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

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    September 11, 2006

    Book Review: Design for Interaction -- one of the best books yet about contemporary design

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Showcover Design for Interaction (New Riders/AIGA, 2006) is one of the best books yet about contemporary design. Read it!

    Dan Saffer, whose online persona is Danny Boy, has crafted the most accessible and instructive book I’ve read about interaction design – and more. Dan deals handily with interaction design, which he characterizes in a Venn diagram as a subset of experience design. There are issues regarding experience design that discussions of interaction design inherently can’t reach, as I’ll discuss later; but having set out primarily to explain interaction design, Dan’s done a superb job. Indicatively, the book is co-published by the AIGA in recognition of the “revolutionary transformation” for “ordinary people to influence and design their own experiences.” Dan's exposition of design thinking is as important as is his fine job of explaining the how-tos of interaction design.

    Many recent bestsellers popular in the design community have featured cosmic themes: “the long tail,” “the wisdom of crowds,” “the tipping point,” and so forth. They describe social phenomena that the individual designer can only observe.
    Designing for Interaction is about things the designer can do to make life better, increasing what we might call the “liveability” quotient. To quote Dan,

    Interaction design is the art of facilitating interactions between humans through products and services. It is also, to a lesser extent, about the interactions between humans and those products that have some sort of “awareness” – that is, products with a microprocessor that are able to sense and respond to humans.

    (Calling design of any type an “art” – even an “applied art” – is bound to be controversial, especially as science increasingly is applied to the task. This is even more the case with interaction design based on digital technology. But unavoidably, there is an artistic dimension to any discipline in which human beings ultimately are responsible for making decisions.)

    Headshot SafferDesigning for Interaction is practical and action oriented. It provides the reader with a comprehensive history of interaction design, contexts for the application of interaction design, and tools for interaction design. It also contains numerous examples of interaction design and wonderfully informative, personal sidebar interviews on specific topics with leading interaction and experience designers including Brenda Laurel, Marc Rettig, Hugh Dubberly, and others of equal accomplishment and insight. Finally it gets down to the “craft” of interaction design, presenting categories of problems and solutions (with the caveat that the field is still new and all rules for practice are provisional).

    Dan’s chapters on “Smart Applications and Clever Devices” and “Service Design” indicate how interaction designers are expanding their field of focus from interactive objects to include customer services and in the future, robots, wearable computers and devices, ubiquitous computing, and digital toolsets.

    The 230-page book, small enough to easily tote around, is beautifully designed. The graphics complement the text and convey complex meanings in visually memorable ways. Designing for Interaction also has a dedicated website to continue the interactions between the author and his readers, and among the readers. The only dissonant note is the blurry and iconically unclear front cover. It doesn’t represent the rest of the book and its contents well. Don’t be put off by it. This is a great read.

    Dan’s concluding chapter, “The Future of Interaction Design” and his epilogue, “Designing for Good,” extend the discussion into new realms and propose canons for the ethical practice of interaction design. These provocative peeks into a larger realm indicate where interaction design reaches its limit. The goal of interaction design is a better product or service, and who can fault these goals? But experience design, as Dan initially pointed out, is the superset of which interaction design is only a part. What about the environments in which human beings interact with products and services? Who designs these? Or the vast number of experiences that condition how people come into contact with discrete objects and processes, and that determine indirectly, but decisively, how they react?

    Of equal significance are experiences that don’t fall under the purview of an interaction designer working for an organization with narrower goals – like the experience of power in the workplace or the sense of security one has, or lacks, in day to day activities. There remains to be written the full story of experience design. But
    Designing for Interaction goes a long way toward setting the stage for a deeper conversation. He’s described the craft and laid out the tools for an approach to design that can be applied on a larger canvas. You must at least start here.

    You can share an interview with Dan in the July 2006 Business Week's Innovation.

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


    1. Paula Thornton on September 26, 2006 8:58 PM writes...

    Ok. Bob just beat me to the punch. I'd been working to put up a review of Dan's book for some many good intentions.

    Dan has a wonderfully light writing style. And my favorite part of the whole book is Chapter 8: Service Design: "When people think of interaction design (if they do at all) they tend to think of it as tied to technology...The new frontier of interaction design is services."

    The point I've been hollering about for some time is a bit of 'both'. An online experience can in no way be guaranteed (or even warrantied), if all multi-channel pre- and post-activites are not also influenced/designed. Experiences transcend channels. In such an approach, service design is implied. Indeed, to not see the online experience from a 'service' perspective is short-sighted.

    Many of my colleagues focus more on information design than task design. I've always been more about the 'doing', than the 'finding' and 'being' aspects of online experience design. And clearly it becomes even more predominant when focusing on designing Enterprise Workplaces.

    Dan uses one of my favorite examples of an end-to-end experientially-designed business: Zipcar (but he missed all the really important details about their integrative design).

    The interview that he conducts with Shelly Evenson rightly points out that the industry that can most benefit from the discipline of service design is the medical industry (stay tuned...).

    Permalink to Comment

    2. Paula Thornton on September 26, 2006 9:55 PM writes...

    See additional Zipcar details noted here:

    Permalink to Comment


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