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


  • Bob Jacobson
  • Paula Thornton
  • BOB JACOBSON is fascinated by the experience of experience. A planner and technologist, Bob has a Ph.D. in Urban Planning & Design from UCLA. He's been a policy researcher, technology CEO, science writer, and consultant. As a Fulbright Scholar, he studied cellular telephony's impacts on transborder communities in the Nordic Arctic Circle. Bob edited Information Design (MIT Press 2000) and is now writing a book on the theory and practice of creating edifying, transformative experiences.
    ( Archive | Contact Bob )
    CORANTE PAULA THORNTON says, "Understanding human behavior (economics), optimizing interactions (design) and facilitating conversations (markets), are the means to achieve strategic differentiation. This is the focus of our discipline. It is not a 'nice to have'‚ and is not, like documentation once was, an afterthought. It is the means by which to start a strategic discussion and the means by which to drive a tactical initiative. All design should be evidence-based."
    ( Archive | Contact Paula ) >

    (Courtesy of Mark Vanderbeeken, Experientia SpA, Torino)

    Experience Design Websites
    Core 77 Website & Forum
    Business Week|Innovate
    InfoD: Understsanding by Design
    The Wayfinding Place
    Wayfinding Focus
    Design Addict
    L-ARCH (Landscape Architecture Mailing List)
    DUX 2007 Conference
    Digital Thread
    Enmeshed, Digital Arts & New Media
    Ludology (Game Playing Theory)
    Captology, Persuasive Computing
    Space and Culture
    Raskin Center for Humane Interfaces
    timet (acoustical design)
    Steve Portigal, Ethnographer
    Jane McGonigal's Avant Game
    Ted Wells' living : simple
    PingMag (Japan)

    Experience Design Blogs
    Adam Greenfield's Speedbird
    Experience Designer Network (Brian Alger)
    SmartSpace: Annotated Environments (Scott Smith)
    Don Norman
    Doors of Perception (John Thackara)
    Karl Long's Experience Curve
    Work•Play•Experience (Adam Lawrence)
    The David Report (David Carlson)
    Design & Emotion (Marco van Hout)
    Museum 2.0 (Nina Simon)
    B J Fogg
    Lorenzo Brusci (acoustics)
    Cool Town Studios
    Steve Portigal
    Debbie Millman
    MIT Culture Convergence Consortium
    Luke Wroblewski, Functioning Form|Interface Design
    Adam Richardson
    Putting People First (Paul Vanderbeeken/Experientia
    Laws of Simplicity (John Maeda)
    Challis Hodge's UX Blog
    Anne Galloways's Purse Lips Square Jaw
    Bruno Giussani's Lunch over IP
    Jane McGonigal's Avant-Game The Future of Work

    Experience Design Podcasts
    Ted Wells' living : simple Podcast
    Design Matters Podcast, Debbie Millman
    Icon-o-Cast Podcast, Lunar Design

    Experience Design Firms and ED-Oriented Manufacturers
    Barry Howard Limited
    Hilary Cottam
    LRA Worldwide, Inc.
    BRC Imagination Arts
    Stone Mantel
    Experientia s.r.l
    Herman Miller
    Cooper Interactive Design
    Doblin Group
    Fit Associates
    Strategic Horizons LLC (Joe Pine & Jim Gilmore)
    Cheskin Fresh Perspectives

    Education and Advocacy
    Centre for Design Research, Northumbria University (UK)
    Center for Design Research, Stanford University
    International Institute of Information Design (IIID)
    Design Management Institute
    Interaction Institute IVREA
    Design Research Institute (UK)
    UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Design Research
    History of Consciousness, UCSC
    Design News Magazine
    Society for Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD)
    Design Museum London
    Center for Sustainable Design
    Horizon Zero, Digital Arts+Culture in Canada
    Design Council UK
    First Monday

    Total Experience on Technorati
    Technorati Profile

    Get Camino!
    In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

    Total Experience

    « 'Fill 'er up!“ as a customer experience, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Big Oil | Main | Paranoia and recklessness among national leaders: what role do events play? »

    November 19, 2007

    Confronting the authenticity conundrum: A review of Authenticity, by Gilmore and Pine

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    ImgbookauthenticityAuthenticity: What Consumers Really Want, by James Gilmore and Joseph Pine II, Harvard Business School Press, 2007

    Authenticity is an ambitious volume by Jim Gilmore and Joe Pine, authors of the 1999 marketing classic, The Experience Economy: Work is Theater and Every Business a Stage. Authenticity is an important, simultaneously prescriptive and cautionary addition to the rapidly growing corpus of literature on experiential marketing. Much of this literature is trivial. This book is first-rate. But also challenging. Despite its business-book style, it's not an easy read: you have to pay attention.

