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

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    Total Experience

    Monthly Archives

    November 30, 2006

    For whom the bell tolls: “A Timeline of Timelines” and “Clash of the Time Lords”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Nuremburgbig-1Our experience of time is indivisible from our experience of living. Two recent sources indicate how thoroughly intertwined our notions of time are with our other perceptions, and how therefore they can be intentionally reshaped by others working on our perceptions (so to speak, from time to time).

    Thanks to information designer and friend Stuart Silverstone, in Santa Monica, for turning me on to “A Timeline of Timelines,” featured in Cabinet Magazine Online. Authors Cabinet associate editor Sasha Archibald and University of Oregon history professor Daniel Rosenberg, Timeline features snippets describing timelines created over the last 1,700 years, beginning with Jewish scholar ben Halafta's calculations of the earth's history in the 2nd Century CE, but really taking off with the first “modern” timeline by physicist Joseph Priestly in 1765. The article contains numerous graphics that illustrate the almost infinite ways by which people can conceive of and represent time and history, and persuade others to think alike. In his introduction to an earlier, shorter version, Rosenberg explains;

    ...Priestley argues that although time in itself is an abstraction that may not be “the object of any of our senses, and no image can properly be made of it, yet because it has a relation to quantity, and we can say a greater or less space of time, it admits of a natural and easy representation in our minds by the idea of a measurable space, and particularly that of a LINE.”

    After Priestley, the form of the timeline caught on. In addition to its visual effectiveness, the timeline amplified conceptions of historical progress that were becoming popular at the time. The relationship was mutually reinforcing. As Priestley himself suggests, the timeline filled in as a kind of fantasized visual referent for an object without material substance. In its simplest form, it appeared to guarantee the simplicity and directionality of past and future history. But Priestley's commentary points to a problem too. History had never actually taken the form of a timeline or of any other line for that matter. And simplicity, the great advantage of the form, threatened also to be its greatest flaw. The timeline could function as “the most excellent mechanical help to the knowledge of history” because it could impress the imagination “indelibly.” For the same reason, a century later, Henri Bergson would refer to the “imaginary homogeneous time” depicted by the timeline as a deceiving “idol.”

    0062199Messing with our experience of time can happen through less visible, but even more fundamental means -- by controlling the clocks, specifically the atomic clocks that now keep world time. In “Clash of the Time Lords,” in the current (December) Harper's (not yet online), Michelle Stacey explains why the usurpation of responsibility for telling the time, formerly the domain of astronomers observing objects in the sky, by physicists who measure the decay of radioactive matter, has radically reshaped our concept and actual measurement of time. A corollary is that the United States, which owns the most atomic clocks, is able to formally nominate its own US Naval Observatory to be the world authority on time for the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the UN entity that defines the UTC Time Scale that controls all telecommunications, all telecom-dependent activities, and thus all of our lives.

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Experience Design & Technology

    “The Systematic Inefficiencies of Grocery Paths”: Wayfinding amidst the aisles

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Inside-Supermarkets-LargeSomewhere between the bananas and the potato chips, I stop to reflect on my meander through the supermarket. My path seems to alternate between the purposeful and recreational. Sometimes I intensely pursue items on my grocery list, like Frank Buck, the celebrated hunter, “bringing 'em back alive!' Other times, I leisurely cruise the aisles. Often I dawdle among the imported delicacies, like the $120 bottles of Croatian balsamic vinegar, to see how the other half eats. Why such a dichotomy of behaviors?

    An article in the current Knowledge@Wharton summarizes a paper recently published by professors Peter Fader and Eric Breslow, and doctoral student Sam Hui, who set out to answer this question (”The Traveling Salesman Goes Grocery Shopping: The Systematic Inefficiencies of Grocery Paths“). The researchers visited stores and calculated the ”optimal paths“ among products, the most efficient routes necessary to acquire these items and then leave the store. They then studied how 1,000 shoppers adhered to these routes.

    Even allowing for customers' lack of knowledge about the exact location of specific products, shoppers tended to spend more time in stores than efficient shopping required. And we're not just talking about small amounts: almost 70 percent of grocery shoppers' time was spent not buying things.

