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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    June 29, 2006

    Good-bye Magic Mountain? "Mega-Monsters" vanquished by shopping malls.

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Top Nav Logo MagicmountainThe impending sale or more likely, closure of one of LA's landmark entertainment venues, Six Flags Magic Mountain, is analyzed by Theme Park Insider's Robert Niles in "Good-bye Magic Mountain? Six Flags puts six parks up for sale or closure.". Faced with declining revenues and more advantageous land-development opportunities, Six Flags, Inc., a holding company, has put six of its properties on the block (including, besides Magic Mountain, Elitch Gardens in downtown Denver, Darien Lake near Buffalo,, Wild Waves and Enchanted Village outside Seattle, Six Flags Waterworld in Concord, and Six Flags Splashdown in Houston).

    D TatsuMagic Mountain is home to six world-class roller-coasters, including the new Tatsu, a so called “mega-monster” ride. What will happen to them if Magic Mountain is closed down remains to be seen. Their fate could be a bellwether of what lies ahead for other highly-engineered roller-coasters and experience rides. While they may be dismantled, finding new homes for them may prove a problem -- for exactly the same reason that Magic Mountain is imperiled: rising land prices in urban regions where theme parks generally are located.

    I'm reminded of Santa Monica's once-splended Pacific Ocean Park, which when it expired turned into an ugly ruin of rusty pilings a quarter-mile offshore. (No land-development possibilities here!) So far as I know, none of POP's rides survived its demise. Most were kitschy, but some, like the Flight to Mars and the Diving Bells, were unique experiences at the time, strangely immersive and up-close despite their apparent simplicity.

    In the case of Magic Mountain, land economics is in the driver's seat. The park in the past was plagued by gangs, deaths attributed to careless ride maintenance, and an over-emphasis on “youth culture” marketing -- ignoring the fact that families spend far more at theme parks than teenagers. Recently, however, Magic Mountain seemed to have gotten its act together. Although reports of closed rides and inadequate crowd control persist, the park's marketing is definitely more universal than before and the new rides, like Tatsu, are drawing crowds. But it's simply more profitable, as LA expands into Magic Mountain's neighborhood, to turn land in LA into homes and shopping malls. So extreme experiences will give way to mundane ones. Such is life in our Age of Hyper-Commerce.

    Niles offers this tragic observation:

    It'd be ironic if Magic Mountain were sold off for real estate development, given that real estate development is the reason the park was built in the first place. Magic Mountain was not always a Six Flags park. Its builder and original owner was the Newhall Land Company, the developer that built many of the communities around the park. Newhall Land thought it needed a big attraction to lure families over the pass from the San Fernando Valley into the Santa Clarita. So it contracted SeaWorld's designers and built Magic Mountain. How ironic, now, that the park might fall victim to the success of the real estate market it was built to inspire.

    More homes, more homes!

    Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings

    June 25, 2006

    MySpace plows the field but leaves it fallow.

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    MUCH OF MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE is virtual, existing online via networks. I accord the virtual world the same importance in my life as the material world; and increasingly, so do many others. Thus I thought I'd share with you my impressions of MySpace, the giant online community. (This essay was first published on the mailing list of the LA men's professional group, METal, Media-Entertainment-Technology Alliance.) My conclusion: MySpace broke new ground enrolling so many users to its services, but its unexpected success is mainly the result of unplanned viral marketing. The MySpace experience itself is unsatisfying. MySpace's 85 million users deserve better and someone needs to give it to them -- in a totally different format, in smaller online communities based on real bonds of interest and avocation, not just the thrill of unrequited love. -- Bob

     41320905 Myspace 203IS RUPERT MURDOCK THE WORLD'S CANNIEST BUSINESSMAN because his News Corp. paid merely $580 million for the social-network-based online community, MySpace, or did he buy a pig in a poke, and a skinny one at that? This question is important, because MySpace frequently is held forth as the paragon of social-network-based online communities, a model for similar future endeavors. My conclusion: unless it has secret reformation plans for MySpace that are sweeping and successful, News Corp. paid a lot for a little.

