Thursday, February 3, 2011

Vaga Luma: A Memorial Website project by Hagar Ben-Yishay

There are many competing memorial websites vying for the attention of grieving families today.  Some are offered by funeral homes, some through arrangements with providers with ties to funeral homes, and others that are completely independent.  Many of these sites try to be everything to everyone, with the aim of becoming the market leader, the facebook of memorial sites.  Strangely enough, facebook itself has shown little interest in courting online memorial attention.

Indeed, for site to provide the searchability and availability that would allow friends and family to find the memorial without being specifically told where it is, or offer useful information about funeral service times, it would almost have to be the one site everyone visited.
Unfortuately, in the race to appeal to everyone, the design of these sites has become very generic, even while the unique stories of the deceased are emphasized.

Time will tell if one universal player can end up the clear favorite, but in the mean time, it is refreshing to see a design for a memorial site that embraces a more idiosyncratic, whimsical and personal vision.  I’m referring to the Vaga Luma memorial site project, the work of designer, Hagar Ben-Yishay.  This site would not be easy for everyone to use or understand.  It features a specific vision and metaphor that might not appeal to everyone, but this is what keeps it from looking like a generic corporate entity, and what makes it so appealing to me.

Ms. Ben-Yishay has gracefully agreed to share a conversation about her project with us.

Pat McNally:  What were your goals in creating this project?  What can we gain by having a site like this? 

Hagar Ben-Yishay:  Memory commemoration is the subject of expensive heart of every person who experienced the loss of a relative or a friend. 
We are all related, one way or another, to death. It follows the life of us all - and we all have to face it in the end. When deciding to preserve the history and legacy of a relative or a friend, different people have different needs. In the physical world there are many, varied options.
By utilizing the Internet's power at preserving data and providing a simple user-experience, this project tries to answer the human need to preserve the memories and essence of a person who is no longer alive.

PM: Did you draw inspiration from any other memorial or other sites, or work in other media in creating the functionality and feel of this site?

HBY: My inspiration for this project, both visual and theoretical, lies in the fact that nowadays, aside from his physical presence in the world, every person has an online presence in the virtual plane as well. While the presence in the physical world is temporary, the presence in the virtual plane is eternal and everlasting.  This gap inspired me create a place, supernatural and magical in his nature, that unites and combines the two - the familiar, mundane, substantial world,
and the yet to be fully explored, infinite virtual plane.  The encounter between the two is an organism like place, a living being that grows and thrives with each and every memory added to it.  During my research I found fascinating sites dealing with human memory, not necessarily in the context of death, such as:"Post A secret" project, in which the users can design and post their secrets, on line, over postcards...

What I love about this project is the fact that anyone can share his thoughts and feelings with the world, then people from all over the world  can read them and identify with the secret thought of a complete stranger... 

Other project that I love is " Petsematary". This project was created by "Noah" Association, which is a Society for Animal Rights...The project goes against the killing of animals by the fur trade and fur industry. The users are welcome to "adopt" an animal a light a memory candle for her.

The project was designed by the talented Ben Ben Horin, Which also instructed me during my work on Final Project.

It was important to me to create a place that is a transition between worlds, the world of the living and world of death. I wanted to create a neutral space, it can connect to different people, different cultures and different religions. A place where they will  feel comfortable sharing with others their personal memories.

PM: The site has the feel of another reality for us to wander through and reflect on our memories.  Would you consider adding other interactive places to post memories or other activities in this world?

HBY: In fact, when I've created the project, I decided to introduce a small and personal world. So the environments and actions that the site offers are currently limited. The project, as noted, was created during my studies at Shenkar Collage (final project) and therefore the time at my disposal was not enough to develop the site more than you can see. 
Of course, if I had the resources and time –I would happily return to the project, to delve deeper into it and improve the experience of wandering the world.

PM: What are your thoughts on the phenomena of Virtual funerals, held in virtual worlds.  Are they a means for us to come together in a new way, or another means for us to cocoon and disconnect with the real world?

HBY: I believe that since the Internet is a virtual space, accessible from almost anywhere at any time– such rituals as Virtual funerals are more than justified to me.  I do believe that Virtual funerals(or any form of on-line social activity) are a new form for people to come together in a new way, share stories and memories and assist each other in good times and bad...

PM: What role do you see for art in helping people deal with overwhelming issues like death and loss?

HBY: I personally believe that each of us has his own way of dealing with death or loss.
Art can be one way of coping and could provide a good therapy.  Whether its photography, drawing, writing or design, it can help in many ways in dealing with loss, death or difficult periods in life.

Eventually, everyone finds their own way to mourn and digest the loss of a loved one. People who find trouble in expressing their feelings verbally might find them easier to express in other forms – visual or otherwise.

PM: What is next for you as a designer?  What kinds of projects would you like to design?

HBY: Recently I've started working at "Nascent" studio, as a user experience designer.
I still have a lot to learn, considering I only recently graduated.
I would be happy to "step out" of the boundaries of the computer screen and start to design for different interfaces, such as the iPhone iPad and devices which offer a more human, direct interface.
Also, because I really love to learn I'm planning to study for an MA in design, probably abroad.  I would also be interested in learning more about the field of physical computing – which I find exciting and fascinating...

I would like to invite all the readers to come and say hello on my Facebook page, twitter or personal site.
Facebook: Hagar Ben Yishay (
My personal portfolio:

Designer Hagar Ben-Yishay


Charles Cowling said...

I'd be inclined, perhaps to quibble when Ms Ben-Yishay says: "aside from his physical presence in the world, every person has an online presence in the virtual plane as well. While the presence in the physical world is temporary, the presence in the virtual plane is eternal and everlasting." Post-mortem virtual presence is of a very less vital and interactive nature -- a very different sort of presence.

But it's a quibble. This work represents a huge feat of the imagination. It's, I would have thought, a considerable technical achievement, too. And it's mysterious and it's magical, and the dreamlike environment is well suited to the mood of the visitor.

I've watched the Vimeo video a few times now. It is utterly beguiling. Full marks to you, Ms Ben-Yishay. And to you, Pat, for finding her.

Nicola said...

Hello Pat. Thanks for sharing this...
Like Charles, I found Hagar Ben-Yishay's work incredibly imaginative and magical. It's really refreshing to see something so different in the world of on-line memorials. The video gave me goose bumps. I'm going to watch it again...

memorials for loved ones said...

Great photos! Great content! You're doing quite well, i'm excited

custom software developers said...

beautiful pics, thanks for sharing!

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