TOTAL EXPERIENCE explores designing for experience: its theory, its practice, and how designing for experiences affects us socially and in our personal lives.


  • Bob Jacobson
  • Paula Thornton
  • BOB JACOBSON is fascinated by the experience of experience. A planner and technologist, Bob has a Ph.D. in Urban Planning & Design from UCLA. He's been a policy researcher, technology CEO, science writer, and consultant. As a Fulbright Scholar, he studied cellular telephony's impacts on transborder communities in the Nordic Arctic Circle. Bob edited Information Design (MIT Press 2000) and is now writing a book on the theory and practice of creating edifying, transformative experiences.
    ( Archive | Contact Bob )
    CORANTE PAULA THORNTON says, "Understanding human behavior (economics), optimizing interactions (design) and facilitating conversations (markets), are the means to achieve strategic differentiation. This is the focus of our discipline. It is not a 'nice to have'‚ and is not, like documentation once was, an afterthought. It is the means by which to start a strategic discussion and the means by which to drive a tactical initiative. All design should be evidence-based."
    ( Archive | Contact Paula ) >

    (Courtesy of Mark Vanderbeeken, Experientia SpA, Torino)

    Experience Design Websites
    Core 77 Website & Forum
    Business Week|Innovate
    InfoD: Understsanding by Design
    The Wayfinding Place
    Wayfinding Focus
    Design Addict
    L-ARCH (Landscape Architecture Mailing List)
    DUX 2007 Conference
    Digital Thread
    Enmeshed, Digital Arts & New Media
    Ludology (Game Playing Theory)
    Captology, Persuasive Computing
    Space and Culture
    Raskin Center for Humane Interfaces
    timet (acoustical design)
    Steve Portigal, Ethnographer
    Jane McGonigal's Avant Game
    Ted Wells' living : simple
    PingMag (Japan)

    Experience Design Blogs
    Adam Greenfield's Speedbird
    Experience Designer Network (Brian Alger)
    SmartSpace: Annotated Environments (Scott Smith)
    Don Norman
    Doors of Perception (John Thackara)
    Karl Long's Experience Curve
    Work•Play•Experience (Adam Lawrence)
    The David Report (David Carlson)
    Design & Emotion (Marco van Hout)
    Museum 2.0 (Nina Simon)
    B J Fogg
    Lorenzo Brusci (acoustics)
    Cool Town Studios
    Steve Portigal
    Debbie Millman
    MIT Culture Convergence Consortium
    Luke Wroblewski, Functioning Form|Interface Design
    Adam Richardson
    Putting People First (Paul Vanderbeeken/Experientia
    Laws of Simplicity (John Maeda)
    Challis Hodge's UX Blog
    Anne Galloways's Purse Lips Square Jaw
    Bruno Giussani's Lunch over IP
    Jane McGonigal's Avant-Game The Future of Work

    Experience Design Podcasts
    Ted Wells' living : simple Podcast
    Design Matters Podcast, Debbie Millman
    Icon-o-Cast Podcast, Lunar Design

    Experience Design Firms and ED-Oriented Manufacturers
    Barry Howard Limited
    Hilary Cottam
    LRA Worldwide, Inc.
    BRC Imagination Arts
    Stone Mantel
    Experientia s.r.l
    Herman Miller
    Cooper Interactive Design
    Doblin Group
    Fit Associates
    Strategic Horizons LLC (Joe Pine & Jim Gilmore)
    Cheskin Fresh Perspectives

    Education and Advocacy
    Centre for Design Research, Northumbria University (UK)
    Center for Design Research, Stanford University
    International Institute of Information Design (IIID)
    Design Management Institute
    Interaction Institute IVREA
    Design Research Institute (UK)
    UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Design Research
    History of Consciousness, UCSC
    Design News Magazine
    Society for Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD)
    Design Museum London
    Center for Sustainable Design
    Horizon Zero, Digital Arts+Culture in Canada
    Design Council UK
    First Monday

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    Monthly Archives

    September 30, 2004

    Customer Experience Is the Brand

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    I'm not one to support the mention of brand and experience in the same phrase, but there is one brand that has been around for a long time that has always embraced a deep understanding of customer needs: REI.

    Featured in a Fast Company article "Smart Strategies: Putting Ideas to Work" one of the most telling statements was: "No longer content with the emotional imagery of advertising campaigns, shoppers now demand experiences in exchange for brand loyalty." But there's a lot that the article misses about this particular company and its relationship with customers.

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Experience Design & Technology

    September 14, 2004

    Garbage Truck.

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson


    Yes, it IS a problem, International Harvester.

    Your new CXT "pickup," twice the cost of a Hummer and at six tons (!), considerably larger -- has "all the attributes of a commercial truck [it's based on a "severe service truck"], but you don't need a commercial driver's license to drive it." Just great.

    It will turn our roads into a more brutish environment and make driving nastier.

    The CXT promises to further trash the atmospheric environment, hastening global warming.

    A passenger car of sorts, it uses scarce petroleum at rates unprecedented in the history of personal transportation.

