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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

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    Category Archives

    January 21, 2008

    Davos 2008: Collaborative Innovation at the Global Country Club

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    As it does each year at this time, the World Economic Forum is happening in Switzerland, holds its annual intellectual funfest for the high and the mighty. The WEF, a nonprofit institute officially dedicated to “improving the state of the world” -- and funded accordingly -- stages this annual meeting, more commonly known as the “Davos Conference,” for the city where this event takes place. Attending Davos costs tens of thousands of dollars -- and you have to be invited. In evidence are CEOs and investors (first and foremost), political leaders (including Presidents and Prime Ministers), and cultural leaders (ranging from the Pope to Bono). In short, Davos is a temporary global country club, with skiing takes the place of golf or sailing mega-yachts. In WEF's defense, it does host a whole lot of interesting sessions at Davos, with titles that wet one's whistle -- but for the 99.9999999% of us without invitations, they hardly matter. Just a lot of fizz and fizzle.

    Davos' theme this year is “The Power of Global Collaboration” (described in a “We Are the World”-like video), in this case as applied to solving the world's problems and not just building better mousetraps or Internet social networks. Bruce Nussbaum, Business Week's Design Editor, sagely reports this week that Davos 2008 is really about three things: officially, innovation as a source of solutions (to what seem to me puny problems, when seen against a backdrop of environmental catastrophe); unofficially, heading off the coming “world economic recession” (which, should it be truly on that scale, will probably rate being called a “depression”), a feat that Davos' PR terms “ensuring growth in 2008”; and most importantly, reaffirming the attendees' co-membership in Davos' exclusive global country club. Side issues that will be discussed, but predictably not solved, will include terrorism, climate change, and water scarcity. How statesmanlike. How safe. How status quo.

    What's fascinating to me, and what prompted me to blog about Davos -- which otherwise merits the attention paid to the Cannes Film Festival, which it resembles -- is the juxtaposition of collaborative innovation, a process of management, with world economic recession and a massively messed-up global ecosystem -- graphic testimonials to how badly things have been managed so far and continue to be, Davos notwithstanding. Is collaborative innovation (which I teach) up to solving the world economic crisis? Only if the right conditions for innovation to take place are met.

    The first of those conditions is to eliminate all mental constraints at the get-go and allow creativity free reign, at least during the run up to developing concrete solutions. It's important (a) not to set one's future event horizon too short, lest you merely reify the present; and (b) consider every possibility, lest an unexpected solution escape notice. The second of these conditions is to include all stakeholders in the innovation process, and not merely CEOs, political leaders, and Popes.

    So how real is the Davos commitment to innovation?

    First, what options and alternative are permitted to be discussed at Davos? Is creating and funding a global economic safety net, as the UN has proposed, on the table? What about a more equitable distribution of global wealth? How about rich nations taxing themselves for their disproportionately enormous economic and environmental demands on already terrifically strained physical and social environments, then putting the revenues in a global fund to deal with real global problem-solving? Is unbridled immigration from poor nations to rich an open option? A world government? A universal social democracy? Corporations devoting 25% of their income (not just five percent of their profits) to fighting climate change? Not surprisingly, these options are non-starters at Davos.

    Second, who gets to participate? Is the Davos collaborative innovation space full of people including representatives of the global population that this collaborative innovation is out to effect? Are you kidding?

    Collaborative innovation, as its described in Davos own PR and as represented by the speakers invited to discuss innovation, looks a lot like innovation talked about in corporate boardrooms, political smoke-filled rooms, and media situation rooms: how to get out a better product, a more compelling service, make people work harder but happier, etc., etc.

    Not that global crises are going unnoticed. In addition to many, many niche meetups on the pressing sidebar topics mentioned above (terrorism, water, how we understand our bodies, dealing with global poverty, etc.) which the avant-garde can attend, if you're at Davos you can buy offsets and drive hybrids, thus salving your conscience after traveling first class by air (a huge CO2, ozone-killing activity) and while being waited upon like a modern mogul, eating as perhaps 1% of the world population does regularly, and if you're an expert guest, sit at the feet of economic and political satraps like intellectual court jesters.

    (Image: Global Warming, Climate Change, Greenhouse Warning)

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | ED Projects of Note | Innovation & Concept Design

    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

    September 11, 2007

    Innovation Nation: The "Øresund"

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson


    On Monday, I spent 15 hours in the air, the last seven aboard a Boeing 757 “Flying Cattle Car" (perhaps the worst aircraft ever foisted on the traveling public) with a malfunctioning entertainment system. What could compel me to such an act of aerial self-flagellation? The answer: to visit “Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen,” capital not only of Denmark but of the larger “Øresund Region”: the Innovation Nation.

    Back in the United States and everywhere in the Blogosphere, designers of various ilk are thrashing around with the concepts of innovation, ideation, strategy, and co-creation. The heated conversation has been led most recently by the Interaction Designers, who are having a run of popularity not seen since the onslaught of the Information Architects, whom the Interaction Designers have displaced in the minds of the design critics. (Can the Service Designers be far behind?) Basically, the issue is whether, as Michael Beirut put it in Design Observer, “Innovation is the new Black,” or whether it is a truly historic evolution of conventional design,, the purest evocation of “design thinking” as described by Peter Morville in a classic Semantic Studios blog entry reprinted on NextD, with contextual remaks by G.K. VanPatter ("Unidentical Twins")

    In the Øresund region comprising Greater Copenhagen and Skåne (Malmö, Lund, and other formerly Danish parts of southern Sweden), where two geographies and national cultures have been joined by a beautiful new bridge after 500 years of separation, innovation consulting isn't an issue. It's for real. Not only is innovation consulting considered an accepted design modality, it's gaining the blessing and support of the Danish and Scanian governments and their larger societies. The Danes in particular have invested literally tens of millions of government dollars each year to resurrect their once glorious national brand -- Danish Design -- and they now seem bent on doing the same for the innovation consulting business, where they stand a good chance of actually getting ahead of the curve and leading the global innovation industry.

