I founded Moonshot, the innovation lab at Barkley. Moonshot became a center for technology innovation and inspiration, and it also produced transformative change throughout the company.
We launched innovation culture initiatives, training hundreds of partners in Design Thinking, emerging technologies, rapid prototyping and innovation processes, skills and mindsets. We attracted new clients to the agency for innovation assignments, and we supported the new business team, participating in core Agency of Record pitches, helping to tip the scales in several key wins. We also earned significant industry press, speaking engagements from industry associations and coverage from analysts. We also became an important recruiting tool, attracting some of the best and most unique talent to the agency and becoming a reason for other talented partners to choose Barkley over other offers.
Not all of that was apparent in 2011 when I first approached Barkley's executive team about the need to help clients and partners better understand emerging technologies and accelerate innovation. I proposed the plan for Moonshot–a small, dedicated team to explore new technologies and turn our insights into practical, hands-on experiential demonstrations, prototypes and learning experiences.
These experiential offerings included workshops, innovation sprints, hack days and other custom-designed experiences. Through Moonshot, I introduced Design Thinking workshops to Barkley and helped launch Barkley's Experience Design practice, creating an entirely new practice and revenue stream for the agency.
Moonshot also contributed to the life of the agency by using our Human-Centered Innovation process to tackle projects ranging from redesigning time entry, to building a chatbot that helps people find their way around the building, to letting our partners know when they could grab time in a Zen Room.
My work at Moonshot has been some of the most varied and interesting of my career to date. It has exposed me to a vast innovation community beyond advertising, and it has taught me the lessons of resilience and persistence that innovation demands. I’m looking forward to applying my hard-earned and hard-learned skills and experience against new opportunities in the near future.
Introduction to Design Thinking workshop
Man vs Machine (Learning): RoShamBot
RoShamBot - Man vs. Machine Learning
Face scanning installation for TEDxAustin
Using our Human Centered Innovation process and data analysis to create the optimal bra-buying experience
Wall of Rock: US Air Guitar Championships
We created an interactive installation for the US Air Guitar Championships. Yup, that exists.
Client workshop activity, unpacking user's identity, needs, and insights.
Reporting findings from field observational study for restaurant client. We used VR to map out a new To Go order experience.
Nelson-Atkins Sun Pavilion Human Power Generator
We built a hand-powered installation that let people compete with a solar panel.
One of the most important innovation culture programs I developed at Moonshot was Rotation Week. This week-long innovation sprint took multidisciplinary teams of partners and presented them with client challenges to solve. We introduced them to emerging technologies, human-centered design methods and agile processes. On Monday, they were a group of strangers, with little knowledge of the subject or the client. By Friday, they had to produce a functioning demo of their idea and present it to the executive team, and sometimes the client. This process not only taught critical innovation thinking and making skills, it helped generate projects and products for the agency. It also earned Barkley AdWeek's inaugural Project ISAAC Award for Best Practices in Innovation Management.
Watch: Moonshot Rotation Week
We emphasized rapid prototyping and early testing with users
This vending machine concept served up drink samples in exchange for likes.
This prototype turned into a product and generated patent applications
Demo day allows the team to show off their work to the exec team
Krispy Kreme Hot Light
I am possibly personally responsible for a percentage point increase in the US obesity rate. Sorry about that.
I came up with the idea for the Krispy Kreme Hot Light app and the platform that connected the iconic Hot Lights to the Web, Twitter and many other digital connection points. The original prototype was a lamp on my desk and a webpage on my phone that lit up when the lamp turned on.
From there, the platform grew to be an incredible success story. Not only was it a huge social media success, but download and ongoing usage metrics exceeded expectations. Best of all, it helped Krispy Kreme enjoy several consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth. And it earned a Top Five Restaurant Campaign nod from Nation's Restaurant News, which was an especially sweet distinction given that we spent no media dollars at all. It also earned Barkley prominent news and analyst coverage. The app caught the attention of Forrester Research and was featured prominently in several reports and at least one book.
The Hot Light glows, and you are powerless to resist.
Watch: Krispy Kreme Hotlight
Ideas sometimes happen on dirty whiteboards.
