Corante

TOTAL EXPERIENCE explores designing for experience: its theory, its practice, and how designing for experiences affects us socially and in our personal lives.

CO-AUTHORS

  • 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 ) >
    EXPERIENCE DESIGN:
    THE METAVERSE....

    CALENDAR OF EXPERIENCE DESIGN EVENTS
    (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
    NetDiver.Net
    DesignBoom
    Digital Thread
    Archinect
    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
    FutureLab
    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
    Nokia
    Herman Miller
    Steelcase
    IDEO
    Cooper Interactive Design
    Gensler
    Doblin Group
    Fitch
    Fit Associates
    Jump
    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
    AIGA DUX
    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

    August 31, 2007

    Design Thinking

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    I was attempting to edit the abysmal entry for Design Thinking on Wikipedia. I began to doubt the appropriateness of what I was writing – not for its validity but for its style. I finally decided to simply put what I would have wanted for an entry there, here.

    Design Thinking leverages implicit elements of design practices, as a means to approach problem solving. It is a critical factor for innovation.

    "Design thinking is a term being used today to define a way of thinking that produces transformative innovation." [1] The term has gained significance as it is being embraced outside of the normal realm for which it might have traditionally been applied.

    Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management, suggests that Design Thinking is central to value creation in the 21st century (see "Design of Business"). It is not a matter of gaining an understanding of design, it's a matter of embracing design – a way of operating. Martin further suggests that success in the 20th century was defined by an ability to move through a continuum, from mystery, to heuristic, to algorithm, to binary code. In this way things are identified, a pattern is made, and exact replicas are generated. For a mass production economy this is an ideal model for operating success.

    But as barriers to information are lowered (less expensive, more readily available/shared), the economics of competition change dramatically. The value of intellectual capital is now often greater when it is shared and allowed to evolve openly (a lot of lawyers suddenly become irrelevant). Fundamental business models rely on minimizing risk. Getting to binary code was an ideal way to lock down fluctuation and variance – both associated with risk.

    New economic models embrace risk as reality, requiring a move back up the continuum to 'heuristic'. Roger Martin specifically suggests: "I would argue that to be successful in the future, businesspeople will have to become more like designers – more ‘masters of heuristics’ than ‘managers of algorithms’." For classic business models this is uncomfortable. The idea of managing something squishy is foreign. Design Thinking is required to operate in squishy-mode.

    It's not to be confused with a method – it's fundamentally a culture, a genotype to reshape methods of operating. Contemporary organizational structures are antithetical to this culture. Martin elaborates,

    Whereas traditional firms organize around ongoing tasks and permanent assignments, in design shops, work flows around projects with defined terms. The source of status in traditional firms is ‘managing big budgets and large staffs’, but in design shops, it derives from building a track record of finding solutions to ‘wicked problems’ – solving tough mysteries with elegant solutions.

    Whereas the style of work in traditional firms involves defined roles and seeking the perfect answer, design firms feature extensive collaboration, ‘charettes’ (focused brainstorming sessions), and constant dialogue with clients.

    Design Thinking is critical to and at the same time relies on emergent structures. As such, it is central to all aspects of 2.0 design.

    Design Thinking is a specific concept (the significance between specific and general use of a term is illustrated in the reference to complexity). While common methods of thought include deductive and inductive reasoning, Design Thinking embraces these but adds abductive reasoning. Abductive reasoning is effectively embracing a posture of "Why not?", but with a layer of rationale.

    Random trial and error is expensive. Rationale is too often replaced by random opinion. While predominantly driven by profit-motivation (e.g. search engine optimization, transactional growth), there is clear professional growth in the discipline of web analytics. To be most effective, Design Thinking must be informed by Design Research (transactional analytics, behavioral analytics, feedback loops, usability studies, and ethnography). I call this evidence-based design, Jeffrey Pfeffer calls it evidence-based management.

    Another differentiating element of Design Thinking is a focus on synthesis rather than analysis. Claudia Kotchka notes:

    Designers problem-solve holistically, not in a linear fashion. While the scientific method for problem solving uses problem focused strategies and analysis, designers use solution focused strategies and synthesis. They start with a whole solution rather than break it down into parts.

    Good Design Thinking is the ability to see things not readily apparent to others (that's where market differentiation can occur). Thus my favorite Schopenhauer quote:

    “Thus the task is
    not so much to see
    what no one yet has seen,
    but to think
    what nobody yet has thought
    about that which
    everybody sees”

    It's the ability to see the 'edges' of something, to find shape and form in a mass of stuff. It's the ability to see things differently – to see the implicit and make it explicit.