    To be sure, innovation consulting is still a relatively small industry, with total revenues hovering around $1 billion. It's also labor intensive, since its main assets are inspired human minds; operating margins are okay but not great. But because the innovation industry's potential to derail conventional management consulting -- getting in there right at the beginning of every management decision process, and thereby controlling it -- has not gone unnoticed. Recently the Monitor Group, a fast-growing, mid-range management consultancy, bought the Doblin Group, a brand management firm in Chicago that made a big deal of its powers of innovation. It then aligned the Doblin Group with its own internal, organically grown innovation consulting practice. One has the sense that many of the small firms growing up on edges of the management consulting industry have the same goal, since nearly every one now styles itself, in one sense or another, as an innovation-consulting provider.

    To get back to the Øresund. Although the Danish government has spent generously to restore Danish Design's preeminence, in fact the emergence of the innovation consultancies in DK and SE has been organic, not dependent on government spending (except for government's business, when its appropriate). This has caught DK's intensely thorough economic planners by surprise. A hot-off-the-press Danish governmental study and report, Concept Design, published by the Danish Enterprise and Housing Agency, directed by agency planner Jorgen Røsted (and employing many internal and external consultants), describes innovation consulting as "concept design," a tenuous semantic bridge. In this ethnography about ethnography (a primary ingredient of concept design, as the authors define it), Concept Design's authors take the word of their industry informants too literally, without sufficient critical distance. Three case-studies among several presented by their informants as unquestioned successes I know personally to be problematic. Overall, however, most of the report's observations appear accurate. Concept Design meticulously describes what's happening structurally within the budding industry. What it doesn't do is explain how innovators and their clients actually solve problems. Instead, reciting the five steps of concept design -- a process pioneered at SRI Consulting and the Institute for the Future in the 1980s and 1990s -- it describes the crucial step of ideation as "this is where the magic happens." This phrase is somewhat lacking in precision. It mystifies the process rather than revealing it. (A follow-up report, InnovationMonitor 2007, due out at month's end (September 2007), will discuss the "biggest challenges facing innovation in Denmark." Should be exciting.)

    So that's why I'm here in Denmark, the per capita national leader (so Concept Design reports) in innovation consulting. For two weeks I'm going to study governmental and private initiatives on both sides of the Øresund. In the process, I hope to be able to accurately characterize what's going on industrially but also in terms of process; what innovation consulting means for the region's economy, culture, and society; and its significance in the world of ideas, including the creation of experience and design thinking.

    My first appointment takes place today at the new Copenhagen Institute for Interactive Design (CIID). Then I'll meet with the Danish Venture Capital Association. On Thursday and Friday, I meet with leading consultancies and government design-policymakers on the Danish side of the Øresund. Next week, I'll travel to Skåne, to do the same. My insights and information that can be made public, I'll share with you here.

    For a personal experience of the field's dynamism, II encourage you to attend ECCI X, the Tenth European Conference on Creativity and Innovation, to be held in Copenhagen, October 14-17, 2007, where these issues will be the subject of intense examination and debate. Over 400 leaders in the innovation business, from Scandinavia, the rest of Europe, and around the world are expected to attend. Wish I could join them. Hey, maybe I will...! From Denmark, this is Bob Jacobson saying, "Med venlig hilsen, ciao!"

    (Images: Light bulb, Newton.Typepad.com; Øresund Bridge, Malmö)

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

    May 23, 2007

    Design News goes ga-ga over Boeing's new 787 -- but what's left to “fill 'er up”?

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Design News 787If you can't get enough juice about jet planes, then Design News special edition on Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner is right for you! Its a masterful collection of articles, interviews, photo albums, and videos -- enough to keep even the most rabid aerophile enthralled late into the night.

    When I was a kid, my Mom, then an executive secretary to Air Force generals, used to bring home photos and illustrations, paeans to flight -- F86s, F101s (the Scorpion!), the F-15, Redstone rockets, Nike missiles, the first satellites, and artist conceptions of Missions to Mars -- with which I papered my bedroom. I've been hooked on aviation ever since. The appearances of the Dreamliner and, eventually one hopes, Airbus' mega-liner, the A380, bring chills to my spine.

    But I have an abiding question made more acute by revelations that we've reached Peak Oil: that petroleum production is now all downhill from here. And that question is, where are we going to get fuel for all these big planes? Even assuming that their engines become super-efficient (which they aren't yet), these new benzine-guzzlers are only creating additional demand for which there is no supply.

    Davis-MonthanAnyone who's visited the airplane boneyard at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, in Arizona, knows what I'm talking about: acre upon acre of old, rusting aircraft, acquired at the cost of many hundreds of billions of dollars, going nowhere and serving no purpose. Is this the future of aviation as we know it? I fear so. So even though I'm thrilled by the announcement of new and better-designed airplanes, there always lingers in the back of my mind a worry that we're all living in a fairy-tale world of cheap and plentiful oil, a world that ended decades ago. Now we're just mopping up what's left of our earth's petroleum heritage with these bigger and better metal birds.

    Maybe we'll learn to take solar-powered trains and get around in other sustainable vehicles, but how are our kids going to feel when they're grounded, literally, never to fly as we once did? Like the characters in Ursula LeGuin's novel, Always Coming Home, set 50,000 years in the future, I wonder if only a generation from now our generations will be known as “the people with their heads on backwards,” always living falsely in the past....

    (Images: Design News and Archaeography Photo Collective)

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | ED Projects of Note | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    May 21, 2007

    Cooper-Hewitt's National Design Awards for 2007: where's experience design?

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Nda Logo 07Cooper-Hewitt, the National Museum of Design at the Smithsonian Institution, has announced the National Design Awards for 2007.

    Without taking away anything from the wonderful designs and their designers, whom Cooper-Hewitt has justly honored, it's still rather amazing that all of the awards are for discrete physical, environmental, or media artifacts. There is no category for design that incorporates all of these elements to create an holistic designed experience. This year's awards reify our conventional notions of design and ignore the emergence and importance of integrated design in the service of experience.

    The Design Mind Award for Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi comes closest. Brown and Venturi, practitioners and theoreticians of full-fledged experience design (in the guise of architecture) have labored long and hard to promote an holistic approach to design from the standpoint of “experiencers.” Cooper-Hewitt's appreciation of their advocacy is overdue but welcome at last.