    Ultimately, the research exposed shopper inefficiency, but it didn't explain it. Is it for fun? To acquire new knowledge? To sample the supermarket's ambience -- which, in the better stores like Whole Foods, is modeled on the country store? Nor is it not clear, for example, which type of shopper is more ”profitable.“

    The Wharton research provides useful empirical descriptions of shoppers' behavior. For example, most shoppers hover on the perimeter of a store, darting into the aisles to make purchases, rather than cruising up and down the aisles, as is commonly the case portrayed in the media and advertisements. (Forget meeting Mr. or Ms. Right in front of the spice rack in back. Try the fried chicken on the hot table up front.) This is prime display space and a good place to sell convenience foods. Common sense, maybe, but now it has scientific validation. John Sherry's ServiceScapes, reviewed on this blog, is another good source of empirical observations, with theory, pertaining to the shopping experience.

    The rewards will be high for those who can explain not just how shoppers act as they do, but why, and how they can be directed. Herb Sorensen, whose shopping-research company provides the RFID-based PathTracker technology used in the Wharton research (watch out, Paco Underhill!), observes, ”There will be a huge growth in the use of in-store media to try to influence the way shoppers navigate a store and what they buy: $300 billion of advertising money will move into the retail space in the next five years.“

    Path analysis as used by the Wharton researchers is a commercial subset of wayfinding an evolving methodology with roots in sailing, architecture, landscape architecture, and environmental design. Wayfinding is a comprehensive means for understanding and aiding human navigation in complex environments, and not just in the material world. In future entries, I'll get more deeply into the practice of wayfinding with help from experts (like Romedi Passini, co-author with the late Paul Arthur of the classic Wayfinding). Feel free to write with inquiries in the meantime.

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

    November 26, 2006

    IDEO extends “design thinking” to vacation offerings

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Ideo LargeIDEO has broken ground in service design with “ZEST,” a new vacation offering from Mahindra Holidays & Resorts Ltd., a Chennai, India-based membership-travel service featuring the Club Mahindra brand.

    A November 15, 2006, Club Mahindra press release describes ZEST as...

    Logo-6...A unique vacation ownership for short breaks. ZEST is the ideal short break holiday for the ambitious, hardworking, achieving but stressed young metropolitans.

    Designed after extensive research by IDEO, the world's leading consumer experience design firm,ZEST short breaks offer a unique work-life balance proposition to the young metropolitan to head out of the city and catch up with life. Located in places where nature's bounty is in abundance, the ZEST resort's service design caters to a variety of needs - rest and relaxation, family bonding and quality time for couples, socializing and networking, outdoor and adventure activities. Exclusive resort activities include “ZEST Flair Badges” that involve varied and youthful activities such as wine tasting, do your own barbeques, salsa dancing and for the outdoors person treks, biking, camping, and campfires.

    ZEST resorts will be unique in that they cater to a “my kind of break” -- a holiday “the way I like it, when I like it, and at the pace I like it to be.”

    Minimalist but superbly coordinated spacious rooms at the ZEST resorts are designed for the young metropolitan families and can accommodate two adults and two young children with ease. The resort architecture will include vibrancy, youthfulness and serene relaxed settings. The company also plans to have ZEST Rovers, holiday activity specialists, at its resorts, who would actively engage with members to make their holidays memorable.

    Resorts will provide a platform for its guests to have a hands on experience of the people, culture and traditions specific to its area of location. ZEST resorts will also offer child friendly facilities, facilitating quality time for couples with young children.

    The company is planning ZEST resorts at destinations that are easily accessible from metro cities. Priced attractively, a ZEST membership offers multiple breaks every year, for 10 years. ZEST resorts will offer a choice of three holiday seasons. The ZEST signature resort is underway at Pondicherry, slated to open its doors in 2007. Resorts at Ooty and Kodai will be ready to offer the ZEST experience by year's end, 2006.

    Interestingly, Club Mahindra describes IDEO, better known for its product and innovation design, as a “customer experience design” firm. I guess it is now.