    I've been “social networking” since 1975 when, at USC, I first played Asteroids on the ARPANET against UCLA's Computer Science Department and Cal-Tech's Army of Nerds. I later got involved with BBSs (setting up the nation's first legislative BBS in the State Capitol), The WELL, USENET, and online communities on the Web. Because two of my current clients are in the social-networking business, I decided to join the youth-oriented MySpace, despite my advanced age (57, see below). I wanted to find out for myself, through actual experience, what all the noise and fury was about.

    Some context. MySpace was created by a couple film students at UCLA as a way of getting in touch with their friends for networking; dating; and sharing writing, new music and video, and news about social events. Through word of mouth and online messaging, it became popular among the youth crowd, growing like Topsy. It now numbers (according to MySpace) nearly 86 million users. In dollar terms, when News Corp. bought MySpace, then serving 84 million users, Rupert paid about $7 for each user. Since users pay nothing for the service, this is charity until such time as MySpace starts valorizing its purchase through service fees, advertising, or some other arrangement.

    MySpace is almost a mirror image of FriendFinder, an old (by Internet time) and highly profitable match-making service owned by the mysterious Palo Alto-based
    Various, Inc. To the FF framework, MySpace has added various other functions -- like sharing audios and videos -- thrown in for good measure (and I mean, thrown). I'm surprised that the highly litigious Various, which has a history of suing to protect its properties, hasn't taken action against MySpace. My guess is that Various hasn't done a good job of protecting the specific features and functions that constitute FriendFinder -- providing users with profiles, matching on profiles, making Friends, communicating via internal IMs, forming Groups, and so forth -- and that MySpace merely reverse-engineered the lot. Maybe Various will take action now that MySpace is part of a deep-pockets organization. Or maybe it will avoid a bruising encounter with News Corp. in hopes of doing some sort of future deal. These are just my hunches.

    About a week ago, I browsed over to MySpace and registered -- a simple process obviously susceptible to spammers and imposters -- and was provided with a Profile. A Profile is a personal user home page on which you compose your display page. On the display page is shown a required photograph (a separate page is provided for additional photos, although you can also incorporate personal photos in the customizable page design) and personal information regarding lifestyle, appearance, interests, and activities. This data is collected via questionnaires, some with standard answers and others that invite essays in response. You can also display pictures of your Friends and their comments to you (usually banal and frequently suggestive, one step short of prohibited profanity). Friends are other users who accept invitations you send out asking them to become Friends. Friends, it turns out, are easy to come by, even from famous individuals, because they obligate no one to anything and are a way of extending networks within MySpace that can be used for commercial announcements, previews of musical and video releases, and so forth. MySpace policy prohibits display of commercial information, but enforcement appears lax and would in fact eliminate one of the sine qua non enticements that contributes to MySpace's huge claimed population.

    Other things you can do on MySpace include email and instant messaging to other MySpace users, calendaring of events, bulletin announcements to Friends, joining user-created Groups on thousands of topics, and blog on anything you like. I've observed that the Groups display a long-tail configuration (not surprising), with a very few Groups in each category comprising large numbers of users and most relatively few. Also, email messages and even more, IMs sent among users tend to be chatty, cursory and not very informative. Maybe this is less true of users who have forged long-term relationships, but I also observed in the short time I've been on that there is a mighty churn within MySpace. Ardent use falls off after one has accumulated dozens or hundreds of Friends and discovers that this doesn't produce the desired result, dozens or hundreds of emails or other acknowledgements. In fact, the exchanges tend to be brief and shallow.

    I'd heard a lot about how MySpace users customize their pages, and that this was a big factor in acquiring younger users as well as publicizing music, videos, events, etc. Customization is simple using freely downloadable code provided by many vendors (who also offer other simple tools for MySpace users, including packaged questionnaires for incorporation in a Profile). One look at a fairly large, subjective sample of Profiles convinced me that customization, while fun, isn't MySpace's best feature. The customized Profiles I encountered ran from the cute to the complicated to the incomplete -- but honestly, most were ugly, illegible, or superfluous, distracting from the content (which also was mostly trivial). I tried to use the Networking tool to connect with other professionals in Internet consulting, marketing and design, and movie production/screenwriting. My efforts were unproductive. The search mechanism is too primitive to provide precise results and besides, any user can qualify for inclusion in any category. You'd be surprised how many Lap Dancers there are on MySpace, not to mention Musicians. Most of the Profiles I saw featured photo pages of people doing average things, parties and such. Many of the users, to get dates, enhance their self-esteem, or get dates, provide pictures of themselves scantily attired: I never saw so many bikini and lingerie portraits of women. To be fair, some Profiles are classy productions, but notable precisely because they are classy -- and rew.

