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

    Total Experience on Technorati
    Technorati Profile

    Get Camino!
    In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

    Total Experience

    « “The Physical Attributes of A Well-Designed Workplace” (from the Future of Work Agenda Newsletter) | Main | Experiencing Chabad: a delightful fusion of tradition and techno-savvy »

    September 9, 2006

    A New Meme: The Experience Design Institute

    Email This Entry

    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Yesterday, I sent the following email note to 20 of the world's leading experience designers:

    Dear Lifetime of Design Friends,

    I'm writing to instill a meme. Yes, I know, it's the end of the week, almost the end of summer. Perhaps the last thing you want to do is think big thoughts. But this is a good an opportunity to share with you my idea and let it percolate. Then it's back to blogging!

    You're on my list of recipients because you are among the most distinguished and capable practitioners of Experience Design, whether you call it that or not. You do it, you write about it, or you teach it. Whatever it is you do in experience design, you contribute to our emerging field's evolution and development. You're ripe for my meme.

    So, here is the meme: there needs to be an Experience Design Institute. There needs to be a real place hosting real events, exhibitions, research, and studies, like Pasadena's Art Center where traditional design is studied; Ivrea, where interaction as a science was studied; and the Design Council and its RED, where transformational design is practiced. The Experience Design Institute will bring together practitioners from various disciplines who share a deep and abiding desire

    • What constitutes experience and good experiences (as defined by...?)

    • How environment, technology, knowledge, and perception interact to produce human experiences

    • How (with greater knowledge) we can systematically design experiences that are edifying, educational, and frequently entertaining for the “experiencers” -- and that produce the result, in terms of awareness and action, that the designer intended

    • How different design disciplines and modalities can combine to create richer and better experiences

    • What experience design portends for other design practices, business, and culture generally

    • Where this is all leading for future experience designers

    The purpose of the Institute would be to give us a place to really get into these issues, other than the workplace, where real sharing across disciplines and approaches could take place on a regular, continuous basis.

    Conferences and seminars are well and good, but they are extremely finite -- and if you miss one, you usually have a year to wait before the next on the same topic. (Of course, most of us miss most conferences.) Plus, conference and seminar audiences tend to be narrowly chosen on the basis of the very divisions that the Institute would bridge.

    Imagine a place -- let's take the Pilchuk Glass School cofounded by Dale Chihuly (, Esalen (, and Taliesin in its golden days as models in the US; or the Bauhaus in its prime, overseas -- where experience designers can go to study, learn, and converse with their creative peers. Where practitioners at various points in their careers can share their experiences and learn from one another. Where students can meet with teachers and mentors. And where the public can be invited on a regular basis to learn firsthand what it is that we do. Not just once a year, but continuously.

    Why not such a place for Experience Design, especially now as historical forces push it to the forefront of business, cultural, and social concern?

    How to get there is another matter. If such a place was designed, I'm confident it would be funded. Or conversely, if it was funded, it would be designed. This is a chicken-and-egg problem for which my meme provides no immediate solution. But maybe you'll think of one over time, individually or collectively.

    Thanks for taking time from your leisure to spend a few minutes considering my meme. Now, park it in the back of your cranium and have a restful, restorative weekend. Where did summer go? Please let me know from time to time where the meme has traveled and what's happening as a result.


    Bob Jacobson

    This morning, on Putting People First, Mark Vanderbeeken replied with a comprehensive list of schools where elements of experience design and related design disciplines taught -- but acknowledges, there is but one small program in comprehensive experience design, at the Design Academy Eindhoven, in Holland. I thank him for his comments and even more, his challenge to our community to do more.

    Even if there were a hundred programs in schools around the world, it would not be the same as a place where practitioners, students, and the public that we serve can come to share and learn: the Experience Design Institute, our community's Mecca.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | The Practice of Experience Design


    1. Keith Instone on November 30, 2007 7:13 AM writes...

    Over a year later, this is still a great question. Bob - have we made progress, stood still, or gone backwards since you first posted this?

    Also, to make it easier to find Mark's blog entry, here is a direct link:

    Permalink to Comment

    2. Bob Jacobson on November 30, 2007 12:25 PM writes...

    Keith, thanks for the reminder.

    Using Google Alerts to point out new blog entries and news headlines, I've noticed many schools now offer "experience design" programs and instruction. Also, many students are banding together for self-instruction in ED, creating informal study groups within schools.

    But this introduces a new problem: quality control. Many of the programs sound great, in general terms, and no doubt several do well by their graduates. But overall, the looseness of the programs' approaches, their lack of intellectual rigor, and their buzzword-laden curricula aren't reassuring.

    It's a fit time for someone to categorize and evaluate these programs based on their contents and the results for their graduates. But what is a proper "experience design" accrediting agency, given the profession's lack of an agreed-upon identity, let alone cohesion and canons?

    Solving these problems will be an important New Years resolution to keep all of us occupied for sometime -- but once accomplished, how much easier life will be, for everyone! Thanks again, Keith, for the annual tickler. -- Bob

    Permalink to Comment


    Remember Me?


    Email this entry to:

    Your email address:

    Message (optional):

    Making Lemonade
    Amazon Kindle: Video Review
    Davos 2008: Collaborative Innovation at the Global Country Club
    Designing Today for a Very Different Tomorrow: Suggestions for the coming Age of Austerity
    Designing Today for a Very Different Tomorrow: The coming Age of Austeriy
    Amazon Kindle: A New Experience Channel
    Shine Doesn't Matter
    Prisoners in the Digital Panopticon: The Experience of Constant Surveillance -- Or, When Bad Things Beckon to Good Designers