    The National Design Awards, by the way, are sponsored by the retailer Target, one of the arch-proponents of customer experience design. Target's take on the importance of holistic design is worth reading.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | ED Projects of Note

    May 4, 2007

    URGENT! OIL CRISIS! “World Without Oil,” alternate in-the-world reality game, launches

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Wwo LogoI received the following email today from Jane McGonigal, the reigning Queen of In-the-World Game-Based Experiences, now Game Designer at the Institute for the Future. It describes “World Without Oil,” a new alternative-reality game that responds to a very real crisis in our world: Peak Oil, the eventual running out of petroleum in our lifetimes. Get ready for the crisis: follow Jane's instructions. You're in for an entertaining and educational, but excruciatingly real experience -- and one that unfortunately, in the future, will not be a game to play but the reality in which we live...


    I have some exciting news: Earlier this week, World Without Oil launched. It’s the first alternate reality game to address a real-world problem: U.S. oil dependency. The official motto: “Play it – before you live it.” And you can play right now!

    It takes literally less than 30 seconds to sign up as a game hero. I hope you’ll go sign up right now! Here’s the link.

    (Signing up just gives you a unique identity in the alternate reality. It means the game will know who you are if you come back and play. Unlike other ARGs, the game won’t start emailing you or burying things in your backyard.)

    Once you’re signed up, there’s lots of fun stuff to check out. The game launched on Monday, and already there are hundreds of player created documents to browse—-not to mention the official backstory created by the game’s puppet masters. The latest game updates include video footage of an underground car vandalism effort, instructions for how to throw fuel-free parties, and an eyebrow-raising transcript of the new Secretary of State’s address to the nation.

    But most importantly – please take 1 minute today to sign up to play and help make this experimental game project a success!

    More information about the project below; email me if you want to hear more.

    Best,

    Jane McGonigal
    Resident Game Designer, Institute for the Future
    www.avantgame.com

    This press release explains the game:


    First Alternate Reality Game To Confront A Major Social Issue: A Worldwide Oil Shock

    All Web Users Invited to Witness the Oil Shock, Document Their Experiences, Apply Collective Imagination to Solve a Real World Problem

    “Play it – before you live it!”

    (San Francisco, CA)—Everyone knows that “someday” the world may face an oil shortage. What if that day was sooner than you thought? How would your life change? On Monday, April 30, ITVS Interactive and Independent Lens will launch WORLD WITHOUT OIL, a live interactive month-long alternate reality event to explore this very real possibility.

    Produced by the design team at Writerguy, WORLD WITHOUT OIL is the first alternate reality game to enlist the Internet’s vast collective intelligence and imagination to confront and attempt to solve a real-world problem: what happens when a great economy built entirely on cheap oil begins to run short? This grassroots experience looks at the impact on people's lives—work, social, family and personal—and explores what happens when our thirst for oil begins to exceed supply.

    “Alternate reality gaming is emerging as the way for the world to imagine and engineer a best-case-scenario future,” says WORLD WITHOUT OIL’s participation architect, noted futurist Jane McGonigal. “It’s been summed up this way: ‘If you want to change the future, play with it first.’”

    Beginning April 30, the nerve center for the realistic oil crisis is at WorldWithoutOil.org, with links to citizen stories in blogs, videos, photos, audio and phone messages posted all over the Internet. At the grassroots website, people will learn the broad brushstrokes of the crisis, such as the current price of a gallon of gas or how widespread shortages are. Players will fill in the details, by creating Web documents that express their own perspectives from within the crisis.

    “The ‘alternate reality’ of WORLD WITHOUT OIL is not fantasy, it’s a very real possibility,” says Writerguy Creative Director Ken Eklund. “And the game challenge is one of imagination. No one person or small group can hope to figure out the complex rippling effects of an oil shock, but the collective imagination can. And understanding it is a serious, positive step toward preventing it.”

    People of any age or Web ability can participate in the game. Player communities are already forming to prepare for game launch, and pre-game play has started. Use these links:


    WORLD WITHOUT OIL is produced by the Writerguy team, presented by ITVS Interactive (Independent Television Service), and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. An Independent Lens Web-exclusive presentation (PBS), WORLD WITHOUT OIL is an ELECTRIC SHADOWS project (ITVS).

    About the Game Creators

    The Writerguy team includes some of alternate reality gaming's most experienced “puppetmasters” in addition to a Web producer, designer and outreach manager. Ken Eklund, Writerguy and creative director, has been working as a game writer and designer for 20 years. He is credited on over two dozen games as well as many Internet-based educational projects. Jane McGonigal, participation architect, is currently the resident game designer at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, CA. Previously she was a lead designer at 42 Entertainment, most notably for I Love Bees, an award-winning alternate reality game. In Fall 2006 MIT Technology Review named McGonigal one of the top 35 innovators changing the world through technology.

    Electric Shadows and Independent Lens Web-Exclusives

    Independent Lens presents interactive features throughout the series website and is proud to be a portal to Electric Shadows projects which feature the unflinching visions of independent media makers via the Web. These award-winning Web-originals invite visitors to interact through non-linear storytelling and social issue games created by independent media makers. Presented by Independent Lens and ITVS Interactive and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Electric Shadows sites explore the arts, culture and society through innovative forms including nonlinear storytelling and interactive gameplay and meet the ITVS mission of giving voice to underserved communities. Since its inception in 2002, the initiative has funded six online projects. Electric Shadows projects have garnered a People’s Choice Webby Award, two SXSW Web Awards, highlighted as one of Time.com’s “50 Coolest Websites”, Yahoo! Picks, Cool Site of the Day and numerous other accolades. Explore the projects and learn more about Electric Shadows.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ED Education | ED Projects of Note | Events and Happenings | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    April 22, 2007

    At one popular Web portal, customer-centricity trumps CRM

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Customer ThinkAn April 20 press release announcing the transformation of former web portal CRMGuru.com to CustomerThink.com is one more signal that customer centricity (i.e., design for experience) is fast becoming the defining factor in state-of-the-art marketing.

    According to portal founder and CEO Bob Thompson,

    The time was ripe for change. Although the term “CRM” has been a popular buzzword for more than a decade, and theoretically means a business strategy, it has taken on a technology slant in the market that appears unlikely to ever change. We wanted people to know that we address the complete realm of customer management thinking, not just IT. While technology is an important enabling tool, and essential for managing customer information, it's only a portion of our mission.

