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

    May 26, 2006

    May 17, 2006

    The Experience of Living in Our Surveillance Society

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Hamermrch2Mitch Ratcliffe, in an astute article published on his blog, Rational Rants, “Surveillance society: Growing daily?” characterizes America as a “surveillance society.” It's scary and the worst part is, this is no nightmare: it's becoming our daily reality. What price is exacted from Americans in terms of their sense of autonomy, purpose, independence, and entitled rights remains to be seen. Polls expressing majority support for the NSA's telephone surveillance of average Americans are alarming. Ratcliffe cites an article by CNET's Declan McCullagh, Congress may make ISPs snoop on you, revealing a bill in Congress to further extend and legalize the police state. It would require ISPs to turn over their Internet logs to the Feds, thus extending surveillance beyond “mere” telephone calls to the global Internet itself. By the time the civil libertarians and political historians sort this out, the psychic and civic damage may well have been done, here and abroad. We will certainly not be the people we once were.

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    May 14, 2006

    May 10, 2006

    May 9, 2006

    “America in Miniature,” in Las Vegas (and no, it's not another Wynn casino!)

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    UsdecoratorAmericans struggle to make sense of a largely unknown, sometimes hostile world -- but unfortunately, they know just as little about one another. A 2006 Geographic Literacy Study conducted by National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs revealed staggering ignorance about America's geography among 18 to 24 year olds: half of the 510 individuals sampled couldn't find New York State on a map. What goes on in that unknown region no doubt is an equal mystery for them.

    Geo-moronics are not limited to America's youngsters: compared with their overseas counterparts, American adults travel infrequently, except to a relatively few over-visited destinations. Maybe it's time America had a miniature park where Boomers, X and Y Gens, and children can learn something about their nation, their fellow Americans -- and themselves. What's a miniature park?

    Madurodam 2Tricia Vita explains in the April 2006 issue of Funworld, the IAAPA magazine. Miniature parks in Europe -- models of nations, complete with their regions and their historical landmarks -- are highly popular attractions for locals and visitors alike: informative as they are lucrative. Madurodam, in The Hague, is the most famous miniature park, but the International Association of Miniature Parks has 17 other members including parks in Turkey, Israel, the Canary Islands, and Canada. In all, there are 45 miniature parks around the world. But there's not even one in the 50 United States.

    In the Funworld article, American Russell Bekins, who helped to design the new Italia in Miniatura, tells Vita, “Europe looks to its great cities and their architecture as the maximum expression of their culture. The United States still looks to its wide open spaces,” he says. “Perhaps a miniature park of our national parks would fly.”

    Render AerialBetter than that! America in Miniature (user ID and password, “eagle”) is a real-life project led by Edward van de Meer, a former immigrant from Holland where he was a fan of Madurodam. His goal is to create a 10-acre miniature park in Las Vegas...of the United States. I was fortunate to recently speak with van de Meer, who in three years has assembled a powerhouse team able to realize his vision of America in Miniature as a national attraction.

    Like a good businessman, van de Meer can justify his enterprise on the basis of its financial viability. Indeed, his strategy and planning are vastly more sophisticated than many of the startups I've counseled. All he needs to make his dream come true is an enlightened investor. He'll find one.

    What impresses me most about van de Meer's concept is his determination to create a mirror -- not just with the miniatures, but with the crowds of visitors themselves -- in which Americans can see their full diversity. Diversity, after all, is the most notable feature of American life for those who've lived overseas, where societies tend to be less diverse. The American “mosaic” is one of the positive aspects of American culture -- American patriotism in its most benign, humane form. Guests from overseas, who typically take in only one or two American cities in a lifetime, can share in that admiration.

    A 10-acre park may seem a small endeavor in physical terms, but evaluated as a designed experience (with a sophisticated appreciation for haptic learning), van de Meer's vision is anything but small. Steve Wynn, are you listening?

    (This posting is dedicated to my former neighbor Lou, who passed away today from a recurring brain tumor. Lou, a truly gentle man, always dreamed of becoming a Rotary Club Ambassador in charge of creating miniature Americas around the country, to spread understanding and love. Rest in peace, dear Lou.)

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | ED Projects of Note

    May 5, 2006

    The Experience of Marginalization

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Inspired by Mark Vanderbeeken's great work over at Putting people first and my coauthor Paula Thornton's ever entertaining accounts of life in the experience design business, written here on TE, I hoped today to write about tangible evidence of ED as an edifying practice in everyday life. Instead, I spent nearly the entire day (other than tending to my clients' needs) prowling the Web, looking for the epicenter of experience design. I couldn't find it. Experience designers are scattered here and there, projects are happening -- a good one is the Organic City urban-storytelling website, a Webby Awards contender put together by the students at Cal State East Bay -- but to tell the truth, we're not at the center of anyone's consciousness except our own. More deserving of online (and offline) conversation are trendy items like keyword search engines, TIVO-defeating technology (“see ALL the ads!”), peace in Darfur (at last), and Brad and Angelina. One out of four that really merits attention: now, that's something!

    My ennui caused me to think long and hard about the truly marginalized: what does it mean to be ignored? The Japanese are formally correct about this: ignoring someone, even in an elevator, is just not right. (But actually, if you're someone big in Japan, you can ignore lessers.) The author Frank Norris' tells the tale in The Octopus of a murdered farmer's wife and daughter, thrown off their farm by California railroad barons and left to fend for themselves in pre-earthquake San Francisco. Looking into plush restaurants where wealthy urbanites dine unaware of the hungry faces at the window, they can only imagine the taste of fresh food:

    And upon those streets that, as the hours advanced, grew more and more deserted, more and more silent, more and more oppressive with the sense of the bitter hardness of life towards those who have no means of living, Minna Hooven spent the first night of her struggle to keep her head above the ebb-tide of the city's sea, into which she had been plunged.

    In our own time, until they marched by the millions this week, immigrants from Mexico enjoyed a similar invisibility. What is it like to be so ignored?

    Truth to tell, it's pretty much what most of us feel. Marginalized. Biologist Desmond Morris, in THE HUMAN ZOO, describes how animals form hierarchies based on desirable traits. Each individual in his or her place, each content. Human beings, unfortunately, are now so numerous, our hierarchies fail us. There's not enough room at the top. Modern corporations, government bureaucracies, and educational institutions driven by the fetish of hyper-efficiency have reduced even further opportunities for individuals to shine. Not that it doesn't happen -- but it happens less and less frequently in proportion to the numbers of people who aspire to be great in whatever it is they do. Yet we are driven to succeed.

    Religionists admonish us not to put our stock in that which we possess, fame and fortune -- but in truth, even in organized religion there are flatter hierarchies with fewer leaders at the top per adherents below. Once there was a movie about a parish priest who rose to become the Pope. Of course, per Church doctrine, there can be only one Pope, but at least in that naive time, there were many contenders. Now there are few. The deal is done.

    In art, the sciences, service industries, education, agriculture, health, human services -- name the domain and you can count its dignitaries on one hand. So what does the experience of marginalization mean for us, and for the species? Can the overwhelming number of addictions, depressions, wild acting out, oppression, and war, not just in the US but globally, be an outcome of the vast majority of human beings' experience of marginalization?

    Books have been written about this, but as the numbers of celebrated books declines and fewer books per writers are read, books that can gain enough public awareness to catalyze change become rarer, too. Even individuals who inveigh against marginalization and for the potential and dignity latent in every human experience -- they too are fewer, harder to hear among the background noise in which most expressions are submerged. Who designs for human potential anymore?

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