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

    November 25, 2006

    BRC: Adler Planetarium's “Shoot for the Moon”; BRC Founder Bob Roberts awarded THEA Award for Lifetime Achievement

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    SftmBRC Imagination Arts, a paragon among visual and experiential exhibition designers, has announced the opening of a new attraction at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, “Shoot for the Moon.” It's a rich experience that showcases BRC's new slogan, “Showmanship Meets Scholarship”TM. BRC's press release describes “Shoot for the Moon,” which includes an interactive theater, interactive displays, galleries of videos and photography, and a collection of artifacts that illustrate “stories told through the firsthand experiences of Captain James A. Lovell, Jr., the Gemini and Apollo astronaut best known for the leadership role he played in transforming the Apollo 13 accident into one of the most successful missions of all time.” BRC describes this as one of its “experience museums,” a 21st-Century approach to presenting educational information.

    Bob-Rogers-With-The-Ghost-OSeparately, BRC announced that its founder, Bob Rogers, has been awarded the THEA Award for Lifetime Accomplishment by TEA, the non-profit, international organization representing the creators of compelling places and experiences. Rogers joins a remarkable group of previous Lifetime Achievement recipients, experience designers including Harrison “Buzz” Price (1994), the economic feasibility science inventor of the themed entertainment industry; Marty Sklar (1995), the creative head of Walt Disney Imagineering for a quarter century; John Hench (1998), Walt Disney Imagineer and master art director for 65 years; and Yves Pépin (2005), creator of world expositions, special events, and international event spectaculars including the Millennium firework celebration at the Eiffel Tower. (More about TEA in a future entry.)

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ED Projects of Note | Events and Happenings

    November 22, 2006

    Thanksgiving, the Harvest Festival

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    PumpkinTomorrow is Thanksgiving, the American harvest festival, rich in traditions...and contradictions. Like most things in life.

    Whether you're an American or not, I hope this season that you'll enjoy community, reflection, and liberties that are the American ideal, whatever the reality.

    Over the long holiday weekend, I'll be blogging, blogging,and blogging. No. 1 among my pent-up entries:

    “If experience design is such a hotbody, why is information design a truer love?”

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Bring in the crops.

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

    November 20, 2006

    Rude is the new Black.

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    While CRM vendors are falling all over themselves to create “360-degree,” multidimensional, cross-platform, all-encompassing ways for companies to stay connected with their customers, countervailing experiences increasingly characterize our private lives.

    In Japanese culture, it's considered the height of impropriety to ignore a third party present at a meeting (even in an elevator or on the street). In American culture, ignoring someone, while no less rude, is considered essential to displaying and preserving one's position of power, however trivial that power might be. It happens more and more these days: as CNN reported a couple of years ago, rudeness in America is on the rise.

    Rude was less noticeable in the days of earlier media, when the best one could do, short of buttonholing someone at the market, was to send a letter via messenger or packet boat. If the messenger was waylaid or the boat sank, the missive disappeared with it. And if it didn't, the recipient could choose to refuse the mail or actually move to another address and establish another identity -- neither of which reflected poorly on the sender. The invention of the telegraph and then the telephone collapsed the time loop, making it easier to send multiple inquiries. Those with personal secretaries could dodge phone calls, but until caller ID became widespread, the average person answered a phone call because he or she never knew how important the call might be.

    Now, with email, IM, cellphones, PDAs, and similar accoutrements of modern living, it's easy to know who's trying to make contact and to exercise one's power of denial and exclusion. Being rejected in the virtual world is common, my friends tell me. Commercial institutions like our cable TV company, Time Warner, do it all the time. (We were on hold for more than 60 minutes, last time.) But so do more and more individuals, just by refusing to acknowledge email or return phone calls. Deal with it, the technologists tell me.

    This is wrong, my sense of community tells me -- but it's in fashion. Rude is the new black.

    • • •

    Despite my misgivings about the abundance of rudeness in our culture, this has been a wonderful week of connections and opportunities, personally and for the experience-design community at large. This afternoon, I'm going to post a number of entries that have been burning a hole in my figurative designer's pocket.