    In Thompson's viewpoint (quoting from the release), CRM includes customer strategy; goals and metrics; people and organization; process and experience design; and technology. Yet, much of the market doesn't agree with that view in practice. He cites technology-laden CRM definitions on the Internet, and his own research which found many people consider Customer Experience Management to be different from CRM.

    G LogoAdds Colin Shaw, a member of CT.com's “Guru” advisory panel, and founder and CEO of customer experience consultancy Beyond Philosophy,

    What do you mean by CRM?' It's a question I often hear. The reality is the world is moving on, and I am pleased to see that Bob and the team are leading the way. The whole spectrum of customer management is much wider than the commonly held view that CRM equals technology. CustomerThink encapsulates what customers do!

    The difficulty is valorizing CEM. It's easy to devise an ROI for investments in technology, even if the calculation is flawed or only partially explanatory. The proliferation of CRM vendors and the remarkable success of Oracle, SAP, and Salesforce testify to the persuasive power of numbers. But as metrics for measuring customer-centricity's power become available, it rather than the accessibility of surface-level customer data will become a dominant paradigm, supporting new approaches like customer co-creation of products and communications.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ED Projects of Note | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    March 29, 2007

    Busy times: We propose a US Pavilion for the Shanghai Expo while Nina designs “Operation Spy”!

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    The last three weeks have been hectic, a perfect storm of convergent deadlines. Four projects that have been germinating more than six months (one of them, for two years), plus a couple consulting opportunities, finally erupted, ripping me away from Total Experience. Now I'm back, with lots of catching up to do....

    Shanghai-Expo1152500441092 By far the largest of the projects, in sheer scope and size, is planning for the US Pavilion at the forthcoming Shanghai 2010 World Expo, possibly the most important and certainly the grandest World Expo since the New York World's Fair, in 1964. Nearly 200 nations and NGOs are expected to participate -- in other words, the whole world. The Chinese and Shanghai governments are pouring nearly $4 billion into developing the Expo, and that doesn't include new maglev train lines, a new airport, new docks, new traffic metering systems, a regional 4G wireless system, untold amounts of commercial and residential construction, and the wholesale relocation of entire neighborhoods from what will soon become a highly congested area to new communities elsewhere in Shanghai. It does include $100 million in subsidies for developing nations. Over 70 million visitors are expected to visit the Expo between May and October 2010, just two years after the Beijing Olympics. There's a not-so-subtle competition between the two cities: one is China's political capital, the other its economic capital. This Expo means a lot to China, but even more to Shanghai and the rest of the industrial South. The Expo's theme is “Better City, Better Life,” which translates into progressive urbanism and lively communities, a healthy and stable environment, “green tech” and a sustainable economy, and a higher quality of life for everyone. This is the first Expo to take on such a global theme, and one so timely. The US Pavilion will have a lot of important storytelling to do.

    Bh&L Logo Toward that end, the BH&L Group, an impromptu consortium of Expo veterans -- world-class designers, architects, and builders -- has gathered, led by legendary Expo designers Barry Howard and Leonard Levitan, and I'm a member (but only an Expo apprentice). The BH&L Group's noble purpose is to create a great US Pavilion for Shanghai, one that speaks eloquently of the American people's desire, in common with the other peoples of the world, for better urban environments, globally, and better lives in them. We submitted our Proposal to the US State Department in February, as required by a November 2006 RFP from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). One of the Proposal's most creative innovations is the prospective creation of an "Expo corporation" in which any American can invest, an entity with longevity that can acquire assets to fund not just this Expo -- to the tune of $100 million -- but also, Expo's to come. We hope we get the nod; we're still waiting to hear. In the meantime, I'm continuing to build BH&L's Advisory Board. The Board already boasts an impressive collection of experts to help us grapple with the Expo's theme, the Pavilion's design, and China's cultural and international trade issues. But I keep searching for potential new members. We're going to rely a lot on our Advisors once things really get rolling!

    Gse Multipart21896 In the process, I meet interesting people. An interesting person I met today is Nina Simon, author of the excellent Museum 2.0 blog, subtitled, “From visitors to users. From artifacts to social networks. What's good, what's bad, what's possible?” Nina is one of the principal designers for "Operation Spy," a new attraction -- and quite an experience -- soon to open in this, the "Year of the Spy," at the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC. Founded in 2001, the Spy Museum offers a fascinating exposition -- or should I say, exposé? -- of the international spy business. It's “Spy vs. Spy" all over again, only this time for real. The Spy Museum investigates how intelligence communities are formed, the trade's startling technical evolution, and the confounding social issues associated with covert activities. The Spy Museum's website is a virtual embodiment of the Museum, clever, mysterious, and highly interactive. Nina describes "Operation Spy" in an email:

    Logo-7 I'm the project lead for Operation Spy, a 3,800 sq ft new immersion experience that is set to open at the Spy Museum in June of this year. I'm the “experience development specialist,” which means I was the creative director, and now have slid into managing the construction and build-out. It's a really unique museum experience --a narrative, guided immersive mission in a highly-themed environment. Guests will enter in small groups and spend an hour trying to find a missing nuclear device in a (fictitious) foreign country. There are motion simulators, safes to crack, and agents to polygraph. There are branching endings that reflect the guests' actions and decisions throughout. It's been a blast to design and I'm enjoying watching it come together ... hopefully these last few months will send it out into the world with a bang!

    So when a shady eye peers at you through the Museum peephole, and a raspy voice inquires, “Psst...who sent you?” you'll know what to reply: “Nina sent me.” Then the eye will draw back, the door will creak open, and the raspy voice will whisper, "Enter...Operation Spy." (I think I'm channeling Edgar Allen Poe.)

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    March 16, 2007

    More on my search for cases of exemplary experience designs

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Festivals-Of-IndiaEarlier, I posted an invitation to readers, to make me aware of exemplary experience design projects for possible inclusion in my book-in-progress.

    I forgot to add an important category:

    Pageants, Festivals, Rituals, and Spiritual Places and Experiences

    Please keep this one in mind, as these phenomena are often the most intense expressions of intentional design for experience. Thank you, and special thanks to those of you who've already submitted very interesting prospective cases. I'll review them and get back to you over the weekend.

