Aligning the Online and In-Person Experiences for Museum 2.0

First Friday Lost Childhoods Exhibition Opening


The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (the MAH) had evolved to become an internationally renowned community-centered destination. Their website hadn’t kept up with the rapid changes that had happened over a few years.

The MAH marketing and communications team felt like the online experience was too passive and didn’t function as the inclusive conversion generator they wanted. They came to us for our help in translating the in-person experience of the MAH to a digital platform—one that leads to increased engagement and new memberships. Our primary strategy was to improve their storytelling and visual presentation prowess in order to drive online engagement.

Messaging & Positioning,

User Research,

Market & Landscape Research

Understanding Museum 2.0

We started with a diagnostic session with the MAH team, including the Executive Director. They described their challenges and laid out their aspirations for a new site. To more deeply understand the experience of visiting the museum, we took a guided tour of the entire space, conveniently located across the street from us. Back in our studio, we looked at the marketing efforts of other museums and similar organizations.

With our more in-depth knowledge, we developed a strategy for creating a website that is in sync with the community-centered museum.

Mah Ui Ux Design Homepage Alt

Art Direction,

Messaging Guidelines,


A Shift in Messaging

Early on, we moved the focus of the messaging from a passive experience to active one. Today, a museum can’t expect people to walk in their doors just because they open them. They need to actively reach out to everyone in their email list and invite them to get involved. The MAH is a place that encourages diverse people from across the county to come together as a community and enjoy art in its many forms.

This lead to a 35 page Communications Guide that they now use to train employees and volunteers to communicate in a unified way. Using the Communications Guide has evolved every element of their communication, both written and spoken.

Mah Messaging Guide

Communications guide used to train employees and volunteers.

Mah Ui Ux Design Dropdown Get Involved Zoomed

Navigation dropdowns highlight salient pages, such as the membership page here.

It's important to us that our guests see the MAH as a hub that connects them with new art and ideas to enjoy. Now, our site makes this easier than ever to discover for themselves.


Jonathan Hicken

Director of Development & Partnerships, MAH

Mah Ui Ux Design Event Exhibition

Images and content block elements have clearer calls to action.

Icons & Illustrations,

UI Style Guide

A Unified Brand Experience

Vibrant red and an iconic red ball sculpture on the corner where the museum’s located, provided our initial design inspiration. Pulling these existing elements into the website were a first step in creating a more consistent brand experience. We took that further and added subtle elements like rounded corners on cards and photos, and integrated their current fonts to give the site a unified aesthetic that matched their current brand.

Content Creation,

UI/UX Design,

Information Architecture

A Streamlined Site

There’s almost always something to do at the MAH. They also have a decades-long legacy of programs, events, and exhibits. The tension between acting as a repository for the past and an organization putting on new events daily, had caused their site to be bloated and cumbersome. Having so much information at hand was overwhelming and a barrier to connection.

We took a photographic people-centric approach to presenting the MAH to the public. As a community organization, they need to communicate their acceptance of everyone they serve, regardless of culture, age, or economic status. The goal was to convey that the MAH is welcoming to all.

Mah Ui Ux Design Stats Copy 3

Streamlined membership flow with integrated branding elements.

Mah Ui Ux Design Circle Photos
Mah Ui Ux Design Events Card
Mah Ui Ux Design People Testimonial

Through our work with Cosmic, we now see every bit of communication as an opportunity to capture attention and invite community in rather than simply state what we need to say to the world.

Elise granata

Elise Granata

Brand & Community Experience Manager, MAH

From Informational to Emotional

We made it easy to discover the latest exhibits, learn about events, and get excited about visiting the MAH. Our recommendation was to change the focus of event descriptions from simple information downloads to emotionally engaging, story-driven experiential descriptions designed to entice and inform.

Mah Messaging Event Descriptions

Full Stack Development,

Technology Consulting,

Website Design

Now I Can Do That!

With so much happening at the MAH it was vital to streamline the information architecture so that the website is easy to navigate. The results also make the site a breeze for the MAH staff to update and maintain. We built the site using Craft CMS which not only allows them to create and customize new pages on their own and easily change existing copy and images, but keeps the styling consistent through our customized page builder.

A variety of page components available within the custom content builder.


The MAH team stopped by our office a week after the site launched. It was the time of our weekly sprint and they were excited to tell us about the early results they’ve seen. Already they’ve seen the volume of corporate sponsorships increase, a rise in new and renewed memberships, and interest in renting out their space—something they rarely had before the new site existed.

It’s a really great start to what we expect to be an ongoing working relationship with our neighbors and new best friends.

Branding & Strategy

  • Messaging & Positioning
  • User Research
  • Market & Landscape Research
  • Icons & Illustrations
  • Content Creation
  • Messaging Guidelines
  • Copywriting

Websites & Digital Products

  • UI/UX Design
  • Information Architecture
  • Full Stack Development
  • Technology Consulting
  • Website Design
  • UI Style Guide

Photo & Video Production

  • Art Direction