    The age distribution of users on MySpace in absolute terms is diverse, as you might expect of any global system with 86 million degrees of freedom. Conceivably, you can find someone fitting any combination of age, gender, preferences, geography, and professional affiliation -- but in fact, most of the users I encountered in my searches turned out to be in the 18-35 age range. A substantial number are younger than that (avoided by the others because of their age); but proportionally, few are older. This may account for the limited knowledge, questionable literacy, and conformity that characterizes MySpace exchanges, most of which revolve in one way or another around sex, drugs, and rock and roll; also, art, trendy philosophy, and the afore mentioned bikini photos and videos. Among MySpace members in our neighborhood, a lot of the exchange centers on getting gigs in show biz as musicians, producers, models, and other high-glamor jobs. It felt as if 95% of it was fantasy and personal ambitions unrealized, although a fair number of the local Profiles feature individuals who work in the industry. I'm stunned by how many display their salaries as “$250,000 or more.” (Displaying your salary is an option. Who in their right mind earning such an income would so lamely alert the IRS?)

    By the time my first week on MySpace had ended, I'd amassed about 36 Friends (including the adult film star Nina Hartley, whom I admire for her literacy, pioneering lifestyle, safe but liberal sex advocacy, and early demonstration that even adult film stars can control their own careers). Tom Anderson, one of the UCLA film students who created MySpace, is the mandatory first Friend of every user (though you can discard if you like: having an exchange with Tom or any identifiable individual responsible for MySpace's operations is a virtual impossibility). I didn't get me much email from my Friends, however, except usually for a first, cordial hello. I did make a local Friend who shares many professional interests in computer graphics. She invited me to accompany her and a friend to see Sergio Mendes at the Hollywood Bowl, which I appreciated. We even made plans to meet in person, over green tea.

    Whether my new friend and I will actually meet is problematic, because one week into my MySpace experience, my graphically correct, literate, and even provocative Profile -- with daily blog entries -- was deleted. I don't know the reason why. I've asked MySpace, through the typical Customer Support form, to investigate. The only thing I did that could have prompted such a draconian act was to post a bulletin announcing this weekend's Santa Monica Main Street SOULstice Festival. In some Broadband Defender's addled estimation, this may have constituted breaking the prohibition against commercial announcements, but the Festival is a community event. Its many “commercial” sponsors include pet shops, an FM station, a local bank, and such other small-time operators as traditionally help community events offset their inevitable losses. Oh yeah, there's also a Sidewalk Sale happening. Whatever the reason, I'm very disappointed that my Profile vanished overnight without any warning from MySpace.

    This brings up a technical issue. Maybe my Profile disappeared because of a bug in the system. MySpace is always reporting maintenance outages of various subsystems. Whenever you invoke an operation, a wide variety of URLs display on your browser's status bar as information is shuttled around what must be history's most kludged network of servers. Often these servers (like YouTube, which many users employ as an archive for linking content to MySpace Profiles) aren't even a part of MySpace. Quality control is abysmal. Undoubtedly News Corp. is sinking millions into improving service and security; but ultimately, if MySpace is going to operate, let alone scale, with any degree of reliability, the entire infrastructure needs replacement.

    So now to the big question: how is News Corp. going to make any revenues from MySpace, recoup its investment of $600 million in a reasonable time, or realize profits? Already there are click-through referrals to other vendors (like and you can sense the ghosts of advertising hovering. But even the best-designed social-network-based online communities have difficulty targeting their users as advertisers require. And MySpace is hardly among the best-designed: we're talking about a technical operation held together by chewing gum and an heterogeneous population of users in widely separated geographies, cultures, and subcultures from around the world, whose self-identification and personal information (collected via the Profiles) are questionable and, in many cases, downright fraudulent.

