Burke Museum

The Burke Museum is a local museum in Seattle that has built a legacy on "collecting objects that help us understand how the Northwest has grown and changed." In 2019, the Burke Museum went through a major renovation, intending to create an "inside-out" approach when presenting artifacts and information, through the use of glass windows and clear visual context to research conducted inside the building.

Over the course of six weeks, our team worked with volunteers and researchers at the Burke Museum to create a mobile experience that encapsulates a holistic view of the Burke's research and connects visitors interested in natural history and science to the context and findings that researchers uncover on a daily basis.


Jan 2020-—Mar 2020 (3 months)


Hani Kruger
Minhyung (Jasper) Kim
Casey Jabbour


Research & Product Strategy
Interaction flows
Visuals & motion prototyping

How can we increase visitor engagement using Burke’s unique "inside-out" approach to research before, during and after visits?


For the duration of this project, me and my team were collectively involved in the research planning, strategy, and task flows stages of the project. I was in charge of designing wireframes, creating the user flows, and conducting usability testing for the in-museum experience.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this project was cancelled prior to its completion. Over the summer, I took it upon myself to also redesign my portion of the project and make visual refinements to the app.


Personalize Your Visit

Prior to their future visit, visitors can select topics and updates that they may interested in exploring more within the Burke.


Get Updated

After setting up preferences, visitors will be able to read through upcoming events and research updates they are able to take part in.


Explore the Exhibits

Through a virtual voice-activated assistant, visitors will be able to learn more about certain artifacts with more context and insight from researcher's audio recordings and artifact scanning.


Follow Collections

Upon conclusion of their visit, visitors can track the story of artifacts they've seen and will be given real-time updates from researchers themselves.

We first asked, how do visitors and volunteers interact within the museum’s new “open-exhibit” format?

When we first began to conduct research into the exhibits, we noticed the following insights:

  • Burke's main source of visitor engagement is through strong interactions with museum staff and ongoing nightly events. Because of staffs' passion within their work, visitors become more inspired by the content and are more likely to return.

  • Research is an integral part to the Burke's culture and engagment model; however it's difficult to present to or engage visitors knowledge without guidance from staff members.

  • Exhibits don’t translate information and insight in a way visitors can understand because they often do not map to a visitor’s mental model.

By enabling this connection, returning visitors would be able to not only allow visitors to check up on how an aspect of the Burke has changed, but it would enrich their knowledge and understand how their world works on a deeper level.

Design Principles


By creating a more immersive experience which encourages curiosity, museum patrons are more inclined to visit more often or come back in the first place.


All museum patrons should be able to access additional resources to view and apply their own observations to the exhibit itself.


When viewing the exhibit, people are limited to the amount of information that the exhibit entails, and don’t inform the context surrounding the topics presented.


This application should allow museum patrons to further engage with the museum rather than replacing the in-person experience.

Mapping User Journeys

Once we established the direction that was considered the best for both visitors and the Burke's core values, we plotted out events and actions of an average visitor onto a journey map, in order to best strategize how to best integrate research within their exhibit.


Prioritizing Areas of Focus

By using the opportunities we found to be the most helpful in the Burke’s experience, we identified three primary goals in which how we could increase retention with nature enthusiasts to come back to the Burke:

  • Provide a personalized learning experience to visitors
  • Encourage repeat visits through engaging content
  • Create a direct link to researchers and their work

Designing the In-Museum Flow

Why are we using a voice assistant for the in-museum experience?

  • It would be accessible to the Burke's audience of older nature enthusiasts.
  • It tied into the Burke's main principle to utilize technology with the least amount of intrusion into the holistic museum experience.
  • It would be able to bridge the gap between science enthusiast and researcher when there is no one available to thoroughly establish that connection.

Brainstorming Voice Interface Ideas

Based on user feedback and co-brainstorming, I found that most questions that come from the Burke's exhibits fall into two categories: researcher insight and artifact details. To address this, I drafted up two different user flows and used those to create specific VUI flows that would showcase specific intents, utterances and slots. 

From there, I then sketched up potential wireframes that would act as a visual aid assisting the voice-prominent experience. Once I felt I was ready, I put sketches up into Figma and started prototyping.


Scenario 1 - Listening to Insights

Original Insight

Research is an integral part to Burke’s culture; because the people who work there are so passionate about their work, visitors become more likely to return to the Burke.


Visitors have the opportunity to ask Tom for a listen to a short, pre-recorded audio excerpt from researchers, featuring content based on their location within the museum (via wireless beacon technology). In addition, visitors would also be granted access to a transcript to accomodate for older generations of visitors.


Scenario 2: Identifying an Artifact

Original Insight

Exhibits don’t translate information and insight in a way visitors can understand because they often do not map to a visitor’s mental model.


To prevent users from relying heavily on their phones throughout their process, Tom possesses an artifact scanning tool can only be accessed when a user is requesting to find the name of a specific fossil. This would allow users to learn more about their exhibit, and ultimately encourage to facilitate further discussion with the museum staff.


User Testing

Throughout the process, I conducted a series of table reads, participatory sessions, and remote Wizard-of-Oz user testing sessions (remotely) in order to ensure I best established empathy and connection with our primary user base and reduced error whenever possible.


Visual Accessibility

When challenged to think about accessibility, our group realized it would be necessary that certain groups that would fall into our user group would require this necessity. As a result, we researched the WCAG requirements and created a design system that provide high contrast to signifiers and strong discoverable features that could display feedback effectively.


What I Learned


It is very easy as a designer to simply hypothesize what we think users are going to do in certain situations. From conducting research and performing usability testing, I learned that the only way to understand if your idea or experiments works is through users themselves. If they can't use it, then it's not a good product you're designing.


Instead of trying to create a polished product, I learned that it's more important to ideate and sketch by hand in order to generate a more refined solution.


Things to Improve

Before we were expected to create a final presentation in front of stakeholders at the Burke, the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down. However, given the feedback we were given on our experience, this is what I would have done to better improve:

  • Create a heuristic evaluation and test based on retention and engagement metrics
  • Expand the scale of the in-museum experience to other areas of expertise, such as event engagement and artifact comparison
  • Explore museum signage and markers to indicate audio-focused knowledge from researchers
© 2023 Adam Ahmed. All rights reserved.