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

    November 16, 2006

    November 9, 2006

    Finding experience in a tube of toothpaste

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Aquafresh ImageGlaxoSmithKline's Aquafresh toothpaste comes in five varieties for as many types of toothpaste consumers (identified by GSM's marketing). Its recent sales success, rising from No. 3 to at least No. 2 among the top contenders (Colgate Palmolive's Colgate and Proctor & Gamble's Crest) -- makes for good press. Aquafresh has been written up in FastCompany, trade magazines, and market research reports. Hub magazine's blog features a lengthy interview with GSM VP of Innovation Donna J. Sturgess (available as a PDF file), in which Ms. Sturgess describes a thorough -- and expensive -- development process that resulted not only in the toothpaste (including novel foaming and color agents used in its composition) but also its packaging, positioning, promotion, and after-sales reinforcement. Most toothpaste is boring, Ms. Sturgess observed. “There was an opportunity to to appeal to people based on the brand's sensory attributes.” “People” meaning mostly women, to whom Aquafresh is pitched as a cosmetic, “a shower for your mouth,” not a personal-hygiene product. The Aquafresh website was redesigned, too, but I'm not linking you to it because it uses Flash in a most uncomfortable way that makes you wait and wait, while your processor is tied up translating.

    What caught my attention about Aquafresh was its Extreme Clean version's sublogo, “Original Experience.” My partner, Cherie, likes Aquafresh because it claims to whiten teeth and freshen breath. Finding myself one day without toothpaste, I gave Extreme Clean a try. It cleaned my teeth well. Maybe it freshened my breath. But I'm still trying to discover what about it is an Original Experience. To me, it's just another odd-smelling, odd-tasting mix of chemicals. The German-designed twist-shut cap is nifty (and retro) and the tube is made of shiny silver plastic...but these don't really improve the toothbrushing experience, unless your obsessive-compulsive about toothpaste ooze. What exactly can GlaxoSmithKline say about itself that makes me feel warm and cozy? It's just another cosmeceutical conglomerate. Buy its product and its shareholders get rich. All in all, I found Aquafresh to be a very unoriginal experience. Except for all that development spending and marketing!

    Cinnami   754 Medium
    I'm a Tom's of Maine natural toothpaste user, not attracted to commercial toothpastes with their undisclosed melange of ingredients (almost always including saccharin or some other sugar substitute, and all of those Aquafreshesque industrial coloring agents). Toms' toothpastes' tastes and aromas are subtle. Tom's lists all of its ingredients, informs us of their organic sources, tells us that they're not tested on animals, offers flouride and non-flouride varieties, and provides a recyclable metal tube. It also manufacturers its boxes from recycled paper, printed using biodegradable soy inks. Taken together, those factors make for a very original experience. Just as importantly, when I buy Tom's, I'm invited to join a community. Tom's includes with its products various newsletters that bio its customers and describe the company's enlightened manufacturing, employment, and philanthropic practices. I'm encouraged to offer feedback not only on the product's quality, but also on the company's operations and extra-curricular activities. Tom's provides its buyers with a lot of collateral meanings, identities, and satisfactions. Tom's toothpaste (like its other cosmetic products) is pricier than conventional toothpastes (including Aquafresh) and it has a harder time getting shelf space. But I hunt down Tom's products with a vengeance, almost never buying anything else. When I use Tom's, I feel good -- emotionally, knowing I'm taking care with what I'm ingesting; and spiritually for supporting Tom's positive engagement in the world.

    Oh, and about those five types of toothpaste consumers to which GSM allegedly pitches Aquafresh? Maybe they exist. I don't see buyers pondering the varieties when they shop, however. They just pick what's available. What I do know is that GSM, matched against Colgate Palmolive and P&G, is a victor in the shelf-space wars, commonly won by buying off the retailer with a larger share of revenues. In the rough-and-tumble world of supermarketing, that's what really counts. And why I have to hunt for my Tom's!

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

    November 8, 2006

    The Lifting of a Great Weight

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    LeverAmericans awoke today to a changing of the guard in the US House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate, followed by the resignation of Iraqi war “strategist” and soon-to-be-former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. People of all political persuasions, here and abroad, are experiencing a sense of new possibilities: The Lifting of a Great Weight. Anxieties about the future haven't yet been assuaged, but the prevailing expectation of change is a pervasive psychological factor, one that may elude traditional market researchers. Experience designers would do well to factor it into their plans.