    Yes, yes, it's been argued that MySpace is News Corp.'s best effort to gain some ground in the race to go online that almost left it behind for good. And also, that anything that gives you access to almost 90 million users is brilliant, even if 75 or 80 million of them don't actively participate. This logic is specious. For a lot less money, you can buy a smaller but more focused, more active, and lucrative online community. (My partner belongs to
    All Nurses, a simple but functional and active forum that claims tens of thousands of nurses as members. Unless I'm selling iPods, Nikes, or musical recordings in a decidedly youth-oriented genre, that's where I'd put my money.

    In conclusion, from my experience, MySpace provides the proof, taken to the extreme, that vertically organized online communities are more useful and profitable than the horizontally organized mass online communities promoted collectively as “Web 2.0.” Imagine if those 90 million were divvied up and populated online communities that were composed of qualified members, well segmented. That's what I'm talking about.

    I'm only a sample of one, however. Others may have had more edifying experiences. If so, I'd like to hear about them. I republished my MySpace Profile, recreated from scratch, this evening. If there's any way to do it better, I'd like to know it. So would my clients. Your comments, as always, are welcome.

    Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary

    June 20, 2006

    June 19, 2006

    June 18, 2006

    June 16, 2006

    The Experience of Work

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Alarm ClockAnyone who's been self-employed knows the terror of time. For the self-employed, there is no time clock, but there are no vacations, either. Because time is endless, it's tempting to put off necessary tasks and do something more enjoyable. There's always time to get the job done, later on. It's even more difficult for those of us engaged in professions with a large social component. A writer I heard on the Marketplace radio program, a self-proclaimed workaholic, tackled the issue after his son moved back home and just sat in front of the TV, not working. Not working? Not working! Then he realized that as a writer about culture, he himself always took time in the morning to read the New York Times. Then listen to the NPR news. Then take a brisk walk. Then check out CNN. After lunch and some modest writing, he listens to Fresh Air. Over dinner, NPR news again. And because he's writing about society, he watches the iconic The Sopranos. There's virtue in not working, he discovered. But little pay. (BTW, if any reader recognizes the book, which was published recently, please tell me the title and author's name.)

    Being self-employed results in spurts of productive activity that are heavily leavened with unaccountability and slackery. In my experience, the spurts result in dramatic creativity and innovation. But slackery is always an issue.

    ChildmillsThe genius of the Industrial Age was the invention of employers who organized people's work lives to gain maximum management control and, allegedly, higher productivity (income from sales/investment in labor, i.e., employees). Mumford believed that this practice had its origins in agrarian Europe, when large town clocks were installed that could be heard in the fields, signalling the serfs when to plow the sod. (For a wonderful iconography of the clock, see designer Christian Hubert's Clock.) Whenever it began, industrial organization results in a continuous stream of tasks being assigned and undertaken. When Henry Ford combined this process of rationalizing workers' time with the assembly line, he invented mass production (an invention that radical sociologist Antonio Gramsci lovingly named Fordism”). It was only a matter of time (there's that word again) until all employees became subject to its dictates.

    Hdr 760 Thurs 930Now almost all companies require continuous labor from their employees, allowing only for lunches, vacations, maternal and military leave (only because they're legislated), and occasional bouts of shopping online. The modest time that workers formerly used for personal purposes is now monitored, in the factory and in the office. The result in the office is a sensation like standing under a waterfall, with reports and phone calls and email cascading down -- and the flow seems eternal. You can step out at day's end, but you're going to get drenched again tomorrow. That sort of monotony ("single-tonedness") is one of the reasons why a show like The Office(in both the UK and American versions) is so successful: its portrayal of the workplace as a modern hell bathed in florescent tedium and spiced with lots of acting out, petty aggression, resignation, and despair, is too familiar. People watch it with a sense of resignation or, if they're still unbowed, ressentiment (the French suggesting a more anarchistic attitude).

    The result of this hyper-management isn't heightened productivity; it's antipathy. The experience of paid work today -- not necessarily the tasks themselves, but the social and material environment in which tasks are carried out -- is not usually a good one. Even the "creative elite" sweats it out on the job.

