Joshua Jeffery, Experience Center Lead at Google and Founder of Evil Genius Designs

Joshua Jeffery is the former Manager of Digital Engagement at the Andy Warhol Museum. Recently, he made a leap to the for-profit world, accepting a position at Google as an Experience Center Lead where he is incorporating his past work with museums and theater (and his love of roller coasters) to design engaging visitor experiences.

In his interview, Joshua spoke to us about using technology to create engaging environments for museum visitors. He discusses how museums can develop an authentic and compelling digital presence, and how we can develop projects that will be competitive in a saturated entertainment market.

Among some of the key points raised during his interview were how a web development team can function as an advocate for their audience; how we might develop an experience that would appeal to both new and veteran visitors; and how we can approach a design problem not from the perspective of “what can this new technology do?” rather, from the standpoint of “what is the bigger issue and how can technology solve it?”

In addition to this, Joshua took the time to provide a few tips for the emerging museum professional and to talk about the challenges of striking a balance between the use of available resources, adapting new technologies, long-term project maintenance, and meeting stakeholder’s needs and expectations. In his talk, he cites Warhol’s POP App and LACMA’s newest initiative “Snapchat” as examples of institutions successfully leveraging digital and social tools in the way they were meant – by creating “killer content” and providing the bits of fun and informative information that visitors want to see.

Joshua concludes by offering up the notion that it was time that we as museum professionals start to move beyond spectacle-based technology toward a better integration of our physical and digital worlds. That is to say – it is time we start thinking about technology in terms of how it can help us to make our lives better and more engaged.

Contributed by Thomas Williams, Clay Williams, Kate Skelly, and Alison Heney

Listen to interview


  1. Julia Ross says:

    It’s interesting that Warhol Museum staff tend to look at their audience through a single lens rather than try to develop content or tech projects for different audience segments (aside from teachers). I assume that’s a much easier proposition for a smaller, single-artist museum. I wonder how many other art museums would dare to follow that approach today – it seems risky.

  2. Leslie Walfish says:

    Joshua Jeffery’s energy and excitement about digital technology and making connections with audiences to create better engagement is highly contagious. In this interview he provided a lot of great advice for anyone thinking about entering the world of museum digital development. I particularly like his statements about the role of technology in attracting audiences. He points out that people have choices, and we have to think about why they choose a museum, website, or app over other activities. We have to think about attracting visitors and keeping their interest. To be successful you must be creative and think about the bigger picture.

  3. Nicholas Griffith says:

    Wow! Wonderful back and forth! It seems that Joshua Jeffery’s greatest skill is his ability to see projects clearly for all of their nuances. Nothing is black and white, and his positivity allows him to cherry pick components that work and nourish them to grow beyond the components that don’t. Warhol is both “uptown” and “downtown”, for example. Which is certainly true, but it takes someone with an open mind to embrace this fact and use it to their advantage to create the best user experience possible. The other takeaway I really appreciated was his references to reaching out and connecting projects with the “real world”.

  4. Jessica Harvey says:

    I enjoyed listening to Joshua discuss his thoughts on technology trends “pushing us back to the real world.” He described how the Andy Warhol Museum placed Bluetooth transmitters behind artwork. When a visitor moved by a painting, the transmitter would send information, such as an audio clip or fact, to their phone. Joshua believes that we are moving away from “spectacle based technology” to using technology in simple but effective ways that improve our experiences. My guest expert, Stephanie Pau, also mentioned Bluetooth technology. She stated that SFMOMA is experimenting with Bluetooth as a way to deliver “in the moment” learning opportunities. I look forward to following this trend and seeing how other museums apply Bluetooth technology into their galleries.

