Urban Collaboration & Storytelling

What will inspire and connect cities of the future?
At our core, we are linked together by the stories that we collectively tell. How can we create experiences that can bind us to each other, even as our technologies, economics and cultures are increasingly diverse and challenging?

Jake Barton explores collaboration at the urban scale, drawing on examples from the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Change By Us and the Frank Gehry-designed Eisenhower Memorial.


Jake Barton’s stirring TED talk about building collective memory and his work on the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, lending whole new meaning to the notion that “a museum is an institution dedicated to making connections.”

The story that begins at 8:01 is nothing short of remarkable.

Also see Barton on the role of museums and memorials in society and the power of collaborative storytelling

This month, I wrote a profile of Jake Barton and his design firm, Local Projects, for the British communication arts magazine, Creative Review. Focusing on their work for the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which will debut next year, I was also particularly taken with some of the things Jake told me about the company’s process, and ways in which he tries to keep himself – and the work – fresh and focused. Techniques include asking himself, “if I were in charge, what would I do?” To my bemused question, “er, Jake, you do realize that you are in charge,” Barton simply chuckled. “I know, but it helps.” The kind folks at CR have released the piece, Storyteller, from behind the magazine paywall, so check it out–and do let me know what you think.

[Image from “Explore 9/11” c/o Local Projects.]


“Creativity is like falling in love…there’s this incredible urge to discover potential.”

Wonderful EyeO Festival talk by Jake Barton of Local Projects

Prototyping is a collaborative, improvisational process.
—  Jake Barton, founder and president of New York design firm, Local Projects, opened the two day Design at Scale conference, organized by the DMI (and of which I was co-chair.) He showed a number of the firm’s projects, including Change By Us, an idea-sharing/matching initiative launched in New York and which has since spun out to Seattle and Philadelphia,, and the BMW Guggenheim Lab, a mobile laboratory intended to “inspire innovative ideas for urban life.” He went into detail about the firm’s process, of which prototyping plays a huge part. I particularly liked his description of the design of client feedback sessions, in which the clients are deliberately left to experience the prototype on their own terms. Any hint of attempting to steer them in a particular direction, said Barton, and the dynamic can turn nasty in an instant. For more of Local Projects’ process and design approach, see also Storyteller, a feature I wrote recently for Creative Review magazine.

Jake Barton of Local Projects on the power of collaborative storytelling – fantastic, timely and moving short film, produced for the Future of Storytelling summit. 

Also from the series, see this fantastic short film on the neurochemistry of empathy, storytelling, and the dramatic arc.


Jake Barton on Design

Local Projects is this year’s National Design Award winner for Interaction Design. Hear principal & founder Jake Barton speak about collaborative storytelling, museums, and design.

The National Design Awards were conceived by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum to honor lasting achievement in American design. The Awards are bestowed in recognition of excellence, innovation, and enhancement of the quality of life. First launched at the White House in 2000 as an official project of the White House Millennium Council, the annual Awards program celebrates design as a vital humanistic tool in shaping the world, and seeks to increase national awareness of the impact of design through education initiatives.