    LogoMy friends Charlie Grantham and Jim Ware head The Future of Work, a membership organization dedicated to improving the experience of work in America. No easy task. But Future of Work claims it reduces the cost of operations and workforce support -- the costs that employers absorb as a result of their employees' poor working experiences -- by more than 30 percent. Charlie and Jim aren't efficiency experts or union busters (in fact, both are progressives). They focus on the experience of work. Working with employees and employers, they engage in active learning based on dissecting the workplace and then redesigning work according to criteria different from those of industrialism's primitives. Often, this has to do with the physical environment, but the social environment is often more decisive. For more information on Charlie's and Jim's activities, visit their Future of Work Weblog. I suspect they're on to something, but their ambition isn't one shared widely in North America and except for labor oases like Northern Europe, almost unknown everywhere else. Here's to their essential campaign for redesign and reform.

    There's more to be said about work which is, next to sleep, our most frequently recurring experience. What's your experience of work?

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | The Practice of Experience Design

    Don Norman: “Words Matter. Talk About People: Not Customers, Not Consumers, Not Users”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Don Norman
    In “Words Matter. Talk About People: Not Customers, Not Consumers, Not Users,” Don Norman, the Dean of Experience Design, admonishes designers who degrade people by describing (and thinking of them) as repositories -- “customers, consumers, and users” -- who passively accept the riches that marketers, business development types, and too many designers bestow on them. It would be ironic for experience designers to speak of people in this way, for it is people who have experiences, not impersonalized business terminology. Though he doesn't say so explicitly, to extend Don's thinking, speaking of people as personas is another unfortunate and misleading shortcut. Here's an excerpt from Don's important declaration:

    Words matter. Psychologists depersonalize the people they study by calling them “subjects.” We depersonalize the people we study by calling them “users.” Both terms are derogatory. They take us away from our primary mission: to help people. Power to the people, I say, to repurpose an old phrase. People. Human Beings. That’s what our discipline is really about.

    If we are designing for people, why not call them that: people, a person, or perhaps humans. But no, we distance ourselves from the people for whom we design by giving them descriptive and somewhat degrading names, such as customer, consumer, or user. Customer – you know, someone who pays the bills. Consumer – one who consumes. User, or even worse, end user – the person who pushes the buttons, clicks the mouse, and keeps getting confused.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | The Practice of Experience Design

    June 15, 2006

    Access, a Meta-Experience, is Critical to Global Economic Growth and Improved Human Welfare,

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Logo SriAn article on the SRI International website, Access is Critical to Global Economic Growth and Improved Human Welfare, describes The Power of Access, a recently issued report by the think-tank's Center for Science, Technology, and Development, commissioned by FedEx. According to SRI, it's “the first comprehensive effort in defining, measuring and analyzing access as a driving force of change and progress.” The report and accompanying documents are downloadable from The Power of Access website.

    Access is one of those meta-experiences that are so huge, they escape most individuals' day-to-day attention. According to the SRI researchers, however, access determines much else that we experience in our everyday lives -- even the opportunity to have diverse experiences, and benefit by them. According to the researchers, smaller nations with consolidated societies and uniform cultures fare best when it comes to providing their inhabitants with access.

    Frederick Smith, FedEx chairman, on accepting the report, noted “The power of Access lies in the opportunities it creates for individuals, business, and nations to participate, make choices, and improve their prospects. Three variables define access: time, space and information. For the first time in history we have a low-cost, standardized information exchange available to anyone with a computer, regardless of time or space.”

    SRI established the analytical framework for defining the drivers and benefits of access, and for quantifying access and measuring its impacts. SRI created the Access Index (TM) and provided a numerical ranking of 75 countries based on their “openness” -- the access of a country, its business, and its citizens to physical items and information from the rest of the world.

    The countries with the highest levels of Access are listed below. These rankings suggest that access is particularly important for countries that have small internal markets, limited domestic resources, and/or rely heavily on international trade. For example, the United States and Japan -- with large internal markets and resources -- rank 12th and 19th respectively on the Access Index.

    Top Ten Countries
    in the Access Index

    1 Hong Kong
    2 Singapore
    3 Denmark
    4 Switzerland
    5 Netherlands
    6 Finland
    7 Germany
    8 Sweden
    9 United Kingdom
    10 France

    SRI found that higher levels of access enable higher economic growth, strongly relate to higher levels of personal income (as depicted in the following chart), and are critical for economic survival and growth.

