EndLESS Amsterdam Expolab

Designing an interactive installation to spark debate around Circular Economy
INTERACTION DESIGN | UX/UI DESIGN |STORYTELLING| FRONT-END DEVELOPMENT

Context

The Amsterdam Circular 2020-2025 Strategy has been created with the goal of making the Dutch capital completely circular by 2050. This was the main topic of the EndLESS Amsterdam exhibition, which took place between November 2020 and February 2021.

For this event, ARCAM (Amsterdam Centre for Architecture) was exploring ways where they could expose citizens to the means of a 'circular economy' through interactive maps and projection mapping. The idea was to spark debate with different stakeholders about the future of the Metropole region of Amsterdam.

Brief

Our challenge was to develop an interactive experience with projection mapping that would be part of the exhibition EndLESS Amsterdam exhibition. This artifact had the mission to show citizens the circular economy strategy. Through the use of storytelling techniques, the experience could empower residents and spark debate on the city’s strategy while showcasing the advantages of this set of policies to the city.

Research Phase

In our initial research we explored the topic of circular economy and interviewed citizens of Amsterdam to get to know their opinion about this initiative. We identified a lack of knowledge in regards to this topic, and also the complexity that circular economy entails.  

As we kept exploring different strategies to make users understand and engage with circularity, we realized the crucial role narrative plays in making complex more accessible and engaging for users. We explored and tested different storytelling techniques that can be applied to city planning tools, as story is a great tool to spark debate.

Exploring ways of visualising data

Transmedia Storytelling

For the development of our experience, we used a transmedia storytelling technique, which is a narrative technique based on telling a single story across multiple platforms and formats using a variety of digital technologies. Some examples are the development of characters (interaction and personas), story (narrative and scenarios), world building (place), or audience (participation and emergent culture).

For this experience we used interactive characters run youth rough the experience, sections where the citizens could vote for initiatives that they like, or gamification sections were they could test their knowledge on the topic of circularity. We explored this technique to understand what the most effective approach could be for future exhibitions and social design artifacts. We took into account an ever-changing world and the need to design for inclusivity.

Prototyping & User Testing

In this project, we followed an AGILE approach, where we were constantly testing with citizens this experience and iterating over it to make the data and the information as tangible as possible to convey the circular economy's message, since the initial stages of the project we identified the complexity of circular economy. This methodology helped us in the refining of the final product, which was proven with the final testing we did when the experience was fully developed.

The Experience

Engaging through an interactive experience

This experience contains a combination of a touchscreen table with a projector showing data on a 2D flat surface. This allows citizens to interact with the data they are visualizing and, through the projection mapping, to show them the current environmental impacts we have in the city of Amsterdam.

Data Visualisation

The datasets that we used for this experience were provided by the AMS Institute, GeoFluxus and the Rebel Group, which are stakeholders that are working towards the “Amsterdam Circular 2020-2025 Strategy”. The data that the users could visualize in our experience was regarding to built environment, food and organic waste, and consumer goods.

Use of Characters

To make the complex information more digestible and create a human connection between the visitor and the experience, we developed three characters representing the three value chains of the data sets we were provided with. The characters were placed on the touch screen and would help explain the data on the projector as though they were having a conversation with each other.

Gamification

Furthermore, to help visitors become more actively engaged with the content, we included gamification and questionnaire elements around the circular economy. This proved to be a positive element as the participants said that they felt more involved and engaged with the topic of circularity.

Final Product that was used for the EndLESS exhibition

Key Findings

This project showed us that users feel more connected to the data and message when characters and storylines are included. To help visitors become more actively engaged with the content, characters helped explain the data using a personal example of how they are connected to the topic. In addition, easy comparisons (e.g., iconic buildings) between data were used to help citizens relate to the scale of the numbers.

We believe that narratives can assist in explaining complex topics that can make a difference in the behaviour of citizens. With this project, we aimed to make the circular economy a tangible and relatable topic for everyone. Thus, shifting our mindsets to work collaboratively in becoming a Circular Amsterdam by 2050.

Reflection

This project showed me the potential that narratives have to convey messages and emotions. Circular economy is a new and complex topic, and since our target audience was wide, we had to put lots of efforts in testing and iterating over and over to come up with a usable experience. I enjoyed working for an exhibition and improved my interaction design skills through the constant user testing sessions we developed throughout the project.

Team & Role

This project was executed with 3 other digital designers: Beauchamp Bagenal, Luca Kler Lago, and Sophie de Haan. The main client of this project was Arcam, and the duration of the project was of 8 weeks. We executed this project under the Master Digital Design programme of the Hogeschool van Amsterdam. My contribution for this project was UX/UI design, concept development, desk and user research, and leading the testing sessions.