    (Illustration: Festivals in India)

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

    March 15, 2007

    Worldly Realities, Symbolic Fantasies: “Strange Maps,” the Blog

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    0747550476.01. Ss500 Sclzzzzzzz On my end of year list of recommended gift books about experience design, I included the fabulous Atlas of Experience, by Dutch cartographer-philosophers, Jean Klare and Louise van Swaaij. I thought it incomparable. But now it has friendly competition: Strange Maps, a remarkable blog

    The Atlas of Experience is a beautifully illustrated collection of maps and text depicting, as places and features on an fantasy globe, states of mind -- Elation, Panic, Loneliness, the Swamps of Sloth, and The Long Road Home. It shares my reference shelf with a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a traditional atlas of the world.

    Strange Maps“Strange Maps,” on the other hand, features fantastic maps of our real globe -- truly strange maps. The blog first appeared in late 2006. Its author, not identified on the blog, has assembled an outstanding collection of strange maps from different times and geographies (including our own), and keeps discovering more. The editorial notes that accompany each map are informative and warmly written.

    It's difficult to convey in words the magic of these strange maps and how addled, propagandistic, mistaken, or clever each one is. Reading Strange Maps, one comes to appreciate the ingenuity, craziness, or both of simple people trying to portray the complex worlds in which they live and often revealing more about themselves, their cultures, and their times than their actual environs.

    Sometimes, however, it's not the cartographer who's off-axis, it's the geospatial “reality” that a strange map portrays: bizarre realpoliticks, theological mythology, empires that endure only days, territories claimed by multiple nations, and especially the virtues of regions as proclaimed by their inhabitants -- and the evils of surrounding people and places.

    How strange the maps of our time will seem to future geographers. Given the obvious ecological interdependence of all systems on our planet, the arbitrary divisions known as cities, nations, regions, and other human constructs may seem extremely odd. Ursula Le Guin put it well in her portrait of a future, re-ruralized California, Always Coming Home: they are places in an historical epoch when the “people-with-their-heads-on-backwards” lived.

    The atlases of our interior selves and of our geography co-exist and intermingle, each equally real and fantastic.

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    March 12, 2007

    Exemplary cases of experience design: your suggestions welcome!

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Help SignAs I wrote earlier, I'm working up a book about experience design -- also called, “designing for experience.” I met with my publisher and it looks like a go. As cases that can be featured in the book, I welcome your suggestions of exemplary experience design, applied to the following:

    • Architecture and urban designs (intended to produce identifiable experiential outcomes)
    • Cross-media environments (e.g., so-called “real-world games” employing various media )
    • Customer experiences (processes as well as physical artifacts)
    • Exhibitions, museums, and learning centers
    • Experiences for education
    • Experiences for entertainment
    • Games and simulations (in the “real world,” not just on-screen)
    • Haptic environments (acoustic, tactile, scent, motion, etc.)
    • Immersive environments (virtual and physical)
    • Integrated marketing (synergistic scored experiences)
    • Landscape architecture and interpretive environments
    • Longiitudinal experiences (single or multiple related experiences that occur over time)
    • Themed attractions, theme parks, and themed destinations
    • Workplaces and “third places” (places that are social, apart from the workplace and home)

    These categories overlap. It doesn't matter at this time precisely into which category a case falls, or whether it's for a client or experimental. Also, if you have an example of experience design that doesn't fit within the categories, send it along anyway. Our field is growing like Topsy: there are always new expressions and formats. Also, I'm interested in instances where research methodologies, like usability and ethnography; and application methodologies, like interaction design, wayfinding, and corporate narrative, have contributed to successful experience designs.

    As for the much-debated “user experience,” I'm interested in on-screen presentations and discrete products if they were integral parts of more complex experiences (for example, integrated media campaigns, the interior of a vehicle, or exhibitions).

    Please be sure to include with each case suggestion a point of contact (email and phone if you have them). The POC should be an individual associated with the case project, with whom I can arrange the case's submission for review. Send your suggestions to my Gmail address, please. Please include in the Subject Line, “Experience Case:” and the case's working name. I'd appreciate it also if you'd share this invitation with your friends and, if you're a blog author, your readers. Thank you!

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ED Projects of Note | Odds and Ends: Random Observations | Theories of Experience

    March 7, 2007

    The Give-Credit-Where-Credit-Is-Due Dept: Kudos to the US Passport Office and Folgers Coffee

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Sometimes good experiences get taken for granted. Here are two projects that deserve commendation.

    EpassportThe US Passport Office has issued a new passport dubbed the e-Passport. It's an unfortunate name, because it puts the focus on the passport's inclusion of an RFID chip and not the excellent look-and-feel of the passport itself, which is what most impressed me and will impress most passport holders. The RFID chip has drawn a lot of controversy. It's supposed to make it easier to screen returning Americans and more difficult to counterfeit by ne'er-do-wells (as always, terrorists come first to mind, followed closely by drug dealers and gun runners) -- and already, the chip's own vulnerability to cloning has been demonstrated. But that's not what got my attention.

    What got my attention, however, was the e-Passport's excellent graphic design (Flash version) and textual contents of the e-Passport. Yes, textual content. In the past, US passports have been uninspiring examples of bureaucracy-speak -- don't get in trouble, don't volunteer to serve in foreign militaries, don't import cigars from Cuba, etc. -- hardly the stuff to instill pride in Americans overseas. The e-Passport is different. It feature beautifully rendered two-page portraits of American landscapes coast to coast. (Pictures of actual Americans, glorious in their diversity, would have been equally welcome; but what can you expect from a nation that still adorns its drab currency with pictures of old white men, dead now for centuries?) The multicolored engravings are complemented by inspiring quotations on every page. And not just patriotic cant. One quote that will stay with me forever, now that I've seen read it in my daughter's new e-Passport, is Dwight Eisenhower's sage advice:

    "Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America."

    Whether jaded border guards and customs officers in foreign nations will appreciate the beauty of the e-Passport, whose pages they will besmirch with their inky stamps, is unimportant. What is important is that Americans, now traveling overseas in record numbers, can proudly display their passports to friends, family, and business colleagues and so help to tell an American story -- an idealized story, but one to which we can aspire. And the e-Passport, in addition to the standard English and French diplomatic greetings to foreign readers, finally includes one in Spanish: “El Secretario de Estado Unidos de America....” It's about time. Kudos to the anonymous civil servants who put this together.