  5. Claire Badgley says:

    I second Leslie’s comment that Joshua’s enthusiasm for this field of work is inspiring and contagious! I appreciated Joshua’s advice for aspiring professionals to demonstrate that you can think creatively, and use technology to solve big picture issues. I think one of the benefits of using technology in museums is that it allows certain liberties and risk taking that isn’t encouraged or available in other disciplines of museum work. With that said, museum technologists should not be afraid to express their creativity or suggest the use of technology in a variety of ways, from solving day-to-day problems in operations to creating exciting web apps or exhibit displays. I was also encouraged by Joshua’s final thoughts on where he thinks technology is heading in the future. I hope his predictions are correct in that technology can move away from spectacle based devices/experiences to more seamless and out of the way experiences that improve our connections to content and strengthen our interactions with others.

  6. Liz McCoy says:

    I heard a lot of correlations between what Joshua said and what Dana Mitroff Silvers, whom my team interviewed, with regard to thinking about using technology – Joshua, like Dana, recommends that a museum look at technology as a potential solution to an already-defined issue rather than seeing a new technology and thinking up a way to use it just because it is the new, cool thing. Dana spoke of always asking yourself why you are taking a certain approach, and I think Joshua’s points really reinforced that idea for me – a museum should never lose sight of its goals and objectives, and should see technology as a means to an end, not the end itself.

  7. Rachel Myers says:

    I really enjoyed this interview, great work team! Josh Jeffery highlighted some great perks of working in small teams or within a small institution when developing web projects. Many of our readings this semester has focused on how to create institutional wide change and Josh’s experience, with a background in interdisciplinary design work, is a great example of how digital projects can inspire cross pollination between departments.

    One thing that he touched upon that I’m still curious about is working with “students as vendors” and being sure that the institution is providing a learning opportunity that matches the value of paying for professional help. He outlined some of the benefits and challenges of bringing students into the design process, and mentioned that he often presses institutions to adopt this method which is especially interesting since our interviewee Dana Mitroff Silvers also works with students, teaching them design thinking strategies through on site museum projects.

    And the custom content for different types of members is a great idea! Touches upon a lot of concerns behind audience differentiation and membership development. Sounds like a way to address multiple user motivations and desires.

  8. Meg Thompson says:

    I really like Joshua’s perspective on technology as a tool that we should use to solve problems, not a solution in its own right. Technology for technology’s sake is never a good idea, but it’s not something that we should fear. It is simply a resource, like any other, that we can leverage to create more engagement and a better museum experience.

  9. Emily Baker says:

    What a great interview!

    The quote that struck me hardest was “When is this design to die?” Since we’ve been discussing ‘what happens next’, it’s been on my mind a lot and I was glad that Joshua addressed it directly. As much as we get attached to projects, I was surprised that he point blank said to put an end date on your work, which I’m sure can be very discouraging during the design process, yet very effective in the long run. I would guess that if you reach that end point and the app or website is still going strong and is not outdated yet, that counts as a super successful project! I wonder if Joshua has any advice for how to keep spirits up when you know you’re planning a project that will only end up being replaced rather quickly.

    I also really liked his idea of content “spigots” to better target audiences. With a museum in such a remote place yet that focuses on such a specific theme, I’m sure this is very important to keep in mind.

  10. Carolyn Bevans says:

    Like some other classmates have mentioned, Joshua’s energy is absolutely wonderful! I’m really glad Joshua touched on meeting and managing stakeholders’ needs and expectations. When managing a digital project, I’m sure this is key! Also, I LOVE the Warhol App! What a fun and engaging way to get people involved and interested!

  11. Clay Williams says:

    I really enjoy speaking with Joshua and found him very knowledgable and inspiring.

    That said, I have mixed feelings about the idea of using students as vendors.

    On one hand the experience offers the museum a means to work with energetic young developers whose imaginations may be less constrained by convention. They’re experimenting with technology in creative ways and that benefits the project. In return the students learn about professional processes through working directly with praciticing professionals. As Joshua noted it’s a “win-win.”

    On the other hand when sponsors who certainly could afford to pay for design services (Joshua mentions Disney and Lockheed Martin) but don’t, instead getting them at no charge from students, that seems a little questionable.

    I guess this relates to the debate over using unpaid internsin musuems. It’s a bit of a sensitive subject and I respect both perspectives on the question.

    What do you think?

Comments are closed.