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

    Planetizen “Smart City Radio” broadcasts on public radio (and podcasts)

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Logo-5Planetizen (plan-NET'-a-zen) is the leading online, public-interest portal and information exchange for the urban planning, design, and development community. It's a one-stop source for urban-planning news, commentary, announcements, book reviews, jobs, events, and more. Community operated, Planetizen was created as a public service for the planning community by Los Angeles-based Urban Insight, a pioneering provider of Web sites and net services for public agencies and non-profits (as well as commercial clients).

    Planetizen has now partnered with Smart City Radio to produce a monthly audio segment airing on public radio stations around the country.

    Hosted by Carol Coletta, President and CEO of “CEOs for Cities,” Smart City Radio is a weekly, hour-long public radio talk show that takes an in-depth look at urban life. The new audio segments, which provide a summary and analysis of the most interesting and intriguing planning-related stories featured on Planetizen, are also available online as a Planetizen podcast. You can listen to the latest episode on the Smart City Radio website or download the latest Planetizen podcast.

    “The built environment and place making are such an integral part of any city's DNA, and Planetizen is the premier source for the latest news on planning, design and development,” said Coletta. “It makes sense for our organizations to work together to bring Smart City Radio listeners the best information on what so clearly affects the future of our cities.”

    For more information on Planetizen, contact Christian Peralta, Managing Editor.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ED Projects of Note | The Practice of Experience Design | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    November 7, 2006

    The experience of voting

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    1099417908 1139The occasion of mid-term elections in the United States -- a fateful election on which many critical issues turn -- is a fit time to examine the experience of voting.

    In California, where I live (and in most other American jurisdictions), elections always happen on the first Tuesday of November, a day hardly conducive to getting working people to the polls. (This election, fewer than 40 percent of eligible voters are expected to cast ballots.) Voting polls, our Shrines to Self-Rule, are tables and booths and boxes stuffed into schools, churches, social clubs, and shopping malls. There's always a big American flag out front, conveying civic sanctity to these otherwise mundane locations. Polls are staffed by volunteer workers, nice people, usually retirees; lightly trained, they may even be paid (though it's likely they're not). As an alternative to voting at the polls, a citizen can choose to submit an "absentee ballot" that's prepared at home and mailed to the County Clerk. Absentee ballots are convenient all right -- I've used them -- but they negate the collective esprit that voting at the polls instills. I guess it depends on how time-pressured or agoraphobic you are, which method of voting you choose. Or like a vast number of cynical or uncaring Americans, neither.

    Why is voting such an ambiguous experience? Subjectively, it's lauded as the citizen's highest calling. Objectively, the process is generally taken for granted and underfunded, on top of which we now have to deal with the controversy surrounding expensive, unreliable, and insecure digital voting systems. For months, citizens have been bombarded with political ads, direct mail, and opinions learned and lame, in print and online. From that noise we're expected to distill wise (I hope) choices, little smudges on a ballot.

    After all that effort, I'm left with contradictory feelings: “Mission Accomplished!” versus “Is that all there is, my friend?”

    The electoral privilege/chore/complicity of voting is the iconic way in which political decisions supposedly are made in democracies. Sometimes they are, sometimes they're not. But standing before the God of Choice is always empowering -- and humbling. The poet Henry David Thoreau observed, “All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong.” Perhaps one day our political culture will mature and politics, with its deadly serious outcomes, will no longer be played as a game. In that better future, Americans, like their counterparts in parliamentary democracies, will become politically aware and active all of the time, not just every two or four years when an election rolls around.

    Following are some design-relevant references to voting that I found informative and entertaining, each raising as many questions about the experience of voting as it answers:

    • WQusability, “Voting for Usability: Background on the Issues.” In the aftermath of the botched 2000 general election, Whitney Quesenbery examines issues of usability associated with ballots and casting votes; candidate identification; how measures are presented to the electorate; and the sad inattention given to the voting process in most regimes, democratic and otherwise, as a way of reliably deciding the direction a society should take.

    •, “Resources: voting and e-voting user experience.” Louise Ferguson compares conventional voting (using the ballot or a voting machine) with e-voting (conducted via a touch-screen or online). Her website includes over 200 references dealing with the voting experience.

