A Sense of Humor at the Cooper-Hewitt

16 01 2013

I heard that Micah Walter’s presentation at yesterday’s annual meeting for METRO, “Open Data at the Smithsonian” revealed a strong sense of humor in the web work going on at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. Reading over Walter’s presentation, which is posted on his blog, I can see what everyone was talking about. Here’s a choice quote that explains the rationale behind the humor:

We also wanted our website to be more approachable. We designed it with a minimalistic attitude and a somewhat whimsical style. You’ll see small jokes here and there and the language is meant to be more engaging and less “institutional.” We know that in order to be really relevant we need to disconnect ourselves from all of the institutional hand waving and move towards a website that anyone can enjoy and still gain some type of great benefit.

The museum maintains a “Cooper-Hewitt Labs” site that also offers doses of humor:

  • the central nav bar on the site features a “+Cats” link that when clicked runs the Nyan Cat across the screen (the Nyan Cat meme is explained over at Know Your Meme)
  • the usual message at the bottom of an experimental project page that mentions what software powers the site gets a little twist: Powered by Isotope and several hundred chocolate covered coffee beans.

This reminds me of a great little book I read last year, Aaron Walter’s Designing for Emotionthat argues that web design needs to prioritize efforts to make an affective connection with users.