    0903Np350Of purely domestic importance but ubiquitous and collectively beneficial is Folger Coffee's new HDPE coffee cannister. This is an easy to handle, air-tight canister that allegedly keeps coffee fresh longer than conventional coffee in metal cans and hard-to-reseal plastic bags. It features a “peel-away” AromaSeal with a built-in air valve (which critics have attacked as being essentially useless, but that's another story). The main benefit of the canister is that it's ergonomically convenient, unbreakable, rust-proof, and recyclable. It even won an award from the Arthritis Foundation for its ease of use. Lastly, the canister's bright color is useful early in the morning when you're too bleary-eyed and grappling for that first cup of coffee (as I can testify). Kudos to P&G for this good idea that could have been mundane but which isn't, and which can be experienced and enjoyed on a daily basis.

    Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | ED Projects of Note

    January 10, 2007

    TSA and SecurityPoint Media's “Better Checkpoint Experience” capitalizes on fear

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Tsa LogoHarry Shearer on “Le Show” (a highly recommended alternative radio program) brought to my attention the U.S. Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) plan to offer advertisers a chance to assault a captive audience -- travelers waiting to be screened for airline flights -- with more marketing gook. The plan is described in full on Aviation Week's Commmercial Aviation website:

    “TSA plans to launch a one-year pilot program where airport operators may enter into an agreement with vendors, who will provide divestiture bins, divestiture and composure tables, and metal-free bin return carts at no cost to TSA,” said spokeswoman Amy Kudwa. “In return for the equipment, TSA will allow airport operator-approved advertisements to be displayed on the bottom of the inside of the bins.”

    (“Composure tables,” as Shearer wryly notes, are those metal slabs where TSA agents -- beneficiaries of the Bush Administration's main “make-work” policy -- dump out your personal belongings and sort through them if you trigger one of the metal detectors. Composure is one thing the TSA does not offer its unlucky victims.)

    FlashSecurityPoint Media supplies the ad-festooned security devices. This fascinating company puts a smiling face on social despair, in the form of advertising revenues. It calls the program “A Better Checkpoint Experience.”

    Talk about government welfare! Now airport administrators and advertisers can benefit by the long compulsory wait that everyone is subjected to when they want to fly, whether to Baghdad or Baltimore. The program is one more of the commercial benefits made possible by the campaign of fear-mongering that's been the mainstay of this Administration's political marketing.

    So far, reports Forbes, Rolodex is the only advertiser to have signed up for the program, being beta-tested at LAX:

    For the advertisers, the program is a chance to reach a wealthy demographic: Frequent flyers. According to a 2004 study of frequent flyers by market research company Arbitron, airline travelers are 80% more likely to have an annual household income over $100,000. They're also more often household or business decision makers.

    “It fits well with the Rolodex position of clean and organized,” says Doug Kruep, the company's director of brand development office solutions.

    TSA claims that the program has saved $250,000 in the six months it's been running, Probably just a drop in the TSA's overflowing welfare bucket. Airports want to get in on the largesse too, of course, reports Forbes:

    Airports believe ads will equal profits. “We are always looking for creative ways to increase nonairlines revenue to help us keep our operating costs down,” said Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Wendy Abrams.

    I always thought advertising on buses was an outrageous expression of agency greed. But bus advertising pales in chutzpah before the coming security checkpoint onslaught. TSA is holding an "Industry Day" tomorrw, on January 11, at its headquarters in Arlington, VA, for those interested in participating in the program.

    Of course, billions have been wasted already on thousands of unimpressive attempts to make Fortress America a safer place, but most have been invisible. This one is right out there for all of the flying public to experience. What will be the reaction? A lot of grumbling, for sure, but maybe, just maybe, an upwelling of angry public opinion that refocuses Americans' consciousness on how 9/11 has been exploited to make money for commercial interests. I can think of few government enterprises less crass than this one.

    I wrote earlier about the yucky experience of waiting in line at Albertsons supermarkets having to endure the ridiculous Avenu advertising videos. Most commenters agreed. Apparently the TSA has taken a cue from Albertsons and is going it one better. You can always shop somewhere else, but if you're going to fly, you're going to endure the TSA-hosted advertising, damn it!

    What's your take? Are you looking forward to more force-fed marketing messages? Or will you take the train instead?

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | ED Projects of Note

    November 26, 2006

    IDEO extends “design thinking” to vacation offerings

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Ideo LargeIDEO has broken ground in service design with “ZEST,” a new vacation offering from Mahindra Holidays & Resorts Ltd., a Chennai, India-based membership-travel service featuring the Club Mahindra brand.


    A November 15, 2006, Club Mahindra press release describes ZEST as...

    Logo-6...A unique vacation ownership for short breaks. ZEST is the ideal short break holiday for the ambitious, hardworking, achieving but stressed young metropolitans.

    Designed after extensive research by IDEO, the world's leading consumer experience design firm,ZEST short breaks offer a unique work-life balance proposition to the young metropolitan to head out of the city and catch up with life. Located in places where nature's bounty is in abundance, the ZEST resort's service design caters to a variety of needs - rest and relaxation, family bonding and quality time for couples, socializing and networking, outdoor and adventure activities. Exclusive resort activities include “ZEST Flair Badges” that involve varied and youthful activities such as wine tasting, do your own barbeques, salsa dancing and for the outdoors person treks, biking, camping, and campfires.

    ZEST resorts will be unique in that they cater to a “my kind of break” -- a holiday “the way I like it, when I like it, and at the pace I like it to be.”

    Minimalist but superbly coordinated spacious rooms at the ZEST resorts are designed for the young metropolitan families and can accommodate two adults and two young children with ease. The resort architecture will include vibrancy, youthfulness and serene relaxed settings. The company also plans to have ZEST Rovers, holiday activity specialists, at its resorts, who would actively engage with members to make their holidays memorable.

    Resorts will provide a platform for its guests to have a hands on experience of the people, culture and traditions specific to its area of location. ZEST resorts will also offer child friendly facilities, facilitating quality time for couples with young children.

