We create for curious minds


About Us

Esem Projects is a multi-disciplinary design studio led by Dr. Sarah Barns and Michael Killalea. As creative partners, we're constantly exploring new ways to expand the potentials of immersive, digital storytelling, in ways that connect and inspire curious minds.

Driven by research, creativity, experimentation and collaboration, we lead experiential design, placemaking and digital storytelling programs, with a focus on delivering dynamic programming outcomes for shared, outdoor spaces.

We're known for our unique approach to interweaving the digital and the physical, in ways that speak to the history and story of a place and its community. Ultimately, we love using urban media and design to bring to life the stories that shape people and places.

We collaborate widely

We're proud of our long-term collaborations with trusted creatives, clients and partners. As a multi-disciplinary practice our work contributes to a variety of industry domains: built environment, technology, cultural strategy, retail and hospitality.

Drop us a line to say hi. We’re always happy to talk.

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we work, and pay our respects to their Elders, past and present and emerging.

Featured Projects

Our Team


Michael Killalea

Co-Founder and Director

Co-Founder and Director

michael@esemprojects.comRead more

Dr. Sarah Barns

Co-Founder and Director

Strategy, Curation, Engagement and Partnerships

sarah@esemprojects.comRead more

Leif Wilson

Technical Director

Technical Direction and Installation

leif@esemprojects.comRead more

A multi-disciplinary team of creatives and designers

Co-Directors Sarah and Michael work with a trusted team of creatives and designers.

Technical Design and Delivery: Leif Wilson

Creative Strategy & Design: Jacqui Triggs

Technical Direction and Installation Services: Pete Hird

Sound Design: Gary Sinclair

Motion Design: Anna Fraser; Julian Burgess

Producers: Omee Deling, Claire Edwards

Photographers and Videographers: We work with a number of photographers appropriate to specific jobs and budgets. Past collaborators include Tobias Rowles (Sam I Am Management), Roy Weiland, David Arnold, Alan Richardson.

Illustrators: Richard Briggs; Elin Matilda Anderssen

Our Services

Strategic Design & Research

We deliver strategic design frameworks informed by deep research expertise in urban futures, storytelling, cultural strategy and design. We also design diverse digital programming typologies and engagement strategies for built environments and precincts. Instead of preparing a strategy that you can 'set and forget' we lead strategic approaches to engagement, commissioning and collaboration designed to evolve and adapt over time.

Explore some of our Strategic Design Projects.

Experiential Media & Design

We craft experiential urban media interfaces and installations for precincts and places.

Many of our experience design projects reflect our interests in creating multi-sensory immersive spaces and experiences that connect diverse disciplines, technologies, creative practices and communities.

For recent projects see our immersive public artwork Superorganism (2021) and our public space media platform STORYBOX Places (2020-21).

Digital Storytelling. Interpretation and Curatorial Design

We're a research-led practice, drawing on many years' experience working across content creation and strategy, public history, interpretation design, public engagement and storytelling. We take on ambitious research briefs, and design interpretation and engagement programs that allow complex ideas to connect with audiences in new ways.

We also collaborate widely to share stories about people and place, working with indigenous storytellers, schools, community groups, local arts and heritage groups and local councils.

Explore our Digital Projection, Interpretation and Curatorial Projects.

Design & Branding

Design projects are led by Creative Director Michael Killalea, and encompass visual communication design, brand development, digital, editorial, and experiential media design.

View a sample of our Design Services and Digital Services.

Technical Design and Installation

We work with an experienced team of audio-visual designers and technicians to deliver immersive and experiential installations and interfaces in outdoor environments. Our technical solutions are designed to be robust and resilient to withstand harsh Australian environments, from heat to storms and everything in between. We also offer technical design services to clients seeking advice on audio-visual requirements for outdoor programming.


We work across a number of different sectors: Built environment, Local government, Arts, Retail, Hospitality, and Community/NFP.

Built environment: HASSELL / Arup / GPT Group / Lend Lease / TKD Architects / Barangaroo Delivery Authority

Local Government: Port Macquarie-Hastings Council / Bathurst Regional Council / Inner West Council / Liverpool City Council / Newcastle City Council

Higher Education: Australian National University / University of NSW / Western Sydney University

Retail & Hospitality: PKD Design / Betty's Burgers / Sokyo / Cocos Republic / Will & Toby's

Federal & State Government: Arts SA, CSIRO, Enterprise Connect, Data 61

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