The Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) heads a diverse group of research teams that design technology to create a better future, whether that means enhancing human physical capability through its Biomechatronics group or creating new interfaces for musical performers in its Opera of the Future group. With such a diverse group of research teams—and their independently designed sites—the Media Lab needed an online hub that would tie its projects together with an elegant design. This is where the Brooklyn-based design and development firm Type/Code signed on. Designing around the Media Lab’s new identity from Michael Bierut at Pentagram, Type/Code utilized a flexible square-grid system—inspired by pixels—that balances structure and flexibility while providing a dynamic window into the work of Media Lab’s research teams.
Uniting a series of independently designed sites under the banner of MIT Media Lab presented some challenges, both stylistically and organizationally. “The biggest navigational challenge was to accommodate profiles that could grow into their own minisites, while living logically within the site’s primary information architecture,” states Zeke Shore, Type/Code’s founding partner and creative director. “A visitor needed to be enabled to land directly on a project profile, explore the scope of that project, and find their way back to project’s group profile and other related research groups at the lab.” With the myriad of navigation paths, the design and development firm implemented a “contextual breadcrumb” system that guides visitors back to the logical “parent” profile, depending on their current explorational path. And—while the modular system on the main page creates a flowing, visual relationship between every one of MIT Media Lab’s research teams—each research team has a toolset that enables it to showcase its work flexibly and autonomously from MIT Media Lab, thanks to Type/Code’s design. The new site is an organically evolving platform for the research lab’s work.