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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    Monthly Archives

    June 30, 2007

    Prelude to a discussion of Spiritual Experience

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Burning%20Car.jpgI sat down to write about the varieties of spiritual experience, only to be confronted by news of the Glasgow Airport car bombing; and earlier, the discovery in London of two Mercedes filled to the gills with explosives and nails that failed to detonate, prepared for jihadist purposes.

    Meanwhile, also in the name of religion, violence continues in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, and who knows how many other locations, each time with faith in a deity as its rationale -- something all parties to these conflicts,"good" and "bad" alike, have in common. In other places, depredations against the earth itself -- for example, the burning down of the rainforests, the clear-cutting of the Southeast Asian jungles (for chopsticks), the sweeping clean of sea life from the oceans, and the promotion of urban sprawl at the expense of nature -- are sanctioned as humankind's holy destiny. In the West, the Bible, written by all too human authors, elevates humanity to the role of über-species, demigods (in the form of the all-powerful God Himself), giving human predators great license. They not only can but must remake the earth, profiting by it in the process. The world is “Man's Dominion” -- or so we've been told by generations of boosterizing preachers. One branch of Christianity promotes the belief that you get what you deserve based on heavenly intervention, but it's not alone in sanctioning behaviors that result in incredible unevenness of wealth and opportunity within and among cultures and nations. Elsewhere, other religious traditions share the biblical authors' ambitions and promote their own forms of exploitation and reward in the name of the Divine. Buying things comes in No. 1 in some cultures.

    It's difficult under the circumstances to write about experience and spirituality, which by definition is not about death and destruction sanctified by totalitarian religion, but the opposite: connection with the Infinite, cohesion with the physical world, empathy and compassion, a sense of cosmic responsibility, and deep awareness within. For the moment, the egotistical religious zealotry that terrorizes people and the environment (as it has for millennia) holds the winning hand in terms of forming our contemporary consciousness. Sometimes, things seem to be changing. One hopes....

    As i delved into the history of spiritual experience, I discovered that over the millennia, spirituality has run on two paths. On the first path, the pursuit of transcendence and integration with the universe continues as the determined pursuit of an enlightened fraction of the population. On the second path, however, spirituality -- deliberately corrupted and misapplied -- has been transformed from a powerful force for good into a motivator of heinous acts and trivial behaviors (like rampant consumption) based on a coarse understanding of humanity's place in the world, as its Master.

    This misappropriation of the most fundamental human experience, spiritual identity, using it to serve evil -- venal and banal -- purposes, may have been the first deliberate act of experience design. It took real chutzpah to seize what was most profound and make it profane. Our challenge as ethical experience designers is to redeem our profession: in this regard, to reinstitute spirituality as a force for improving the quality of life on earth.

    I need to meditate on this tonight. Tomorrow, I'll tackle spiritual experience, as promised earlier....

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Theories of Experience

    June 28, 2007

    “Back in the saddle and ready to ride!”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    111936073 C8136Ec32FThe last two weeks have been glad and sad.

    Glad to be in a new place, see old friends, and be free of the last year's emotional burdens. Sad to have left Santa Monica and my dear friends there, the relationship that was my family, and the fabulous little girl I came to love as my own. Sad, too, that my destroyed Mac G4 Powerbook rendered me unable to blog here, to experience the catharsis of creation.

    These too shall pass. The memory to upgrade my Mac G3 Powerbook, the best machine I own for writing and blogging -- a work of ergonomic genius, as subsequent Macs have not been -- finally arrived. I installed it a couple of days ago and have been testing it. It works. As you can see, I'm “back in the saddle and ready to ride!” (to quote local rodeo lore). Thanks to Paula for her continuing postings of interest in the meantime.

    Tomorrow I'll pick up again where I had to leave off: exploring the varieties and qualities of spiritual experience, and their relation to the experiences that we seek to understand and for which we design. I'll also open a conversation about my future plans, which include a total immersion in innovation, and invite your comments....

    Over on Speedbird, Adam Greenfield has penned one of the best essays on experience and experience design ever to grace a blog. It's a modern take on philosophy and general systems thinking as applied to experience design, and what we can and cannot design for, experientially. Thank you, Adam, for a smooth exposition.

    (Image: Odd Items)

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

    New Courses Available

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    While we typically wouldn't blanket copy an email announcement here, I think this one is significant in what it means as to 1) the potential to grow the discipline and 2) that someone can justify offering such courses (e.g. there's enough demand for them -- because there IS!). And Victor Lombardi is just a really sharp industry resource.

    If anyone gets a chance to attend, please share your experience!
    [Don't miss the discount code...]

    What's also interesting is the 2.0 aspect of this. While only for New York City right now, imagine leveraging this 'community' and its infrastructure as a means to offer your own single session/event in your city (e.g. an upscale craigslist for classes/seminars). While we all might not have material to go into training full-time...sharing our own special knowledge for one course a year might be doable.


