The Rubin Museum of Art

Mandala Lab: Touch Screen Interactives

Mandala Lab: Touch Screen Interactives

Mandala Lab: Where Emotions Can Turn to Wisdom

At the Rubin Museum’s new Mandala Lab visitors engage in thought-provoking, playful experiences – smelling scents, ringing gongs, responding to light, watching videos, engaging with touchscreen interactives – that guide them along an inner journey focused on self-awareness and awareness of others.



Our mission was to create digital touch screen interactives at two separate locations in the Lab where visitors can describe their emotions in response to these multisensory experiences, respond to information volunteered by other visitors, and gain insights to arrive at more positive states of mind. Seeing their own responses in the company of others’ reactions, can also help them see themselves as members of the larger community, inspiring feelings of connection and empathy.



In close collaboration with the Rubin team, we crafted the language, navigation and sequence of actions that gently guide visitors through these touch screen experiences. Then we designed and developed the applications.



On the west side of the Lab there are six touchscreen interactives where visitors explore the relationship of smells, emotions and attachment. Six artists chose different smells that evoked strong emotional memories for them and produced short videos about these stories.

At each station, a visitor can smell a scent and then use a digital emotion wheel to identify the emotions this smell evokes for them. If they don’t see their emotions listed in the wheel they can type in their own. They can then see their responses in the context of how others felt about that scent. After guessing what the smell is, they see the artist’s short video about the deep memories and emotions that scent evokes for them.


On the south side of the Lab, visitors complete their journey around the Mandala. On the touch screens here they have the opportunity to choose one of the five emotions or states they’ve experienced as they walked: pride, envy, anger, attachment and ignorance. They can receive a “teaching,” that offers advice or insight about a practice to help them transform that tendency.

These teachings come from many sources, from the Dalai Lama to Bruce Springsteen, from Nelson Mandela to Audre Lorde, from Gautama Buddha to Pixar’s film, The Good Dinosaur!

Visitors can email their teaching to themselves and access the website where they can see more teachings and contribute their own insights, which may be shared with future participants.

Laurie Anderson
Sanford Biggers
Tenzin Tsetan Choklay
Amit Dutta
Wang YaHui
Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Other design partners:
Master perfumer: Christophe Laudamiel
Architects: Peterson Rich Office
UX: Lina Zhang
Design: Ian Fooks/Curious Ways
App development: Wei Chao
Systems Integration: Brad LaBoe
Project Manager: Elena Pessina

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