National Building Museum: Urban Media Table


How do you tell the story of data about the built environment with light? The Urban Media Table, part of a new permanent exhibition within the Visitors' Center at the National Building Museum, uses LED lights, acrylic skylines representing major cities in the United States, and corresponding screens to tell this story. Documentation courtesy of Bluecadet.


  • National Building Museum


  • Lead Designer


  • Bluecadet


  • Studio Joseph: Exhibit Design
  • Kevin Zakszewski: Developer
  • Clay Tercek: Creative Technologist
  • Liz Russell: Content Strategist

Expanded Color System & Visual Design

The color of the lights became integral to the story representing different categories of information and the different narratives that would be told. The National Building Museum's brand identity needed to be expanded to accommodate the table experience. I developed an alternative color palette for the application and set the values to be used for the LED's.

Each story told was several minutes in length, so I included a progress bar to clue visitors into how far along they were in each narrative. We also used highlighted elements in the graphs, maps, and list of categories to give additional context and enhance visitors' understanding of the story being told.


Application Component Design

Organizing the information into the multiple categories, I designed the different slide components that play in tandem with the animated LED lit skylines. To capture all of the information in the narratives I created four different components, a text component slide, a graph component slide, a map component slide, and a comparative image component. These appear on the screens of the table to augment to data story shown on the skylines. The slide components were used to create a custom application syncing the narrative on the screens the LED animations happening concurrently.


Table Visualization

The animated skylines light up in different ways and different colors to draw attention to whatever data story is being told in conjunction on the screen. When a particular narrative was focusing on the contrast between two or more cities, those cities skylines would be lit brightest, while the others would be slightly dimmed.