Virginia War Memorial & Museum word mark and logo - a red flame depicting memory
 

Rebrand, Digital Innovation, and Awareness Campaign


MY ROLE: Experience Strategist, Designer

MY TOOLKIT: Sketch / Adobe CC / Unity + Vuforia

This work was selected as the winner of multi-team competition by the Virginia War Memorial.

 

How do we get more people to visit the Virginia War Memorial?

MemorialWall.jpg
An animated loop showing Confederate monuments and anti-monument protests.

The Challenge

Potential visitors don’t know what the Virginia War Memorial stands for.

Our research revealed that many locals and tourists wrongly associate the Memorial with Richmond’s Confederate history.

In a city in the midst of a fraught and divisive conversation over how it remembers the past, can there be a “good” memorial?

 
 

Our Strategy


The Virginia War Memorial unifies us in remembrance. 


To accomplish this strategy, we developed the concept:

Bring the stories of fallen Virginian soldiers to life while acting as a contemplative and commemorative space for all Virginians.

Telling the human stories behind the stone names allows us to create a space for remembrance that all Virginians — not just those with loved ones on the wall — can experience and empathize with.

We communicated this new positioning with a rebrand, new values and increased community engagement. We also brought the stories of the fallen out of the closet and into people’s lives using augmented reality, a pared-down and refocused website, and advertising that honors their legacy.

The Rebrand


People don’t Google
“memorials to see this weekend.”


 
oldlogo.jpg

Before

The dynamic, educational, bridge-building elements of the Virginia War Memorial’s work are almost completely hidden by the original branding.

 
 

By changing the name to the Virginia War Memorial & Museum, we put the site into the same dynamic category as Richmond’s popular museums, the VMFA, ICA, and Science Museum.

 
 
VWMLogoAnnotated.png
 

Our new branding honors the heritage of the site by using the original custom typeface created for the Memorial wall in the 1950s.

The eternal flame is an important and memorable symbol for the work of the Memorial. We streamlined and rebalanced the iconic flame and prepared it for use in multiple pieces of branding, shown below.

A selection of items showing war memorial branding

Community Internship


internship+app.jpg

The Virginia War Memorial Foundation is already conducting the painstaking work of tracking down photographs and stories for each of the names on the memorial wall.

They already have over 3,000 in their database.

We think the community can help.

The Virginia War Memorial and Museum Internship is to be awarded to an exceptional high school student with an interest in the military history of Virginia from World War II onward. Interns will choose between three tracks: education, technology, and historical research.  Each track is designed to benefit both the intern and the VWMM.

By marrying the rigorous research methods of the Foundation to the tech-savvy and eagerness of local students, even more stories can be uncovered.

They must be shared.



Augmented Reality


Show Their Faces. Learn Their Stories.


 

Augmented reality gives us a chance to turn a wall of names into a wall of human beings.

 
Animated gif showing memorial wall
 
Animated gif showing AR interaction
 

To test feasibility, we built a prototype of this concept using Unity and Vuforia, and found the wall to be a suitably dense source of data to reliably serve as an AR target.

The Website


An Online Memorial for all of Virginia


The website below shows a speculative design using the new branding system.

More importantly, it includes suggestions for refocusing the online mission of the Memorial to serve as a memorial for Virginia in a way that could never have been possible when it was founded.

These suggestions, elaborated in the annotations below, are:

  • Remove programs duplicated by other organizations (veteran database, day-in-history, blog), focus on core mission.

  • Photograph each memorial panel for searchable/browsable database

  • Highlight research into names, faces and stories of the war dead.

  • Emphasize mission, museum, and memorial.

 

Awareness Campaign


It’s hard to empathize with a concrete wall.


 
edited.jpg
 
 
 

Virginia War Memorial volunteers have uncovered photos and stories for over 3,000 of the names on the wall in the Shrine of Memory. We brought those stories out of the attic for a low-budget social and vintage posted-bill campaign to build empathy with an audience that may not have a direct connection to military service.

 
 

Meet the Team


Andrew Allen

Brand Strategy

I volunteered for this project in honor of my father, Major Jeff Allen, who served in the Army National Guard.

Meredith Makhoul

Brand Strategy

I signed up to help the Virginia War Memorial for my badass aunt, Lt. Col. Anita Massey, U.S. Army.

Chloe Friedman

Art Direction

I worked on this rebrand in honor of my grandfather, who, as a young Jewish man, stormed the beaches at Normandy and helped liberate concentration camps.

Zachary Vono

Experience Design

I volunteered for this rebrand in honor of my grandfather, a ball turret gunner in WW2, my father Charles (USAF) and all the rest.

Zach Brown

Creative Brand Management

I donated my time to this project to respect the sacrifices of my father, David N Brown III, a commander in the navy, and my great-grandfather, a merchant marine.

Mitchell Moss

Copywriting

I volunteered for this project in honor of my grandfather, a sailor in the Korean War.

Results & Learning


A Personal Project Goes Public


My grandfather was a name etched in concrete.

He died decades before my birth, and when we visited his gravesite, I struggled to find an emotional connection to the man behind the name.

The gravestone of Michael Peter Vono

A few years ago my grandmother died.

Squirreled away in the closet, away from the purging influence of her second husband, we found a box. It had been hidden for sixty years.

Inside were photos, journals, drawings. The intimate story of the man behind the name. For the first time, I met my grandfather.

A WW2 photo of a man inside an aircraft near a gun.

This rediscovered connection — one I never really appreciated had been lost — is what I hope visitors of the Virginia War Memorial are able to experience. Whether by seeing the names and stories of the lost with augmented reality, visiting existing exhibits that they didn’t know to visit, or even just reading a story on a bill posted in a merchant window… that feeling of finding the box in the closet is my goal.


This work was produced as a volunteer “cause-project” organized through the VCU Brandcenter. It was selected by the Virginia War Memorial as the winning idea for future development, and plans are underway to incorporate this work ahead of the launch of the new wing in 2019.

Our team could not be more proud.

Appendix: Process Documentation


A service journey map showing how boh and foh interact at the memorial.

AR Process Sketches


Sketched wireframes for a tablet experience, with scrawled notes
Sepia-toned image of a sketchpad with drawings of various panels interacting in an AR experience

Site Annotation and Sketches


A screenshot of the current war memorial screen with annotations pointing out unnecessary features like “this day in history” and veteran database.
Wireframe sketch showing a potential website flow for searching a database of names.
Sketches showing a potential homepage layout for a war memorial website.
Virginia War Memorial site wireframe, sketched on paper, showing the homepage, who we are pages, and memorial pages.

Empathy isn’t a buzzword.