    “Access is a catalytic process that enables interactions, contacts, and exchanges among people, businesses, and nations,” said John A. Mathieson, Director of SRI's Center for Science, Technology, and Economic Development. “Access indicates opportunity -- the opportunity to accomplish a broad range of actions, from attaining physical presence to communicating, and from acquiring to using. The power of Access lies in the opportunities it creates for individuals, businesses, and nations to participate, make choices, and improve their future prospects.”

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Odds and Ends: Random Observations | Theories of Experience

    June 14, 2006

    Service Innovation Through Design Thinking

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    The best 37 minutes you can spend — with the CEO of IDEO, Tim Brown, from a March 2006 presentation. But for those of you too busy to sit still for 37 minutes, here’s all the important stuff…

    …what’s resonating with business today is actually that design is a really valuable way of tackling a lot of different business and creative issues. And that it can be a way into tackling problems that organizations have struggled with, often for a long time.

    For many companies, design and design thinking is more of a way that they tackle thinking about their future. It’s a way that they move intentionally into their future in many different ways. We certainly are finding many organizations using design thinking as a way to embark on strategy — or a way to think about their future and where their future may lead them. Strategy is no longer the domain only of the management consultant, but today is also a space in which a designer plays an important role.
    Service organizations are about, ‘How do we relate to customers in ways such that we deliver value?’, and design is a great way of thinking about that.
    I think there’s a difference between design thinking and design. Designers use design thinking, but lots of other people use design thinking too. There are components of design thinking, there are pieces of design thinking which are highly applicable in many different places.
    In the work that I do it’s the relationship between design thinking and design & innovation that’s incredibly important. It’s been a really large piece of what’s brought design to business in new ways.
    We can’t, as designers, assume that we ‘own’ innovation. We’re not the only people that innovate.
    [see diagram below] Essentially that whole space is available for innovation.


    ...continue reading.

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Practice of Experience Design

    MTRL: New initiative (including website) on Materials and Design

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Posted by TE co-author Paula Thornton to her excellent Experience Design newsgroup:


    Mtrl seeks to bridge design and engineering with wealth of materials information

    MATERIALS PARK, Ohio, June 13, 2006 - The fast-growing community of creative people who design products, objects, processes, services and systems has a new source of inspiration with the launch of Mtrl - an industry initiative aimed at providing designers with “material about materials.” Ranging from industrial and consumer product designers to architects and interior designers, Mtrl's wealth of materials information will be provided in the manner and format needed by designers - through first-hand experience, interactive workshops, a comprehensive website, sample books, and more.

    According to the ICSID (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design), designing requires consideration of aesthetic, functional, and many other aspects of an object, which involves extensive research, thought, modeling, iterative adjustment, and re-design to find the right colors, texture, sounds, and other sensual aspects concerning a product and its ergonomics.

    Mtrl is the brainchild of ASM International, the Materials Information Society, which has been the leading resource for the advancement of materials knowledge for nearly 100 years. And while ASM traditionally serves an audience of engineers and scientists, the launch of Mtrl marks an explicit expansion of ASM's scope to include those who use and specify materials in the funkier world of design.

    “Through extensive research, we found that designers explore a very interesting world tucked between the constructs of art and manufacturing,” said Laura Marshall, ASM's Director of Business Initiatives. “Mtrl will capitalize on this by providing tangible experiences with materials, promoting experimentation, and inspiring design through exposure to materials from the everyday to the extraordinary.”

    Mtrl will debut with designer workshops in Boston and Chicago this month that will allow designers to explore materials through the intersection of art, science, industry and product design. Mtrl's series of workshops will expose designers to materials in innovative ways, such as tours through manufacturing facilities, hands-on field exercises, and lectures by leading industry professionals, scientists and artists.

    A new website, Materials About Materials (Mtrl, [not yet operating]), will be a central location for materials information for the design community. Details of the upcoming Mtrl workshops can be found on the site, and in the coming months, the site will include searchable materials databases and other resources for designers.