    Authenticity, as other reviewers have noted, features an impressive encyclopedic review of corporate attempts to create good experiences for their customers. Gilmore and Pine also proffer copious advice on how to assess a company's current authenticity; the art of “placemaking,” creating unique sites for the expression of authenticity; and most scientifically, how to become measurably authentic. But Authenticity's importance isn't as a how-to book: the more concrete its recommendations, the more speculative they feel. That's because pedagogically, Authenticity is a collection of truly interesting hypotheses, the proofs for which are anecdotal, not scientifically tested theories. (Gilmore and Pine may possess testable data and actual scientific proofs; but if so, they're only accessible to paying clients, a universal problem for consultants touting theoretical insights.)

    In their largely observational The Experience Economy, Pine and Gilmore describe the evolution of product-marketing embodiments in this way:

    Commodities -> Goods -> Services -> Experiences -> Transformations

    In today's sophisticated business environment, commodities, goods, and services are virtually indistinguishable as competitive offerings. Marketers must now generate experiences by in order to reach customers jaded by too many marketing claims and information overload.

    Their message in
    Authenticity is more directive. Transformations, which bond companies and customers irrevocably, occur only when authenticity -- customer self-identity and the brand experience -- are total. They're beyond intentional design. But at the highest level of manipulable reality, the generation of experiences, the higher the degree of authenticity, as perceived by customers, is the critical differentiating factor in the quality of experiences that companies offer to their customers.

    Authenticity, however, is a fluid quality, difficult to acquire and even more difficult to retain. Every situation is unique and requires special treatment. To establish overarching principles and rules, the authors' arguments range far afield, involving quantum physics, existentialism, psychology, heuristics, and architecture and design. Highly complex, these arguments rely on pages of footnotes set in small type (which most business readers will ignore -- but which I found evocative and insightful). It will be tough for most lay persons to apply Authenticity's methods. Which is why this book will probably be more popular among the consultants who are hired to turn its dictates into practice.

    It's Authenticity's subtext that's makes it a must-read for everyone else. Ultimately, and not surprisingly, even as clever as Jim and Joe are, they hit a logical wall when they try to make marketing and authenticity compatible -- a project comparable to mixing oil and water. This constant contradiction troubled me from the book's first page to its last. If the authors were writing science fiction, a story requiring the heroes to exceed the speed of light would be fine. But Gilmore and Pine's prescriptions in
    Authenticity are meant for marketing managers who can barely manage brands, let alone contradictory logical types and confusing syllogisms. (In The Experience Economy, the authors took a simpler line, making their principal argument in considerably fewer pages. I wish they'd done the same in Authenticity.)

    For most readers, this book will serve as a significant historical marker in an age of commerce when, as the authors observe, the “real” and the “fake” have become completely transferable, substitutable, and indistinguishable. It's an energetic, intellectual, neo-Aristotelian romp through the land of make-believe concocted by marketers, designers, creative directors, retailers, real estate developers, and by a public only too willing to believe the unbelievable. The authors' argue among themselves as often as they do with the charlatans and mediocre impresarios of experience. Their sincere attempt to come to grips with the authenticity conundrum is moving.
    Authenticity is a manifesto for our time that can't be ignored.

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


    Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Confronting the authenticity conundrum: A review of Authenticity, by Gilmore and Pine:

    Jim Gilmore and Joe Pine, authors of the 1999 marketing classic, The Experience Economy: Work is Theater and Every Business a Stage, have just published a new book Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want (see also this post). In a review Bob Jacobs... [Read More]

    Tracked on November 22, 2007 11:18 PM


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