    • The Smithsonian Institution, “Vote: The Machinery of Democracy.” An attractive, comprehensive, multipage compendium of graphics and texts relating to voting. It contains among many other things voting trivia (the word “ballot” comes from the Italianballota, for the “little ball” that citizens in earlier democracies dropped into boxes to "cast a vote"), descriptions of the voting process past, present, and future -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- and “Design for Democracy,” a Chicago-based project to redesign the entire voting experience.

    Commission on Federal Election Reform (CFER). Not that anyone in government paid it any attention, but CFER, chaired by former Democratic President Jimmy Carter and Republican Secretary of State James Baker, in September 2005 issued an extensive report containing 87 recommended reforms to voting as it's conducted in the US. As I write this entry, few of the reforms that CFER recommended have been implemented despite hundreds of millions of dollars having been allocated for this purpose. You can download the Commission's report in PDF format and view streaming interviews with Carter and Baker on the CFER website.

    Victorian Electoral Commission (Australia), “A Virtual Voting Experience in 19 Languages.” “Enter into a virtual world of election day voting.” Very charming; you'll need Flash. The Cambodian version is the most lyrically graphic, though I couldn't read a single word. If only real, inane initiatives could wear such smiley faces. Hey, wait, here in the US they do: just turn on your TV!

    * * *

    The poet Robert Frost has the last word:
    “Thinking isn't agreeing or disagreeing. That's voting.”
    So go vote.

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

    November 6, 2006

    Core 77's Design 2.0 event, November 15 in Boston, asks, “What should we make?”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Core 77 Design2.0 BosNext week, Core 77, the “industrial design supersite”-plus-online community that's become central to the design profession, is holding its third Design 2.0 event, in Boston on Wednesday, November 15, at Vessel.

    The theme of the event is “Design, Technology, and the Future.” Panelists include John Maeda from MIT Media Lab, Natalie Jeremijenko from UCSD and ITP, Bill Cockayne from Change Research, and Jason Pearson from GreenBlue. Allan Chochinov, Editor of Core77, will be moderating.

    Here's your invitation, by way of a challenge:

    As products and systems become smarter and more technologically imbued, the mandate of the designer is thrown into question. If we can make anything, what should we make? And if all of our activities have consequences -- environmental, economic and social -- what are the opportunities for moving positively into the future? How can we balance serving interests with setting agendas? Join us for a panel discussion on the front lines.

    Design 2.0 will run from 1 PM to 6 PM, with check-in and snacks, presentations, panel discussion, Q&A, networking, and a cocktail reception.
    Click here for more information.

    Pics and podcasts from Core 77's New York and San Francisco Design 2.0 events can be found here.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | The Practice of Experience Design

    November 5, 2006

    What's an "experience designer"? BRC Imagination Arts offers a definition

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    BrcWhat's an “experience designer”? This current job posting on Archinect by BRC Imagination Arts, in Burbank, CA, a paragon among experience-design firms, offers a multifaceted description of one type of experience designer. Experience designers come in all disciplines and domains -- conceptual, process, environmental, and many who go by other names. The clarity of BRC's description, however, is exceptional:

    Experience Design Lead

    BRC Imagination Arts
    Burbank, CA

    Posted on: Nov 02, '06

    We’re looking to meet bright, talented and enthusiastic Experience Design Leads to join our idea circle and eclectic ranks. If you have an amazing portfolio, a passion for design, and a “do whatever it takes” attitude, we want to see what you’ve got.

    The Experience Design Lead is responsible for the creation of ideas and visual aspects of experiential and exhibit design for the concept and master planning of museums, visitor attractions and cultural heritage centers.


    • Conduct design research to inform and support conceptual ideas
    • Work closely with designers and writers to find the most effective, killer way to communicate an idea.
    • Develop and present ideas in illustrative sketches, plans, media, polished presentations and/or 3D models that effectively communicate the concept vision both internally and to clients.
    • Manage project budgets and work with the Design Studio Manager to keep staff and resources in balance.
    • Enjoy travel? There’s a fair amount of it in this job.