    “From the latest in automotive design to popular consumer products, there is a new appreciation for the tactile and aesthetic value of materials in the products we buy and use,” added Marshall. “As designers look for new sources of inspiration and information, Mtrl will provide a fresh perspective and a concrete connection between the worlds of design and engineering.”


    Laura Marshall
    Director of Business Initiatives
    ASM International

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ED Projects of Note | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    June 13, 2006

    Waiting for NEXT Generation TVs

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    The reports are true. When the kids move out, you really do change all your furniture and buy nice stuff. We've been looking at TV options for months. Just about ready to hang a purchase over the fireplace (needing to find a new location for our mountain scene serigraphs), we're now going to stare at the serigraphs for several more months. What's changed? The winds.

    Framed by two prominent geographic features of the North American continent, they're blowing east of the Great Salt Lake, across the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to the west. Surprisingly, not from the Pacific nor the Atlantic.

    New%20Picture.gif Unfettered by any profit motive BYU-TV offers on-demand TV that plays continuously from my laptop at all hours of the day. Miss something important? Spin it back and listen/view it again. No expensive equipment to 'store and replay' programs in your home. For now, no TV required. And in fact, in preparation for the arrival of a 'new' TV we'd already passed on our console TV to our daughter's apartment. No great loss.

    From my hotel room, the TV no longer goes on, nor do I have to worry about arranging my mornings around 'catching' my favorite programs. Via wireless connections, I watch them as I can, or listen to them and replay them several times. Don't like what's playing right now? Spin back through the programming for that day and find something more interesting.

    Lastly, an interesting 'feature' of the optional QuantumMedia viewer. In capturing the image above I did a simple shift-prntscrn, and pasted it into Microsoft Office Picture Manager. Much to my surprise, as I opened the clip to 'trim' it, the current program continued playing 'live' in the clip.

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    June 12, 2006

    Avenu makes for a really BAD customer experience at Albertsons Market

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    We finally moved into our new place, Cherie, Savanna, Sammy Jo (our dog), and me, in the heart of Santa Monica. It's just up the hill from the local Albertsons supermarket. I descended to buy a bottle of wine and some popcorn -- we really know how to party! -- and had one of the worst customer experiences in my life.

    The checkout lines were characteristically long, as they have been ever since Albertsons bought out the wonderful Lucky Markets and chopped their staffs by at least a third and probably a half. That's not the problem. Long lines, even at 8 PM on a weeknight, were to be expected.

    Imageforavenu BWhat wasn't to be expected was being hammered while a captive in line by something called “Avenu,” a continuous, loud, insulting program of banalities blasted at us from flat-screen TVs and powerful speakers at every cashier's station. It was horrible. I can't remember a single advertisement among the two score or more forced upon us by Albertson's experientially lame but craven management, but I do remember wanting out of there. Avenu is apparently the creation of the Jewel-Osco retail conglomerate. Now both Jewel-Osco and Albertsons are both about to be assimilated into a corporate retail Borg, Supervalu (which resembles nothing so much as a sentient supply chain. It's not your corner grocer.

    Unfortunately, the punishment for Supervalu's captive audiences won't end with the merger. In fact, it's going to be extended to a whole lot more shoppers across North America. Supervalu, the entity acquiring Albertsons and Jewel-Osco, relies on Avenu as a regular part of its armory of tools intended to bludgeon shoppers' senses into submission. What Supervalu gains by heaping visual and aural abuse upon shoppers waiting in line, removing any opportunity for meaningful human chit-chat -- the sole redeeming quality of waiting in line -- is beyond me.

    WfGiven these provocations, our family's shopping at Vons or Whole Foods Market. Say what you will about the Safeway chain (which owns Vons) or the Birkenstock billionaires who charge through the roof for WF's organic fare, they know how to create shopping environments that create a more pleasurable experience, at its best (as at WF) quite enjoyable. Even the warehouses like Costco and its smaller counterpart, Smart & Final, do just fine: they have no pretentions, but neither do they dump virtual garbage on the consumer merely to create another trivial revenue stream, all for the sake of promotions in the marketing department.

    Good bye, Albertsons, we'll hardly miss ye. Supervalu, from our point of view, you're dead on arrival.

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