Jake Barton On How He Built Emotion Into Algorithms For The 9/11 Memorial

Highlights from Barton’s talk at the Fast Company Masters of Design event last month.

Editors’ note: Late last month, the designerati descended upon Stephen Weiss Studio in Manhattan to celebrate Fast Company’s annual Masters of Design issue. Over the next few weeks, we’ll post video excerpts from the event, which included lively conversations with a clutch of the design innovators featured in the magazine. Today’s spotlight: Jake Barton of Local Projects, a studio best known for designing the algorithm that grouped 9/11 victims by affinity (instead of alphabetically) at the Ground Zero memorial.


Here, Barton talks about the uptapped potential for interface design to help people connect with each other emotionally, citing, as an example, his own work at Ground Zero:

Developing an algorithm to convey personal relationships between 3,500 victims, based on the demands of 1,800 family members, was no easy task. Barton details the challenges:

In the end, all that hard work paid off, allowing the design team to give victims’ families a more meaningful memorial. Barton shares some of their stories:

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.