    Smart Experience is a new school in New York City offering
    classes for Internet professionals. We intend to cover
    state-of-the-art topics taught by the most experienced people in
    town. The school is organized as a marketplace, so you can tell
    us what classes you want us to offer, and what classes you want
    to teach. Learn more...

    Use discount code "Beta" when signing up for 20% off tuition...

    How do you proactively design an experience that expresses your
    brand? We will address the complexities of applying traditional
    brand guidelines to interactive environments, the relationship
    between the traditional brand elements of brand promise, goals,
    positioning and how to translate these to interaction and
    experience guidelines. Taught by Karen Hembrough who has worked
    with AOL, National Geographic, and iXL and just earned her MBA
    from Columbia University.
    1 two-hour workshop, Thursday, July 12. $70.

    This class will introduce the topic of business strategy and
    illustrate how Internet strategy is practiced by online and
    traditional companies. In class we'll discuss how Internet
    strategy applies to our particular situations and create our own
    fictional business by applying a particular strategic method.
    Taught by Victor Lombardi, the Director of Smart Experience, who
    also consults on Internet product development and is a leader in
    the field of information architecture. 2 two-hour workshops, Tuesdays
    7-9pm, July 10 & 17. $140.

    There are more classes on the website, as well as a listing of
    the best Internet events in New York city available via iCal,
    RSS, or email newsletter...

    Victor Lombardi
    Director, Smart Experience
    NYC Internet, mobile, and software education

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

    The 5 P's of Design & Development

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Note: I've redated this to raise it again with new info. Forrester had published an insightful report (July 2006) that spoke to larger considerations for workspace design: Untethering Information Workers: Rethinking Workplace Location and Layout (subscription only access). I was going to call out a few key points here but there were too many to pick from. Let's just say that it does a good job of highlighting many critical aspects of the TOTAL experience. Someone in our discipline could run with this and add tremendous detail and value to this 'start' of the story.

    Alternate Title: Microsoft Embraces New Work Spaces Reminicent of the Purple Sofa Era

    Both titles bear a bit of explanation. Marketing has 4 P's used as a model for strategy: Product, Price, Promotion, Place. In the process of uncovering the details of events going on within one group at Microsoft, I realized that they'd effectively identified 5 P's for Design & Development. These are shared in the context of this piece.

    As to the Purple Sofa Era, those of us who lived it, immediately identify with it. In the late '90s, nearly every dot.flop interactive agency (and even some internal corporate eBusiness groups) created more dynamic, creative physical work spaces to support the different work they were intending to generate, and to attract highly-creative resources.

    purple%20sofa%202.jpg These environments seemed to have common elements: purple sofas, Herman Miller furniture (especially Aeron chairs), writeable walls, and foosball tables. What is disheartening is that what follows in this piece was clearly suggested, with research (The People Are the Company), in 1995. So we're a little slow on the uptake.

    There are two supporting media pieces: the short version (a 15 minute tour of Microsoft's Patterns & Practices Lab) and the long version (a 49 minute interview describing the evolution of the group and their workspace).

    Notes and Observations...

    ...continue reading.

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

    June 11, 2007

    Spirituality and Experience: The universe intervenes....

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    For those anxiously awaiting my scribblings on spirituality and experience, and for those who wrote so many outstanding Comments regarding past entries (all published this evening), thank you for your patience.

    No, I did not have a desert epiphany and get singed by a Burning Bush, ascend to heaven on my steed, or assume a solitary perch atop a column to contemplate the world. (I did have a run-in with a scorpion on the back step, however. Contrary to Carl Stephenson's classic short story, "Leiningen Versus the Ants," in this case the skinny arachnid won, chasing me back indoors.)

    The universe intervened, but not in such dramatic fashion. First, I contracted an enormous cold in Santa Monica that fully bloomed only after I landed in Tucson. What an irony, to be sneezing and snuffling in such a sunny place. Then, on leaving the airport, my G4 Powerbook took a tumble and ended up completely whacked. (I'm using a borrowed laptop, a PC [holding nose], to post this entry. It doesn't have Ecto on it and so is unfit for blogging.) Fortunately, I brought along my G3 Powerbook as a precaution. Once new memory for it arrives, giving it the semblance of a modern Mac, I'll share with you the first installment of what is turning out to be a complex and highly entertaining story of humankind, spirituality, soul food -- I mean, food for the soul, and experience. It's more than I bargained for.

    In the meantime, my cold's gone, we've had our first seasonal lightning storm -- Tucson is the world's Lightning Capital! -- and I'm thinking seriously about exporting my experience-design practice and me to the Oresund region, where Denmark and Sweden are connected by the new Oresund Bridge. It's like Silicon Valley all over again, only with better food, real seasons, and an information economy at least a generation ahead of "Web 2.0": one based solely on innovation and creativity. Ah yes, and did I remark on the natural beauty of the inhabitants?

    All this and more when the chips show up and I return. See you online...!

    (Image: Weather Underground)

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