    The company is planning ZEST resorts at destinations that are easily accessible from metro cities. Priced attractively, a ZEST membership offers multiple breaks every year, for 10 years. ZEST resorts will offer a choice of three holiday seasons. The ZEST signature resort is underway at Pondicherry, slated to open its doors in 2007. Resorts at Ooty and Kodai will be ready to offer the ZEST experience by year's end, 2006.

    Interestingly, Club Mahindra describes IDEO, better known for its product and innovation design, as a “customer experience design” firm. I guess it is now.

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    November 25, 2006

    BRC: Adler Planetarium's “Shoot for the Moon”; BRC Founder Bob Roberts awarded THEA Award for Lifetime Achievement

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    SftmBRC Imagination Arts, a paragon among visual and experiential exhibition designers, has announced the opening of a new attraction at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, “Shoot for the Moon.” It's a rich experience that showcases BRC's new slogan, “Showmanship Meets Scholarship”TM. BRC's press release describes “Shoot for the Moon,” which includes an interactive theater, interactive displays, galleries of videos and photography, and a collection of artifacts that illustrate “stories told through the firsthand experiences of Captain James A. Lovell, Jr., the Gemini and Apollo astronaut best known for the leadership role he played in transforming the Apollo 13 accident into one of the most successful missions of all time.” BRC describes this as one of its “experience museums,” a 21st-Century approach to presenting educational information.

    Bob-Rogers-With-The-Ghost-OSeparately, BRC announced that its founder, Bob Rogers, has been awarded the THEA Award for Lifetime Accomplishment by TEA, the non-profit, international organization representing the creators of compelling places and experiences. Rogers joins a remarkable group of previous Lifetime Achievement recipients, experience designers including Harrison “Buzz” Price (1994), the economic feasibility science inventor of the themed entertainment industry; Marty Sklar (1995), the creative head of Walt Disney Imagineering for a quarter century; John Hench (1998), Walt Disney Imagineer and master art director for 65 years; and Yves Pépin (2005), creator of world expositions, special events, and international event spectaculars including the Millennium firework celebration at the Eiffel Tower. (More about TEA in a future entry.)

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ED Projects of Note | Events and Happenings

    November 9, 2006

    Finding experience in a tube of toothpaste

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Aquafresh ImageGlaxoSmithKline's Aquafresh toothpaste comes in five varieties for as many types of toothpaste consumers (identified by GSM's marketing). Its recent sales success, rising from No. 3 to at least No. 2 among the top contenders (Colgate Palmolive's Colgate and Proctor & Gamble's Crest) -- makes for good press. Aquafresh has been written up in FastCompany, trade magazines, and market research reports. Hub magazine's blog features a lengthy interview with GSM VP of Innovation Donna J. Sturgess (available as a PDF file), in which Ms. Sturgess describes a thorough -- and expensive -- development process that resulted not only in the toothpaste (including novel foaming and color agents used in its composition) but also its packaging, positioning, promotion, and after-sales reinforcement. Most toothpaste is boring, Ms. Sturgess observed. “There was an opportunity to to appeal to people based on the brand's sensory attributes.” “People” meaning mostly women, to whom Aquafresh is pitched as a cosmetic, “a shower for your mouth,” not a personal-hygiene product. The Aquafresh website was redesigned, too, but I'm not linking you to it because it uses Flash in a most uncomfortable way that makes you wait and wait, while your processor is tied up translating.

    What caught my attention about Aquafresh was its Extreme Clean version's sublogo, “Original Experience.” My partner, Cherie, likes Aquafresh because it claims to whiten teeth and freshen breath. Finding myself one day without toothpaste, I gave Extreme Clean a try. It cleaned my teeth well. Maybe it freshened my breath. But I'm still trying to discover what about it is an Original Experience. To me, it's just another odd-smelling, odd-tasting mix of chemicals. The German-designed twist-shut cap is nifty (and retro) and the tube is made of shiny silver plastic...but these don't really improve the toothbrushing experience, unless your obsessive-compulsive about toothpaste ooze. What exactly can GlaxoSmithKline say about itself that makes me feel warm and cozy? It's just another cosmeceutical conglomerate. Buy its product and its shareholders get rich. All in all, I found Aquafresh to be a very unoriginal experience. Except for all that development spending and marketing!

    Cinnami   754 Medium
    I'm a Tom's of Maine natural toothpaste user, not attracted to commercial toothpastes with their undisclosed melange of ingredients (almost always including saccharin or some other sugar substitute, and all of those Aquafreshesque industrial coloring agents). Toms' toothpastes' tastes and aromas are subtle. Tom's lists all of its ingredients, informs us of their organic sources, tells us that they're not tested on animals, offers flouride and non-flouride varieties, and provides a recyclable metal tube. It also manufacturers its boxes from recycled paper, printed using biodegradable soy inks. Taken together, those factors make for a very original experience. Just as importantly, when I buy Tom's, I'm invited to join a community. Tom's includes with its products various newsletters that bio its customers and describe the company's enlightened manufacturing, employment, and philanthropic practices. I'm encouraged to offer feedback not only on the product's quality, but also on the company's operations and extra-curricular activities. Tom's provides its buyers with a lot of collateral meanings, identities, and satisfactions. Tom's toothpaste (like its other cosmetic products) is pricier than conventional toothpastes (including Aquafresh) and it has a harder time getting shelf space. But I hunt down Tom's products with a vengeance, almost never buying anything else. When I use Tom's, I feel good -- emotionally, knowing I'm taking care with what I'm ingesting; and spiritually for supporting Tom's positive engagement in the world.

    Oh, and about those five types of toothpaste consumers to which GSM allegedly pitches Aquafresh? Maybe they exist. I don't see buyers pondering the varieties when they shop, however. They just pick what's available. What I do know is that GSM, matched against Colgate Palmolive and P&G, is a victor in the shelf-space wars, commonly won by buying off the retailer with a larger share of revenues. In the rough-and-tumble world of supermarketing, that's what really counts. And why I have to hunt for my Tom's!