    International is mad to sell this truck. Truly megalomanic design, the experience it promotes best is -- gluttony.

    Image Source: International Harvester

    Comments (14) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary

    September 9, 2004

    Experience trumps materialism as economic driver, writes NYT economy commentator Virginia Postrel.

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    "For successful restaurants, aesthetics is no longer an afterthought. Customers are paying for memories, not just fuel. What's true for restaurants is true across the economy. New economic value increasingly comes from experiences."

    So writes Virginia Postrel in a telling article, "The New Trend in Spending," appearing in today's New York Times' "Economic Scene."

    Vance Packard wrote about the selling of experience in The Hidden Persuaders, a bestselling screed on advertising's manipulation of emotions published in the 1950s and republished several times since. More recently, Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore's The Experience Economy and Bern Schmitt's Experiential Marketing make a more seasoned case for the same phenomena.

    What's significant about the historical moment in which we live is that efforts to sell consumers on "the intangibles" finally seems to be gaining traction. It will dominate design practice and marketing in years to come, as physical commodities become more dear and the cost of creating experiences declines.

    caesars-palace2.jpgAccording to Postrel, design of experience is squarely in the economic driver's seat, at least so far as consumer spending is concerned. Providing experiences is good business. Here's the rest of Postrel's thesis:

    "Americans have not stopped buying stuff, of course. (Indeed, there's a whole industry devoted to organizing our pantry-like closets.) But the marginal value of tangibles versus intangibles has shifted. That many manufactured goods are also getting cheaper only intensifies the trend.

    "Products as well as services increasingly distinguish themselves through aesthetics, adding emotional value to practical use. This trend confounds those who equate "quality" with function.

    "Hence a recent Dilbert comic strip satirizes a product designer who declares: "Quality is yesterday's news. Today we focus on the emotional impact of the product."

    "In fact, the trend toward emotional value is exactly what psychological research would predict. Particularly as incomes rise, people find that additional experiences give them more pleasure than additional possessions."

    Image: Caesar's Palace
    Hotel Shopping Mall Interior

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary

    September 2, 2004

    David Pogue on The 0.99 Scam

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    99cents.jpg Pricing is a big part of a user's product experience. The New York Times' David Pogue, in his most recent "Circuits" column, publishes responses to his screed last week on the "0.99 Scam." Among the reasons given as the origin of "0.99" was this bit of industrial archaeology:

    "I believe that the origin of 99-cent pricing goes back to JC Penny to keep his employees honest." (Various other readers cited Mr. Macy, Mr. Woolworth and Mr. Sears.) "At 99 cents, they would be forced to open the cash register to give change. When the price was an even dollar, employees would be more tempted simply to pocket the bill."

    Another reader observes, "See, that's why the Sacagawea coin never caught on. We don't need a one dollar coin — we need a 99 cent coin." Are there pricing specialists, like branding specialists?

    (Image Source:

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Odds and Ends: Random Observations

    September 1, 2004

    Surviving in Auditory Hell - My Take

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    Posted by Tom Mulhern

    So to turn the corner from experience observation - home offices come with uncontrolled, unwelcome noise - to Experience Design...

    While you work at home, you'd prefer a "Suburban Office" soundscape. While I sit in a hotel room, I might feel more at home with a "Suburban Family after Dinner" soundscape. Soundscape Architects could either crank out generic soundscapes or develop custom packages. They could use either recorded or real-time sound gathered from either similar or completely custom sources.

    The design part is to figure out the right place between living completely with the sound of the place you're in and experiencing completely the sound of the actual place you want to be.

    Early versions of this are of course in place, from Muzak to Sound Machines

    Reality is that your neighbors want to pay for heavy equipment gardening, and figure, with some reason, that people at home are not trying to concentrate on work. To change that reality - asking them to not use power tools, persuading them to hire Japanese specialists, exposing them to your need for quiet - is hard. To design around it with Soundscapes will be to treat your acoustic reality the same way we've grown accustomed to treating weather reality - as optional. But audio reality - as people talking on cellphones in public are learning, and as people listening to Walkmans and Boomboxes before them learned - is part of the negotiated social arena. And what we do to alter it has consequences for our relationships with others.

    Of course this is all a matter of degree. When you alter weather reality by sitting in your home on a sweltering day with the AC cranked all the way up, you distance yourself pretty dramatically from the lives of the guys pushing around the (loud) mowers outdoors....

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Odds and Ends: Random Observations

    Affordable Solutions for Better Dying

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    Posted by Steve Portigal

    Reuters reports that a promotion at Saudi Arabia's first IKEA store led to three trampling deaths when more than 70,000 people showed up to claim one of 50 vouchers worth $150. When we hear news of trampling deaths from Saudi Arabia, it's usually in connection with the Hajj, an annual pilgramage to Mecca. Fans of retail globlization stories will note the strong cultural contrast between today's IKEA story and the opening of the Tokyo Apple store a while back.


    (posted by Steve Portigal)

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Odds and Ends: Random Observations