The Hot Light app created also created new direct-to-fan owned media channel for Krispy Kreme.
The system was even connected to outdoor billboards to communicate to nearby commuters.
The original prototype was built using my desk lamp.
Vanity Fair approached Moonshot with an opportunity for product and experience innovation. Curvation, their bra brand for full-figured women, wasn't meeting its potential. The marketing team believed there was an opportunity for the brand to become something better if they could find the right way to approach the market. They tasked us with creating the optimal bra-buying experience.
We combined a human-centered experience design approach with sophisticated data analysis to not only uncover opportunities to deliver a better experience, but we also supported that recommendation with optimal feature assortment and price point recommendations.
We went in home and in closet in three markets to understand the needs, feelings and frustrations of these women. And we told their stories in a two-day, collaborative workshop with clients to build a foundation for ideation.
Following the workshop, we convened a sprint team to build prototypes and test in rapid, iterative cycles. We sprinted and tested in overlapping, week-long cycles. We tested online, in-store and in-home ideas. We tested product features, site content, and even new product line extension ideas. We looked at every aspect of the omni-channel experience.
And after four weeks of sprinting, we put the winning ideas together into an integrated prototype and ran thousands of user sessions through it to do a conjoint analysis to determine the most important elements, products and price points.
This project remains simultaneously one of the most satisfying and frustrating projects from my Moonshot portfolio. It is indicative of the potential of this kind of Human-Centered experience driven work. And it was a deep, thorough combination of experience, technology and business recommendations woven into a cohesive deliverable. Unfortunately, due to a series of personnel changes on the client side, the project got sidelined in the shuffle of priorities, and its moment of opportunity was lost. Our recommendations now exist, in parts, in other brands' experiences and products. And so now, for me, this project serves as a reminder that innovation requires not just ideas, but also timely execution.
Screenshot of sprint prototype
Design, code and whiteboard–the stuff of innovation sprints
An early artifact of our client workshop
Mood boards from our ethnography
Thematic findings from our research
We combined winners from initial innovation sprints into a final integrated testing round.
We conducted a conjoint study to determine optimal features, price and assortment.
To celebrate the opening of the Nelson-Atkins' new Bloch Impressionist Galleries, Moonshot created three interactive installations–an educational in-gallery iPad system, a Kandinsky-inspired synesthetic music composition display, and a few next-level audio tours (GPS-enabled via Detour) that provide an engaging, seamless tour experience. These elements were the outcome of a robust human-centered design process that entailed our team sitting down with the Nelson's own research team, museum docents, security guards, curators, technology staff and board members. We spent weeks watching visitors wander, and hours more interviewing them about their time in the museum. We then delivered our findings in the form of a collaborative, interactive, day-long workshop with our clients.
The tablet system enables visitors to explore topics relevant to nearby art pieces, artists, and the Impressionist movement.
The color composer is based on the belief that artist Wassily Kandinsky had synesthesia. Users compose music using Kandinsky-inspired shapes and colors.
Blue Cross Blue Shield
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City came to Barkley and Moonshot to help them reimagine the healthcare experience. My team designed and conducted ethnographic research that informed their brand idea and inspired many of the key features of the Spira experience. For example, the experience design team went to work addressing paperwork issues in direct response to seeing field documentation of families keeping medical bills in laundry baskets.
We also created and delivered a two-day workshop to help unpack and deliver these insights to our clients in a way that would be unforgettable. The workshop included in-person sessions with our panel participants, where clients got to try out ideas for personalized solutions with the very people for whom they were intended. Some important lessons were learned from those face-to-face interactions!
We worked with our clients to turn the output of this workshop into a proposal for the next phases of this massive innovation project. Our proposal won board approval, and the new Spira care brand was developed and launched in January of 2018. In its inaugural open enrollment period, this new concept earned 20% of signups for participants to whom it was offered!
Workshop visuals showing findings from our ethnography
We asked people to draw their relationship to their insurance company
The New Era brand was at a crossroads. Its heritage was in baseball, and it had a dedicated core of MLB fans. In recent years, it had taken off as a pop culture phenomenon. Embraced by sports stars and high profile sports fans like Spike Lee and other celebrities, it has morphed into a symbol of urban culture. The brand was in danger of splitting into distinct and not necessarily complementary pieces.