    Work experience requirements:

    • Solid experience in museum exhibition and story-driven design, with a background in spatial and interpretive experience design. Knowledge of theater design is a plus.
    • Familiarity with a variety of the field’s concepts, practices and procedures.
    • An understanding of sustainable design and cultural sensitivity is a big plus. We care about the world and the future we all share.
    • Extremely organized and ability to problem-solve.


    • Must have strong design and business skills and have the ability to lead from the front. Powerhouse at generating ideas and design solutions. Ability to generate ideas, projects and edits quickly and effectively.
    • Must be able to think through the end of your pen or mouse. Ideation skills are critical to our design process. You’ll be responsible for generating quick sketches in meetings that awe the client and clearly communicate the concepts being generated by all participants.
    • Strong communication and supervisory skills.
    • Ability to work on multiple projects and meet sometimes crazy deadlines; strong time management skills.
    • We work at a very high rate of speed. You must be able generate ideas, projects and edits quickly and effectively.
    • Ability to work well with other designers, non-designers and management and be comfortable presenting and meeting with clients.
    • Extremely organized with attention to detail.
    • Flexibility

    Software Requirements

    • Must know Illustrator and Photoshop.
    • SketchUp, CAD or other media programs a plus.
    • Basic knowledge of Microsoft Office applications.

    Education Requirements

    • Multiple degrees, interests, passions and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and experiencing life is a big plus.

    How to Apply

    Email a cover letter and resume along with a link to your online portfolio to Matthew Solari, Design Studio Manager. If you don’t have an online portfolio, you may send 3 PDF samples of your work.

    (Hey, if the shoe fits...wear it!)

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

    November 2, 2006

    Women make 80 percent of buying decisions: what's it mean for experience designers?

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    American Gothic“The Buying Power of the 80 Percent Minority,” on today's Talk of the Nation, discusses a central fact of contemporary marketing: women make most of the decisions to buy high-ticket items:

    Women make the household purchases in 80 percent of homes. Now, more and more businesses realize that what women want are power tools, dishwashers, digital cameras, automobiles and houses. Guests discuss how retailers are catering to the way women shop, and changing marketing strategies to appeal to the major purchasing power of women.

    This has been known for a long time, actually. A decade ago, when my VR company was preparing a living-room-sized 3D showroom for a regional hardware chain, the company's executives made sure we understood that women would be making most of the decisions -- no, if I recall, they said “all of the decisions” -- regarding interior design, including purchasing hard goods (like lighting and ventilation) as well as softer items (furniture and draperies).

    One of the TOTN callers-in, a young retail electronics salesman, observed that even in dealing with “Engadget” types of buys, women were better informed, more inquisitive, and ultimately the people who made the buying decision. Males in couples often stood on the sidelines while their female partners did the bargaining -- hard. The show host speculated that men don't want to be one-upped by salespeople, which is how they feel if they have to ask for advice. The same is true, it might be observed, for couples on the road or traveling overseas: who wanders endlessly, and who asks the questions that gets the couple where they're going? You got it: the gal.

    Brand managers lust after the 18-35 male target market . What if they're wrong? What if the 18-35 male cohort is highly visible merely because it watches media -- but it doesn't actually buy the goods advertised thereon? Who's pitching to the women? For that matter, who's pitching to the 35-plus women, especially the Boomer women, who control so much of the society's wealth? Most marketing professionals still talk about target markets in disturbingly vague terms that suggest they don't really know the outcomes of their investments.

    All of this may be critical to marketers, but what does it say for experience designers? Three things:

    • Experiences are almost certainly different for men and women, categorically, outweighing individual differences. Designed experiences must be tested for these differences.

    • Any experience design for a mixed audience must be designed with the assumption that the women's experiences will be decisive, if the point of the experience is a subsequent action on the part of the “experiencers.”

    • Teams of experience designers will benefit by including women who see things in a context that men may not share -- and by taking their advice.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Practice of Experience Design | Theories of Experience

    TODAY (Thursday): Geoffrey Nunberg public lecture on “The Paradox of Political Language" at PARC (Palo Alto Research Center)

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Nunberg Geoffrey TToday, Geoffrey Nunberg, linguist, author, and NPR commentator, is speaking today at PARC (the former Xerox PARC) in Palo Alto, CA, on “The Paradox of Political Language.” Political discourse, in its many forms -- overt, covert, annoying, and edifying -- defines our times, culture, self-image, and experience. Nunberg, insightful and funny, can be counted on for a very smart presentation and Q&A. Bay Area readers, don't miss this event.

