Week 8 – Jake Barton – How to create meaningful interactions through technology.

During the 44 minute presentation, Jake Barton guides us through a number of his past projects and reflects on what those challenges, processes and experiences taught him, what worked and what was discovered through the design process that gave him insights that were interesting to present and pass on to his audience in this particular talk.


Figure 1 – Jake Barton is part of Local Projects (Local Projects, 2009).

He started putting the challenges into perspective, if we work with technology at increasing levels it naturally influences what we make and create. Running parallel to that is our own creative expression and intuition is what merges both of these and results in the outcome.

I learn’t a number of key insights from his talk, the first was to use Prototyping as a tool to create in itself. The idea is that with some concepts that are complicated to deliver effectively, that perhaps in these examples it is better to start with the Prototype and then see what questions that raises afterwards, through interacting with the Prototypes themselves, with clients and through user testing, you can start to develop very quickly a pattern of what works and what needs refining. Is the project complimenting the space or distracting you from it, in a number of his projects he talks about ‘amplifying’ the experience rather than take you into some different place and distance yourself from the room you are interacting with.


Figure 2 – Their interactive Museum Collection wall that contains and links the entire museum collection in one place interactive from a number of positions along the wall (MW2013, 2013).

It’s mentioned in the context of the User that in an effective interaction the user learns best through experience, this is called experiential learning. To understand something they might struggle to understand the message through reading and seeing it, to experience it offers a whole number of ways to contextualise what you are learning and gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings of why somethings happen the way they do. This is best shown in his Scigame project, teaching children Physics through interactivity that starts with actually using sensors around activities in a playground then following up on the app to see what happens when you play with the variables into the equation and watch how that impacts the outcome.

This experiential learning is what the designers themselves go through by creating through this ‘Prototype first’ approach, by creating, they test the experiences and learn how best to refine and advance their design challenges, it is also mentioned in the example of the World Trade Centre project that using ‘Prototype First’ actually helped to realise one of their ideas and build into a real project that ended up being actually employed in the memorial museum as an interactive exhibit.

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Figure 3 – Learning Physics through experiential design (Barton, 2015).

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Figure 4 – That experience then taken into the classroom on a tablet uses that experience to give you a whole new angle to learning basic equations and principles (Barton, 2015).

The second lesson I learn’t was that successful experience design really empowers the user even in a space that relies on interactivity and engagement, experience design can really take that a step forward and capture the interest of that user by making the entire space around them flexible to their interests which in turn can make the experience as simple or as complicated as they want and encourage a wider user group to positively engage with the space.

In their museum designs in the basic interactivity you can see the user select what they want to learn more about, as much or as little as they want, so they walk away with the chance to retain information about what particularly interests them.


Figure 5 – Facial recognition software giving you a previously unknown link the exhibits in the museum and those that might be of interest to you in a whole new fun approach (MW2013, 2013).

You also see interactive exhibits that employ technology with fun simple tasks and expression which then open you up to a new angle of interacting with specific objects in the museum, like this is your personality and you share those characteristics with these exhibits offering you a new bond or connection with something you might not have known anything about previously. The feeling of connection and community can reinforce a positive experience within a space.

In their World Trade Centre project this gets taken a whole step further where the subject is sensitive and the event so recent that you don’t need a professional to explain to you what happened and what is clever about their design is that it places all of the oral information being presented by fellow users, instantly that adds an authenticity and realism that empowers the audience and envokes empathy and a reaction, those kind of experiences that will stick with you when you walk away from visiting something that you feel a strong or even a previously distant connection to.


Figure 6 – The City Pulse Installation at One World Trade Centre (Local Projects, 2017)

The final point I wanted to highlight was that there are no mistakes, only opportunities, while the ideas and prototypes that didn’t make it to realisation didn’t feature in the talk, they are still thought of, it is clear that some of these ideas even heavily invested ones, still shaped the learning of the designers to create better experiences in the ideas that were realised. Also there were probably elements of those ideas that made realisation in a different form with the same ideology behind them.

It suggests that in the design process there isn’t such thing as a bad idea as it’s all part of the process to the final outcome. It’s also about knowing when to stick with an idea or moving on to something else when it reaches that conclusion that it will or will not be successful, but it was not a waste of time to explore it in the first place. It’s being flexible enough to think inside and outside the box where the best ideas can be developed.


Figure 7 – Barton explains how prototyping this idea brought it into reality when pitching this idea alone wasn’t selling it to the client (Falais, 2015).

The closing point I want to make is that Jake Barton and his team clearly work hard to understand their user, to embrace wider communities, to empower them and to collaborate with them at all stages of their design process because to put it simply it makes the end product far better and more authentic, by customising the experience to the particular user that interacts with it, they embrace the idea of using platforms to offer avenues of interaction that can take the user to an amplified knowledge of the exhibits and space they have chosen to visit on that occasion, these experiences will create lasting memories through the unique methods they are able to communicate a narrative or tell a story and relate to person that is choosing to hear that story. His work is clearly well thought out, inspiring and forward thinking in the arena of experience design.


Barton, J. (2015) Available at: http://cdn.designindaba.com/s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/speakervideos.designindaba.com/vimeos-only/141993/barton-jake-speakertalk-2014-lowres_di_universalsmartphone_1418904160.mp4 (Accessed: 13 January 2017).

Falais, C. (2015) One World Trade Centre. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/one-world-trade-center-september11-memorial-museum-14th-falaus (Accessed: 13 January 2017).

Local Projects (2017) City pulse. Available at: https://localprojects.net/work/one-world-observatory-city-pulse (Accessed: 13 January 2017).

Local Projects (2009) Local projects on Twitter. Available at: https://twitter.com/localprojects (Accessed: 13 January 2017).

MW2013 (2013) Transforming the Art Museum experience: Gallery One. Available at: http://mw2013.museumsandtheweb.com/paper/transforming-the-art-museum-experience-gallery-one-2/ (Accessed: 13 January 2017).



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