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!

    Total Experience

    Monthly Archives

    February 28, 2007

    "Making Meaning": Nathan Shedroff interviewed by Steve Portigal on Core 77

    Email This Entry

    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Broadcasts ShedroffNathan Shedroff, a good friend and author of the first (and so far, only) book on holistic experience design -- aptly entitled, Experience Design 1-- is interviewed by Bay Area ethnographer Steve Portigal on the ever informative design portal, Core 77 (link here for the MP3, 47MB). From the Core 77 introduction:

    Nathan Shedroff, experience design guru, author of the seminal Experience Design 1 and co-author of Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences, sits down with Steve Portigal in San Francisco to talk about the experience and design of experience design. Seriously.

    Shedroff's definition gets things started: “Experience design is an approach to design, and you can use that approach in pretty much any discipline—graphic design or industrial design or interaction design, or retail design. It says the dimensions of experience are wider than what those disciplines normally take into account. And if you think wider—through time, multiple senses and other dimensions—then you can create a more meaningful experience.”

    And he follows it up with the 5 levels of significance:

    1. Function (“Does this do what I want it to do?”)
    2. Price (“There are lots of cars out there to get me from point A to point B”)
    3. Emotion (“That's where lifestyle is engaged. How does this make me feel?”)
    4. Identity or Value (“This is subconscious: ”Would I be caught dead with this?; am I a Nike fan, or an Adidas fan?“)
    5. Meaning (Not ”Is this me?“, but ”Does this fit my reality?“ ”Does this even fit inside the world as I perceive it?“)

    Nathan addresses his talk mainly to commercial designers, but it has universal application to all design disciplines and practices. I understand from Nathan that he's contemplating republishing his book online, in an easier to read format. Nathan: please do!

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Experience Design & Technology | The Practice of Experience Design | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    February 26, 2007

    The Missing Rosetta Stone

    Email This Entry

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Harold G. Nelson offers an interesting perspective on the realm of our discipline:

    "Scientists and artists legitimately serve their own interests-their curiosity or need to express themselves. In contrast, design is defined as a service to the 'other'. Design is relationship-based-a social system-and designing is a complex, dynamic process I describe as a 'conspiracy'-a breathing together-among stakeholders in the design."

    He also talks about our ability to be transcendental (well, not exactly, but it seemed like a great '60s attribute to try on for fit). His case for design as a basis for leadership is all the more intriguing when looking at its reliance on a "service relationship" (it's likely slighly different than your first mental image). Based on my own heightened focus to embody more 'change management' practices in our discipline, this quote was also quite relevant:

    leaders forget, people like to change -- they just don't like being changed
    [emphasis added]

    Mr. Nelson suggests that a design culture helps accommodate the change, but this also requires an organizational design competency.

    A quick review of his book, The Design Way, strongly suggests that there are some keys here to crossing the chasm. The more I learn about Harold Nelson and his work the more it looks like it could be the missing Rosetta Stone for our discipline. He certainly has pegged a primary reason I've never pursued an advanced degree.

    Quotes from in-depth interview in NextD Journal: ReRethinking Design
    Caution: While purported as an 'interview', GK VanPatter has a tendency to pontificate too profusely at the expense of gaining greater understanding of the individual being interviewed. The last 20 pages (printed html pages of 44 total) is an endless stream of GK interjecting material which should have been published in a separate piece.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Odds and Ends: Random Observations

    February 23, 2007

    Kaizen Meets Ethnography

    Email This Entry

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Just keep finding ways to introduce the principles. Check out this example, excerpted here from a manufacturing publication:

    ...won over by a Kaizen demonstration that stressed the importance of videotaping. Seward was inspired enough to purchase a video camera on his way back to the plant. On his return, he made a 10-minute video of an assembly/packaging process that he sensed incorporated too many duplicated steps. He then invited three operators, an engineer and an operations manager to watch the video with him. Their curiosity about Seward's plan turned to active involvement when he then asked the workers to describe problems they were having with the process. "The flood gates opened," says Seward. "I filled many pages. When they finally slowed down, I asked what they thought we could do to improve the process."
    The team quickly noted the wastefulness of having expensive process machinery sit idle while the operator assembled parts. Then automation was discussed, which led an operator to ask if Seward's experiment would mean the end of his job. "I assured them they would never lose their job at this company because of this process," says Seward. "I said it will make their job easier and allow them more time to get involved with additional work as we bring it in, which is good for growth."
    Seward's impromptu Kaizen session led to a new, partially automated machine the company designed and built in-house. "It paid for itself in five weeks," says Seward, by enabling more units to be built in less time.

    Now maybe someone should point out to them why it works...

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary

    February 19, 2007


    Email This Entry

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    wikinomicsglobetop.jpgLeveraging the common model to combine a book with a discussion, Wikinomics claims to focus on how mass collaboration changes everything.

    The thoughts framed by this concept were central to the discussions that went on at the recent FASTforward 07 event (which I'm already planning to attend next year). Conversations around the event and the thinking that went on, continue with high energy. Aside from the uniqueness of the event in the pre/post use of the blog which was seeded with some high-energy thinkers in the intranet / Enterprise 2.0 space, the event was unique in that although hosted by a vendor (and sponsored by several others), it was clearly an event to bring together bright minds and allow for deep conversations to go on around the topics and possibilities for this space -- such that the vendor(s) themselves can learn from the discussions as equal participants.