    Additional References

    Comments (6) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Commentary

    August 20, 2007

    Spirituality and Design, Part 2

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    The-Lake-MartinPreparing to write a book on designing for experience, I decided to explore four ways of understanding experience: as spirituality, philosophically, scientifically, and what we might call “by design.” In an earlier entry, I listed several categories of spiritual experience and their significance in the lives of those who have these experiences, which can be profound. Spirituality in the lives of individuals may be beyond the reach of designers working with experience, however.

    At least this is what my research suggests. Despite looking very hard, I was unable to discover evidence of designers acknowledging, let alone employing, spiritual experience in the process of creating experiences. The intense materialism that characterizes contemporary design mitigates against working in a spiritual dimension. Perhaps this is because design has become so closely associated with science and engineering (or maybe it always has been).

    Take DUX 2007, the Conference on Designing for User Experience, is the closest thing to a conference on designing for experience generally (and a very good conference on its own terms). The “user” qualification immediately hearkens back to systems engineering, with which the process of design has become intertwined. This co-dependence is reflected in DUX' s topics: for example, tangible interfaces, embedded interfaces, ubiquitous computing, design process, process design (interesting recursion, responsive environments, and so on -- a lot of engineering, very little of spirit. Similarly, interaction design, on the cutting edge of contemporary design, is based on systems engineering concepts taken from empiricism and scientific logic: how things work. Of course, there is a human dimension to interaction design, a large one. But it's more often expressed in psychological, sociological, and (the latest trend) ethnographic terms than anything we might call spiritual. Ethnography as it's commercially practiced is in fact quite a bit like systems engineering with its focus on identifying and describing tangible, observable human behavior that can then be harnessed for designing products that can be made and sold.

    Ever hopeful, I explored the “Blogosphere” using Technorati, Google Blogs, and Nielsen BuzzMetrics' Blogpulse (the best of the lot, in my opinion). “Design” and “spirituality” seem to exist only in entirely different universes. Their appearance together, except on blogs with a sect to sell, is infrequent or non-existent.

    This isn't to say that designers of experience, and designers in other modalities, don't have spiritual experiences or don't know of their significance. To the contrary, designers' websites and blogs abound with descriptions of objects seen or encountered, environments inhabited and traversed, and processes enjoyed or endured that they describe as “wondrous,” “awesome,” “disheartening,” or “encompassing” that indicate they've been touched deeply. In The Experience Economy, their influential work on intentionally designed experience, Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore devote an entire chapter of this short book to the spiritual dimension of experience design. (I admit that I dismissed this chapter too quickly when I first read it. Now I have a deeper appreciation of Pine and Gilmore's meaning, although I haven't seen them develop it further, at least not online.)

    More often, however, designers speak of designs as “effective,” “working” or “broken,” or use other mechanistic terms that have designs serving instrumental purposes: getting this or that done or accomplished. Interestingly, the main critique of The Experience Economy on Wikipedia is that design of experience is about better managed co-creation and co-production with consumers, completely disregarding the spiritual dimension alluded to by Pine and Gilmore. So much for far-ranging inquiry.

    We know from the work of child psychiatrist Robert Cole and others that infants lead a rich spiritual life (which some experts on childhood believe can be diminished or killed outright by a society's and parents' materialistic perspectives and religious dogma). Spirituality may continue as a profound element in most people's lives. I read today of a survey conducted by AP and MTV among American kids aged 13-24. In this most materialistic and religiously dogmatic of cultures, more than half of the young people surveyed credit spirituality, defined as a connection with something Other, as an essential element of personal happiness. (The leading factor is happy family relationships, definitely a worthy aspiration but one that depends on more than good intentions. Shared spiritual understanding among parents and siblings, a rare condition, might have something to do with it.) The famous longitudinal study of a group of men conducted by the late Daniel Levinson, in which they describe their lives over many decades, suggests that the degree to which the subjects maintain viable spiritual outlooks correlates with their subjective happiness regardless of their objective accomplishments. Similar studies of women -- for example, the now well-known Nun Study confirm this connection as universal: they reveal how dependent the quality of women's lives in their advanced years may be on the strength of their spiritual convictions acquired in youth (as well as on more objective factors).

