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Interactive Annual 16:
information design

Memory to Action: Eyewitness Interactive Table

Launch Movie

“With such difficult subject matter this interactive does a wonderful job of utilizing the personal URL and mixed media to put the power of the journey into the hands of the user.” —Hilary Read

“A well-thought approach to bringing a challenging topic to life. The table form really helps to set the tone for the visitors that this is a communal experience and the ability for them to save content onto the cards and take the experience home with them made this project stand out.” —Nikolai Cornell

Overview: In a space that evokes urgency, expediency and action, the Eyewitness Interactive Table is part of an intimate experience that brings visitors face-to-face with the modern genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. The exhibit’s center is the personal experience of survivors, activists and even perpetrators of genocide and how they acted in the face of the atrocity; the table communicates their stories, providing an ongoing human soundtrack and an atmosphere of action. When drawn in closer, visitors who are moved to touch the words they have heard or read, are rewarded with an in-depth look at the evidence that supports that person’s story, and the opportunity to share it.

  • • From concept to completion, the table took eighteen months to produce.
  • • The installation uses 4 high-definition 1400 X 1050 projectors, 15 LCD 23" displays, 12 barcode readers, 1 Mac Pro and 1 Windows PC.
  • • The exhibit distributes a “bookmark” to each visitor for saving stories and profiles from the exhibit to an online account. They use its access code to retrieve their saved content at a later time.

Comments by Potion

What was the most challenging aspect of the project? “The most challenging part of this project was achieving the right tone for the experience. We wanted to create an interactive that had depth and that visitors would spend time with, so for some people the experience probably is not as flashy or immediate as they may like. The issue of tone was also present during all the discussions about typography. The horror of genocide is too great to be expressed typographically. At the same time, since most of the type was used for direct quotes, we were trying to avoid a face that felt too distant, sanitized or journalistic. In the end, we chose a simple slab serif and used subtle shifts in weight, scale and positioning for emphasis.”

Did you learn anything new during the process? “Since this piece involved traditional video alongside interactive media, we learned quite a bit about the relationship between the two. While in theory, they support each other, sometimes they competed for attention. It’s difficult for an interaction designer to admit, but when it comes to intense emotional content, filmed media simply has the upper hand. As much work as we did to create powerful displays of dynamic text and photographs, the straightforward video portraits were always more poignant. In the end, we accepted the role of the interactive as support of the greater experience, and let the video portraits do what they do best.”

What would you do differently if you could start the project over? “In retrospect, we might have designed the interactive to be more confrontational and less exploratory. While we aimed for urgency, we arrived at somewhere slightly more reserved. For this type of exhibit, you always want to make the case as strong as possible.”


Potion (New York, NY), interaction director/project design and development
VideoArt, video director
Cornerstone Spatial Design & Production, fabricator
C&G Partners/Potion/Small Design Firm, Inc., design firms
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, client

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