Our job was to create a website design that would unify those two sides of the brand and allow them to live together, and to do it in conjunction with a rebranding that was announced with the anthem video, "Fly Your Own Flag."
We also had to bring together the content and commerce sides of New Era's web presence. These two important functions had previously been separated as completely divergent experiences, leaving fans a bit lost when exploring either side of New Era's house.
We created a powerful, responsive design with a flexible grid layout. The design reflected New Era's urban aesthetic and allowed them to intermingle content and commerce with the flexibility to merchandise as frequently as their marketing and sales calendars required.
This redesign kicked off a long, successful relationship with New Era that included an ongoing digital content partnership and an online cap customizer.
I never imagined my career would include helping to found and launch a virtual world for kids and their furry friends, but it did, and this project still ranks as one of the most memorable and rewarding ones of my career. It took over a year of my life and trips all over the globe to bring together the team to launch this mammoth project, and I could not have anticipated the global impact that this project would have.
Within months of launch, Build-a-Bearville had become one of the top-five virtual worlds for kids. It was a 24/7 operation attracting millions of weekly visitors and contributing significantly to Build-a-Bear Workshops retail sales.
The world was live for over seven years and attracted a loyal fanbase who loved the virtual world as much as they loved the Buld-a-Bear Workshop brand. When Build-a-Bearville was shut down, there were online petitions begging for its continuation and videos of its final moments.
Build A Bearville!
VR Exhibit - What is Here?
For the last few years, those of us in the creative tech space have been inundated with stories and case study videos of VR and AR campaigns. Many of us have spent time inside these alternative realities, but many of our clients and colleagues haven’t. So I decided to give Barkley partners and clients a chance to immerse themselves in virtual and augmented realities.
Moonshot created an exhibit called "What is Here?" It featured several of the latest VR and AR devices from Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR, to HTC Vive and Microsoft Hololens. For three months, we gave guided tours to clients, execs, creative teams and partners from all corners of the agency. We hosted VR game contests, adjudicated art competitions and had more than a little fun making people walk the VR plank.
We also brought in Framestore, the VR production company behind many of the most successful VR campaigns to date, to conduct an all-day workshop on VR concepting and production.
As one partner said, “you read about VR all the time, but I never really got it until today.” Exactly.
Jason Walks the Plank
A typical reaction to walking the VR Plank
Moonshot: What Is Here? AR & VR Exhibit
In 1996, I founded lookandfeel new media, an early digital agency which went on to earn international acclaim. We specialized in creating highly interactive, media-rich experiences. We won a client list that included Lee Jeans, VF Corp., Sprint, American Century, Cerner, Sears, Kodak, Duncan Toys, Carters, Jockey and PBS.
We grew to over 30 employees and earned international recognition. Our own website, lookandfeel.com, won over 30 international awards, including site of the year from FWA and NEM5. It is listed in the Worlds Best Website Awards Hall of Fame. We even won an Emmy for Interactive TV!
In 2005, I led the strategic acquisition process that resulted in lookandfeel being acquired by Barkley, and I joined Barkley to lead the digital services team there and to oversee the integration of digital into the core agency.
lookandfeel's website was a groundbreaking Flash site. It won over 30 national and national awards, including FWA site of the year, NEM5 site of the year and Worlds Best Websites Hall of Fame.
We launched dozens of sites for Lee Jeans, starting with the Lee Fit Finder. We launched and managed their ecommerce sites for several years.
We developed an interactive pilot for PBS called "Bark Park Place' to test ability of interactive TV to teach reading skills to kids. It won an EMMY for technical achievement.
Before we launched the Lee FitFinder website, we created an in-store kiosk. It earned Glamour Magazine's Best Technical Achievement in Denim award. This is most definitely the only award I will ever win from a fashion magazine.
We created several addictive games for Duncan Toys, including a series of Duncan Man yoyo games.
To this day, one of my favorite things we ever did was an online snowflake creator called Make-a-Flake. It attracted over an avid audience every winter break. At last count, over 31 million snowflakes had been made!