    PARC Forum, “The Paradox of Political Language,” Geoffrey Nunberg
    Thursday, Nov 2, 2006, 4:00-5:00 PM
    George E. Pake Auditorium
    Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)

    This forum is OPEN to the public.

    ABSTRACT: There's a paradox in modern attitudes about political language. Left and right may disagree as to which expressions count as deceptive packaging and which are merely effective branding, but both sides acknowledge that the American public is particularly susceptible to linguistic manipulation. Yet it's also fair to say that there has never been an age that was so wary of the mischief that language can work or so alert to the dangers of political euphemism and indirection. How did we come to this point? Are political and public figures really more mendacious than they used to be, or does it reflect a changing media role or an increasingly polarized political climate? Why is widespread sophistication no impediment to the misleading use of language, and why do many of the most successful linguistic maneuvers pass our radar undetected?

    ABOUT THE SPEAKER: Geoffrey Nunberg is an adjunct full professor at UC Berkeley's School of Information Management and Systems. He was a researcher at Xerox PARC from 1987 to 2001. He serves as chair of the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, offers regular commentaries on language on the NPR show “Fresh Air” and writes on language for the Sunday New York Times Week in Review, as well as for other periodicals. His 2004 book Going Nucular, was selected by as one of the Ten Best Nonfiction Books of 2004 and as one of the “Top 10 Books of the Year” by the San Jose Mercury News.

    His most recent book Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned LIberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show was published in July 2006 by PublicAffairs.


    Palo Alto Research Center Inc.
    Phone: (650) 812-4000
    3333 Coyote Hill Rd
    Palo Alto, CA 94304

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

    November 1, 2006

    Lydia Loizides' Media Technology Futures Weblog: "Consumers and The Value Exchange"

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Headshotsmall LydiaMedia researcher and strategist Lydia Loizides, on her Media Technology Futures weblog, has some interesting things to say about “Consumers and the Value Exchange.”

    Lydia begins,

    It all started with this question that someone asked me last week: is there a way to express the value of a technology to the consumer who has had no previous exposure to the product or its features? I pondered it for a moment and then answered, in a quiet voice, “I don’t really know.” And as I thought about it over the next few days, I stumbled upon this idea that maybe the question that was being asked was wrong. Not because of how it was phrased, but more how it was developed in the first place.

    She goes on to describe the “value exchange” as an ephemeral relationship that links (or delinks) people and technology, based on perceived as well as real values that the technology has or lacks. She follows with an attribution to an October 2006 Harvard Business Review article by Clay Christensen et al about “tools for cooperation and change,” in which an interesting graphic appears:

    Lydia concludes,

    So here it is, a matrix if you will, outlining some tools that can be employed to engage with a consumer – based on the perceived value exchange of the relationship that consumer will have with a particular technology. I invite you to think about this and see if it applies to you and your process of expressing the value of a particular product or service as well. If there is merit in the construction, it would be interesting to apply it in practice. The question then becomes, where can it be applied? In what categories should it be applied? And is there value in understanding the nature of “value” overall from the consumer’s point of view? I would argue yes, but you tell me.

    Visit her blog to tell her.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Theories of Experience

    IDEA 2006 Presentations now available on IDEA conference blog

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Idea-2006-1Proceedings and presentations from IDEA 2006, recently concluded in Seattle, are available for streaming and download on the IDEA conference blog. Featuring a stellar cast of speakers in an appropriately open setting (the Seattle Public Library), the conference proceedings provide an excellent cross-section of theories, design approaches, and practical applications that might constitute an ideal experience-design practice.

    Organizer Peter Merholz offers a thoughtful epilogue -- and a challenge for the future -- on his blog, PeterMe. Peter's blog also features a rousing closing keynote by always-in-the-forefront science-fiction writer Bruce Sterling.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | The Practice of Experience Design | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts