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

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    January 3, 2008

    Amazon Kindle: A New Experience Channel

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Amazon%20Kindle.jpgWhile the likes of the iPhone expand our access to online, Amazon embraces our changing states of online and offline by synthesizing them in an experience-specific device, the Kindle, for wireless reading. Amazon reinforces the synthesis by using the term “electronic-paper”. With a pricetag of almost $400, the fact that they’ve had to post the following statement, says something for the market response since its November 2007 debut, and its potential:
    Kindle Availability Due to heavy customer demand, Kindle is temporarily sold out. We are working hard to manufacture Kindles as quickly as possible and are prioritizing orders on a first come, first served basis. Please ORDER KINDLE NOW to reserve your place in line. We will keep you informed by email as we get more precise delivery dates. Note that Kindles cannot currently be sold or shipped to customers living outside of the U.S.

    The Kindle even has its own Wikipedia post (maybe offering full access to Wikipedia offline is related? Oh, and did I mention a full version of the New Oxford American Dictionary?). The post reports that the initial offering resulted in a sellout in 5.5 hours. Sure beats standing in line for hours on the street only to end up empty-handed. While the device was announced well over a year in advance, and even though I’m on Amazon weekly, it’s never caught my attention until this week. That suggests to me, that there’s a lot more upside to this product. [Gosh and I’ve already spent my $400 buying a pair of XOs – I got as far as charging it up, but haven’t had the time to power it up. More later…]

    Here’s where the total experience gets more specific to a focused scenario: If you look very carefully above main contents of the Amazon Kindle product page (bottom of the page header) you’ll see a series of links related to the Kindle Store. Select “Kindle Books” and you get a collections of book ‘products’ different than their non-electronic brethren. These SKUs will download, on purchase, to your Kindle device, in 2 minutes. Not sure if you really want that title, and thinking of going to a retail store to flip through the pages? Grab the first chapter for free. That, my friends, now differentiates the offering by the experience — an experience that spins endless new offerings for the brand.

    When you specialize the experience to the product and the products to the experience, how quickly can the competition respond? [Repeat again, “The experience IS the product.”]

    Amazon is a market maker. When some companies waste valuable cycles building walls against the competition, Amazon goes out embraces theirs. By expanding their model to include used and second-market books Amazon capitalized on a larger portion of the demand chain, and expanded the total market (just ask the many used book vendors who liberally leverage Amazon’s online storefront) – recognizing as Bill Gates did, that when the pie gets bigger so does their slice of it.

    Amazon does this one better by creating the Kindle Edition of major newspaper subscription content. Bear in mind that these publishers have already had to grapple with the transition of their identity from newspaper to content provider. I wonder how long it will be before the section label will change to drop the “newspaper” reference? [I’d sure like to hear the debates that went on around the division of product collections and how to label them.]

    And while there’s been some whining about the cost of the newspaper subscriptions being the same as the newspaper stand versions for content that is more frequently being offered for free online, Amazon is likely looking to capitalize on the long tail of economics. Don’t think that they’re not going to experiment with the elasticity of pricing for these offerings over time. In the meantime, they capture the small slice of the market that finds reason for this offering to most closely match their specific scenario needs. [I know I’d want to be doing some ethnographic work to identify a potential Kindle-factor on BART, WMATA, and MTA (amateur sightings welcomed).]

    How many more dots can Amazon connect?

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Experience Design & Technology


    1. Paula Thornton on January 4, 2008 7:14 AM writes...

    Comments on another channel from Peter Merholz:
    Kindle is interesting because in theory they do a lot of stuff right (mostly around realizing that what they have is not a product, but a service), but in practice they do a lot of stuff wrong, particularly the industrial design of the device, which is, for such a prominently hyped product, TERRIBLE. As in, you cannot pick up the device without
    accidentally moving forward or backward a "page." As in there are 72 buttons littered around the thing (including the keyboard). As in it's just kind of ugly.

    We got a Kindle at launch because we're working on a similar-ish device, and mostly what we learned is what NOT to do from a form factor/product design approach. We did learn some valuable stuff from a service/delivery approach.

    Peter: Thanks for sharing your own experiences and observations. The one review I'd included a link to (, had seemed to be generally positive and other complaints were about the cover.

    Nice to get insights from one of 'us'.

    Now my question would be, where was the breakdown in the overall business model? If Amazon can get so many other things right, who was responsible for these design decisions and where did the overall 'good design' influences across Amazon not have sway?

    We tend to be more focused on the results and not the means by which the results occurred -- to influence 'fixing' them in the future. [Often the ability is there but is being oppressed or ignored.]

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