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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    September 10, 2005

    Relaunching Total Experience

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    View image
    It’s time to relaunch Total Experience. Summer’s sloth is over, fiscal years are ready to begin, and it’s time to bring in the harvest.

    Paula’s and my experience leads us to an unavoidable conclusion, one that has yet to percolate thoroughly within the experience-design community: to become a professional practice, and to be taken as the same, experience design needs constraints. So, how do we characterize “experience design,” its content and boundaries? What gives it value and meaning?

    Here’s a definition we’re batting around:

    Experience design is about the design of environments -- from conception through deployment – that convey an idea, engender an emotion, and catalyze action.

    Put another way, for our purposes, immersive sensorial environments created by experience designers generate affects that result in effects. We are what we experience.

    Paula and I propose a practical purpose for TE: to identify, critique, and recommend exceptional experience design that’s happening today. Here’s an indicative list of issues and cases that we hope to address over the next six months, things that matter to us (in no particular order):

    * Designing Experience Design: Creating Our profession
    * Interdisciplinary/holistic/synergistic/integrated Design
    * Las Vegas: Our National Exhibition of Experience Design?
    * Case Study: Designing the Washington Mutual Experience
    * Case Study: Designing the Starbucks Experience
    * The Evolution of the Shopping Mall
    * Sports Arenas: Minimal Design, Maximal Experience
    * Who Will Be The David Macauley of Experience Design?
    * The Design and Consequence of Refugee Camps
    * Macro-Experience Design: RAND’s “Arc” for Palestine
    * Virtual Environments: The Skew of Military Patronage
    * Envisioning the “Learning Environment,” 1880-2005
    * The Coming Surgical Room
    * Hell House: Sin, Redemption, and a Lot of Fake Blood
    * Where Does Experience Design Reside: In the Plan, Its Implementation, or the Experiencer?

    While you send us your comments, we’re going to get going, developing TE in practice while we develop experience design in theory. Welcome to the relaunch of Total Experience!

    -- Bob Jacobson, Co-Author

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: TE Blog

    September 7, 2005

    September 2, 2005

    Survival Mode

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Heartfelt concern and positive thoughts go out to the families whose lives have been disrupted by Hurricane Katrina. [All of my Cajun relatives were all but spared just as Katrina veered east.]

    Hurricane katrina.jpgWithout intent to diminish the dire circumstances of individuals whose lives have been drastically changed by this event, therein lies a great object lesson. Suddenly, there is no 'normal'. Moreso than recent catastrophies, the situation in New Orleans suggests that recovery may not only be long, but may simply not be worth it for some – both for those with little and for those with 'more'. Some have quickly adapted and have used the upheaval to redefine their lives. A distant relative, a restauranteur, has moved his family into an apartment in Baton Rouge and is already pursuing new business plans there, with plans to permanently relocate.

    While our professional goals tend to focus on trying to make things 'better', sometimes there is need to simply focus on survival -- to give singular attention to making basic corrections before adding embellishments, or perhaps to simply switch direction altogether. Often, businesses miss subtle 'survival' opportunities because nothing stops. Nothing draws attention to the situation.

    When an o-ring fails on a rocket booster system, the results are catastrophic. Businesses can often operate for years with many just-ever-so-slightly-impared o-rings that manage to allow them to function — perhaps less optimally.

    And then again, sometimes, just as in the case of the fatal o-rings, someone has spoken the truth of the situation. From the 'inside view' of many companies I've often found an unspoken truth: denial. No one wants to admit anything that might be percieved as failure. Once in my career I discovered that a regularly published report had not been accurately designed (it was mis-reporting data). Once corrections were made, I was prevented from 'celebrating' the report corrections to the recipients (e.g. "We recently discovered and have fixed..."). I was forbidden from telling them that the reports had changed at all -- to do so would have supposedly implicated 'failure' on the part of the Director.

    This is offered as a simple testament that the greatest forces of destructive turbulence are often quiet and unspoken. Our challenge may be a responsibility to infuse greater tolerance for honesty and forthrightness. Change is difficult, but deep pride presents a high hurdle that can trip up the path to a noble goal.

    Where are the business writings on effective ways to mitigate and influence rampant pride? We need insights to relevant approaches to be more effective in our efforts.

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