    So let me circle back now and talk about design with a spiritual dimension: not design for spirituality so much as design with spiritual experience in mind.

    The website for the Partners for Sacred Places reminds us that people have been creating places evocative of spiritual experiences probably since the dawn of history. Whether or not the architects often hired to accomplish this purpose is a matter for debate, on a case by case basis -- but there's no doubt, significant time and wealth have been invested in producing a heightened spiritual experience, one of their “deliverables.” Some sports, particularly in the martial arts (I'm thinking of my own aikido training) are also “designed” to enhance spiritual awareness. Experiencing awe in a cathedral, holy garden, in exercise, or on a retreat, however, is a momentary experience, ephemeral. We all know how quickly an elevated state can “entropize” and disappear, usually with a half-life expressed in days or even hours. Unfortunately, few designed experiences include a sufficient “spirituality quotient” to sustain this awareness. Most design projects are paid for by merchants (commercial and otherwise) with something to sell or a position to persuade: a product, a candidate, a point of view, a desired behavior, and so forth. Given this mercantile framework, how much leeway do even the most determined designers of experience have to apply the canons of experience design I identified earlier as edification and commutation? Not much. Meditation isn't a fungible commodity, unless you are a guru.

    Nevertheless, some designs, whether intended to or not, make a spiritual connection that results in a deeply memorable, sometimes actionable experience. My partner, Debra, has a spiritual experience (she claims, and I believe her) whenever she sees or experiences a particularly beautiful person, fashion, machine, or landscape. “Beauty” for her is a combination of elements that perfectly achieves its purpose. Given her pragmatic definition, many designs might be considered highly spiritual. More often, however, we admire the affordance provided by a designed object, environment, or process -- the ability it gives an individual awareness of, and ability to interact with, an environment. Most people globally have become overeducated in the appreciation of material achievements. Their spiritual edge is dulled. How can this dynamic be altered so that instead of us taking more and more of the world for granted, we experience wonder continuously or at least, more frequently? This isn't an option: the alternative to spirituality, in my opinion, is cynicism; of this, the world already has plenty.

    Speedbird's Adam Greenfield, in a reply to my comment on his well presented essay on experience design, turned me on to the notion of “qualia.” Qualia are supposed units of experience that each of us maintain, which -- if they could be apprehended and worked with -- would enable designers to compose truly remarkable experiences that, I'm sure, would have a powerful spiritual component. Unfortunately, qualia as defined cannot be shared and thus are not readily available for stoking spiritual or any other fires. But for me they remain a powerful concept. What if designers gave more attention to the spiritual dimension of experience and helped to better understand and appreciate its constitution and consequences in other than purely numinal ways? What if discussion on design blogs was about more than technology and techniques, or social media and psychology, and supported a meaningful conversation on the spiritual dimension of experience (as do so many non-design-oriented blogs)? Like most others in our field, I haven't the time to answer these questions, not so long as my livelihood is determined by clients who could care less about spirituality because they know so little about it. But perhaps others are better situated to explore. To them, I offer every encouragement. (I especially like this meditation developed by Steve Stein for the First Unitarian Church of San Jose, CA: it suggests what to look for and the right questions to ask as we look for spiritual expression in our daily environments. Funny how a sermon can produce a design program!)

    If you are a designer of experience who incorporates an appreciation of spirituality in your work, please share your cases with me so that I can share them more widely. Who knows, you might be The Next New Thing -- or should I say, The Next New Old Thing?

    Next: Philosophical perspectives on experience.

    (Image: Sri Chinmoy Bio)

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | Theories of Experience

    August 19, 2007

    Spirituality an Design, Part 2: Tune in tomorrow, please

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    CalendarNearly five weeks ago I posted a summary of spiritual experiences, categorized in terms of their context and consequences. I intended at that time to follow up with a discussion of spirituality's meaning for the design of experience, and how designers have reacted. (In the future, I intend to do the same for philosophical and scientific treatments of experience.)

    As some of you know, my partner, Debra, and I have been preparing for a trip to Copenhagen and Malmö -- the two metropoles comprising the “Øresund Region” -- to interview for jobs and perhaps become a part of the region's innovation-driven economy and emerging 21st-Century culture. Arranging travel and interviews engaged me more intensively than I anticipated! But now things are mostly in order, so it's time to return to my discussion....

    Please check in tomorrow afternoon. Thanks for your attention and also for your great comments on my earlier entry.

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