architects to develop the overall concept and design for the museum’s information, content and interaction strategy. During this 1.5 year project, we designed and developed everything in the museum that relates to content: from the high-level narrative of the museum experience to all of the specific moments in the museum experience and on the web. Variate Labs designed, developed and supervised the construction of the new museum database, database standards, digitization workflow, new website, print exhibits, audioguide, interactive touch table exhibit, interactive multiple screen learning interface, interactive exhibit monitors, audioguide takeaway and logo. Each component of the larger master vision was a project in-and-of itself.

New Museum Database, Standards and Workflow

When Variate Labs started the project, all artifacts in the current museum were analog and physical. Variate designed a workflow that would allow the museum to capture and document all of the artifiacts. This included designing the new database standards, outlining the workflow, aiding in the purchase of all digitization materials and teaching the staff how to digitize content.

Personas and Use Cases

Variate developed a number of different architype personas that represented museum goers. After analyzing the museums content offering and the behavior of the personas, Variate designed a number of different use cases for the new museum experience that would showcase the rich content of the museum. A number of interactives were designed to give context to specific artifacts and to showcase a rich variety of content when there were space limitations.

Interactive Concepts

After developing the personas and use cases, Variate designed and developed concepts for a number of interactives located throughout the museum exhibits. Variate Labs worked closely with the architect to ensure that the design of the interactives worked with the style of the architecture. All of the interactives were mean to feel embedded and integrated within the architecture itself.


Variate worked closely with the executive director (Mark Rothman) board president (Randol Schoenberg) and the architects at Hagy Belzberg Architects (Hagy Belzberg, Aaron Leppanen, Carina Bien-Willner and Lauren Zuzack) throughout the entire construction process. Variate Labs staff members were routinely on-site to answer questions about the interactives and to coordinate the forms and technology.

Print Exhibits

Variate Labs designed the content layout for all of the digital and physical exhibits. Variate completed a comprehensive audit of the museums existing artifacts and imagery and mapped this content to various locations throughout the exhibit. Content was organized by themes and was mean to be experienced in a clock-wise direction. The design layout uses large images in the background that exemplify general themes and then layer smaller more detailed imagery in the foreground to tell specific stories. After determining the type and quantity of content, Variate planned out all of the images in elevation and created a consistent rigor for sizing. Variate worked closely with the architect to ensure that the imagery worked with the exhibit structure. Variate also played a role in determining the new museum font, font size and graphic standards for the print displays. It was important to create a system and rigor that would carry into the digital interactives to create one seamless visual content set.

Audioguide Takeaway

Variate Labs designed and developed an audioguide takeaway that would allow visitors to experience the museum through the eyes of an individual that lives in Los Angeles. Variate designed a concept whereby visitors could find artifacts and images throughout the museum that offered glimpses into an individuals life. Each visitor that enters the museum could experience the museum in a different way. As part of this concept images relating to individuals would be shown in the foreground of the displays overlaid onto larger images that give thematic context.

Revolutionary Audioguide

Variate Labs designed the concept behind the new audioguide system. After doing extensive research and visiting all types of museums around the country, Variate designed an audioguide experience that was different from anything else on the market. The goal of the new audioguide system was to enable visitors to get context about artifacts and themes in an uprecedented seamless way. Variate designed an audioguide system that would seamlessly sync audio on the device to videos located on interactive screens throughout the exhibit. Rather than going with a typical -Touch to begin- mentality, the new museum would let videos continuously loop and visitors could listen to synced audio just by entering in an audioguide number. This audioguide system was built and implemented. To date its functionality has never been replicated in another museum environment. Variate Labs worked with Potion Design to fabricate this interactive.

World That Was Touch Table

The museum has an extensive collection of images from the Jewish community prior to the beginning of the Holocaust. The museum has so many images that it would be impossible to display them all in a conventional way. The goal of this interactive was to create a learning tool, with a low barrier to entry, whereby visitors could explore the rich images and learn about the history and life stories of the Jewish community. This table offers visitors a personal connection with content and allows for spontaneous exploration. All of the content in the table contains rich metadata that allows for images to be organized by various themes. The table also has a teaching mode whereby a docent can activate a robust content management tool and show images of a specific family, theme or name. The table was designed so that 14 people can use the table simultaneously. The table was also designed to allow videos to seamlessly sync with the audioguide device. Variate Labs determined the overall concept and functionality for this interactive and worked with Potion Design to design and develop the specific user interface and hardware.

18 Camp Freestanding Interactive Displays

The goal of this interactive was to create a series of freestanding displays that would each tell the story of an individual camp. These displays were designed to be informative and showcase content ranging from text and photographic history of the camps to survivor stories. All of the monitors are linked together to create an attract mode that speaks to the overall scale of the horror. Upon entering the room, visitors will see all monitors showing the same type of information. This info includes camp statistics, maps and Los Angeles survivor images. Visitors can also listen to audio files that sync with survivor videos on each monitor. A visitor can walk through the exhibit and learn about the collective devastation or stop and learn about a specific camp in more detail. Variate Labs determined the overall concept and functionality for this interactive and worked with the architect and Potion Design to design and develop the specific user interface and hardware.

New Website

The goal of the new website was to create beautiful website that would represent the museum’s new image, showcase the museum’s collection and be extremely accessible to the public at large. The entire website is controlled by a robust content management system that is managed and updated by the museum’s staff. Prior to starting this project the museum was not in control of their own website and relied on 3rd parties for updates. The new website showcases many different types of information including: general information about the museum, visitor information, information about the exhibits, a virtual tour, news and events, a map of the building and surrounding area, access to the archives, educational resources and collection highlights. Variate Labs determined the overall concept and functionality for the website and worked with LAMH and FastSpot to design and develop the user interface and content management system. The new website can be viewed here.

Variate created the overall strategy and vision for the project. The schedule was extremely aggressive. Because of the compact timeframe we oversaw the development and execution of some of the elements by outside vendors. We are proud to have partnered with Potion Design (NYC), FastSpot (Baltimore) and The Tech Consultants (Los Angeles) to bring this project to life.

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