    What was refreshing is that principles of Experience Design were front and center in the conversations. It was clearly a 'design thinking' sort of event.

    One concept that came out of the discussions, which is reinforced by the Wikinomics artifacts, is that we need to embrace the power of the 'individual as a channel'. Major companies are thinking through new business models to both embrace and capitalize on this reality. Related discussions were quite heady.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Experience Design & Technology | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    February 7, 2007

    Fake Authenticity: Ersatz Experience, The Next Big Thing

    Email This Entry

    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    ERSATZ Notwithstanding the imminent Second Coming of Authenticity to the experience economy, where all the world's a stage, a long line of modern philosophers, from Husserl and Nietsche through Heidegger and Sartre, have had a lot to say about what true authenticity is all about -- and it's not about pushing product, making sales, collecting votes, gathering converts, or creating good vibes. It's about being in the world, authentically. Which is harder to do than it sounds, especially as one tries to navigate among all the clever invention and meanings passed off as the real thing.

    But slogging through their work on ontology and phenomenology may be difficult for a generation of marketers -- self-designated “user experience designers,” “customer experience designers,” and just plain “experience designers”-- raised on Truth as revealed by TV anchormen and NY Times columnists; or more recently, rap music, the Internet, and the wisdom of the crowds (i.e., bloggers like me).

    Hermenaut LogoSo I was delighted to discover an article on Hermenaut, the Digest of Heady Philosophy, by Joshua Glenn, “Fake Authenticity: An Introduction.” It appears in Issue 15 of the Hermenaut, which explores Fake Authenticity in the context of the writings of science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick, whose short stories inspired such iconic films as Bladerunner and Minority Report. Glenn's easy to read essay sets the tone for the coming Age of Ersatz.

    The editors designate Dick as Hermenaut of the Month, posthumously. Glenn in an insightful biography of the foresightful author, reports that Dick was fascinated by the “semi-real” -- another term for manufactured authenticity. Realistic fakery, which is apparently what's in store for us all.

    Parenthetically, although I'm skeptical of many premises regarding intentional authenticity, I do like experience-economy evangelist (
    or “E3,” an interesting coincidence) Joe Pine's article on “Architecture in the Experience Economy” on DesignIntelligence -- if you discount the possibility of there being an “authentic architecture,” a concept Glenn destroys -- makes a lot of sense. Designed places aren't necessarily authentic, but they're a hell of a lot more fun to co-create and inhabit than the designed buildings, architectural ego trips, in which most of us must spend most of our time.

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

    February 1, 2007

    Turner's Boston Marketing Party: GenXY's historic trashing of public space

    Email This Entry

    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    T A T Sponsorship 220X277We live in a fearful world. We also live in a world beset by marketing pollution.

    Yesterday's stupid marketing stunt in Boston, conducted by “youth marketer” Interference (I won't dignify them by publishing their link) in behalf of Turner Broadcasting (another Bozo organization), exploited both conditions to create worry, expense, and disgust. Little electronic dolls representing a loathsome character from an asinine, late-night TB cable show were placed everywhere: attached to poles, fastened to bridges, placed in alley ways -- if there was a public device or vista, it was graced with one of these dolls. The dolls were mistaken for bombs. City police and Homeland Security went nuts, mobilizing to shut down the city in case terrorists were afoot.

    No doubt, despite the furor, the campaign almost certainly will attract new viewers to Turner's cable show -- an adult Romper Room, complete with talking toys (that crap on you) -- thus validating the assault in the name of numbers. What's amazing is that the same campaign was conducted in eight other cities without any repercussions at all because the dolls were seen as "just dolls, not bombs." Oh yeah, that's how I like to wake up: walking down the street, with electronic dolls for unlikable characters now added to the mix of billboards, wallboards, bus signs, newspaper stands, and the local "solicitor," all with the same commercial proposition: "Gimme!"

    Public places are now fair game not only for traditional advertisement littering, but also for non-traditional, skirting-the-edge-of-legality, all-out trashing. The individuals who perpetrated this outrage against the commons and their apologists in the marketing industry should themselves be made a public spectacle: bound and pilloried in a public place, targeted with rotten tomatoes, mocked and reviled -- then branded with a Scarlet Letter (how about "A," twice, for "advertising asses"?

    The GenYs for whom these insults allegedly are conducted, and the GenXs that arrange them, will long rue the absence of noncommercial space in the cities that they’re going to have to live in for the next 60 or more years. They’re fouling their psychosocial nest. I won’ t even get into the business issue of marketing saturation and consumer fatigue resulting from every street corner becoming branded with someone’s BS advertising for yet another trivial product.

    If this and similar incursions against public space produce "good results” that in turn give license to further (and worse) predations, then the marketing profession had best start examining itself to find out if it still has a soul or whether it’s all about Mammon. (lllustration: Canada's excellent counter-marketing This Magazine)

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