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

    November 8, 2006

    Planetizen “Smart City Radio” broadcasts on public radio (and podcasts)

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Planetizen-Logo-1
    Logo-5Planetizen (plan-NET'-a-zen) is the leading online, public-interest portal and information exchange for the urban planning, design, and development community. It's a one-stop source for urban-planning news, commentary, announcements, book reviews, jobs, events, and more. Community operated, Planetizen was created as a public service for the planning community by Los Angeles-based Urban Insight, a pioneering provider of Web sites and net services for public agencies and non-profits (as well as commercial clients).

    Planetizen has now partnered with Smart City Radio to produce a monthly audio segment airing on public radio stations around the country.

    Hosted by Carol Coletta, President and CEO of “CEOs for Cities,” Smart City Radio is a weekly, hour-long public radio talk show that takes an in-depth look at urban life. The new audio segments, which provide a summary and analysis of the most interesting and intriguing planning-related stories featured on Planetizen, are also available online as a Planetizen podcast. You can listen to the latest episode on the Smart City Radio website or download the latest Planetizen podcast.

    “The built environment and place making are such an integral part of any city's DNA, and Planetizen is the premier source for the latest news on planning, design and development,” said Coletta. “It makes sense for our organizations to work together to bring Smart City Radio listeners the best information on what so clearly affects the future of our cities.”

    For more information on Planetizen, contact Christian Peralta, Managing Editor.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ED Projects of Note | The Practice of Experience Design | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    September 27, 2006

    Passenger Comfort and the Flying Wing: human experience trumps engineering

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    One of the most enduring problems in experience design is how to ensure that products designed for efficiency and production economy still provide the requisite degree of personal comfort for those who use them. A case in point concerns the airline industry, which through trial and error has come to the conclusion that future airliners must offer comfort greater than is currently the case. Airline travelers will agree.

    250Px-1Er Vol De L' A380180Px-Airbus A380 Cross Section.SvgIn the md-90s, a design trend favoring jumbo and “superjumbo” aircraft became dominant in response to airline and air-traffic efficiency concerns. One result is the Airbus A-380. Able to carry between 550 and 800 passengers, this four-engine, double-deck superjumbo airliner stretches the limits of conventional airliner parameters. Passenger comfort is assured (Airbus claims) by resorting to time-tested factors: interior layouts and appointments, seating sizes and arrangements, adequate cabin pressurization and air circulation, colors and textures of materials, ease of movement (including evacuation), passengers services (including meals), well-trained flight attendants, and in-flight communications and entertainment.

    Bat-Fk26

    The A-380 is essentially a scaled-up conventional airliner, albeit a leap for manufacturers and airlines alike. Its paradigm is the same that was used by Dutch airplane designer Frederick Koolhoven to design the first commercial airliner in 1919: engine, fuselage, landing gear, wings, tail, and adjustable flight surfaces, with the passengers sitting in a cabin behind the cockpit. All very linear.

    Airbus, testing early passenger acceptance of the A-380, reports that it

    ...went to huge lengths to find out what passengers themselves wanted. Vast cabin mock-ups were taken to eight major cities on three continents and the views of 1,200 frequent travellers – male and female and from a range of cultures and nationalities – were listened to.

    This typical prototyping practice (described in IDEO's downloadable paper, Experience Prototyping (PDF)) produced no surprises, just a very nice, conventional -- though somewhat splashy -- interior design. No doubt, flying First Class among 500 passengers will be a different experience from flying Economy among 800. (That is, when Airbus gets around to delivering the A-380. Aviation history's only superjumbo is over a year late due to manufacturing challenges.)

    Nasa Flying WingReacting to the A-380's early announcements, Boeing Commercial Airplanes began a daring experiment to create a non-conventional airliner based on the radical “flying wing” paradigm. Flying wings have enormous lift and carrying capacity, but inherently are difficult to fly and thus more suited to high-stakes military applications (like the B-2 Stealth Bomber) than commercial air travel. Boeing, NASA, and the U.S. Air Force in the late-90s embarked on a plan to introduce a new paradigm, the “blended-wing” aircraft (BWA) combining the flying wing's cargo-carrying efficiency with traditional aircrafts' ease of control. “How Flying Wings Will Work,” in HowStuffWorks.com, describes these advantages. Like the A-380, the Boeing superjumbo would carry up to 800 passengers, but it would do away with the typical fuselage and place the passengers in the center of the aircraft, enclosed within the wing. This design is clearly depicted in an article on The Wing Is The Thing. As for passenger comfort, Boeing relied on the tried and true factors: color, texture, and spaciousness, as described in a Boeing article, “The Psychology of Comfort in Airplane Interiors.”

    bwb8.jpgEverything went swimmingly until passengers were confronted with mockups of the BWA interior. (This may have happened at the Teague Customer Experience Center operated by Boeing's Seattle-based design partner, Walter Dorman Teague & Associates.) According to sketchy reports (the only ones available to the public), the passengers revolted. Besides the auditorium seating, passengers resented the lack of windows to see outside. No matter that windows on conventional aircraft are barely useful when a plane is in flight (especially at high altitudes, at night, and in inclement weather). Passengers wanted to be able to see “out.” In a recent article, “The Sky's The Limit,” The Economist reported:

    Boeing once toyed with a blended wing-body, a sort of flying wing, to produce dramatically better aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. Passengers would have sat in a wide cabin, rather like a small amphitheatre. But tests with a mock-up produced such a negative reaction that the company dropped the technology, except for military refuelling aircraft.

    AirplanewindowSomeone at Boeing must have known about passengers' vision fetish, because when airliner windows first shrank with the introduction of jets (larger windows being difficult to seat and seal in highly pressurized environments, not to mention being more fragile), means were employed to make smaller windows appear larger. These include the curving interior “frames,” lighting, and even dual windows with the window on the inside being larger than the actual exterior window. (Today, we take these features for granted and hardly notice them, except when we have to twist and turn to see the Grand Canyon or Eiffel Tower below.) Boeing apparently tried to fix things by offering passengers video images of the outside world on seatback displays, but the tryout passengers were not mollified.

    There are two other problems with BWA aircraft: (1) the proprioceptive organs that provide passengers' with a sense of balance would be taken on a roller-coaster ride because of the steep turns these planes must make (a condition sure to be exacerbated by the lack of external visual references); and (2) evacuation procedures for airplane amphitheater seating have yet to be developed.

    The project was scrapped (“Boeing dumps plans for super jumbo,” BBC News) and Boeing turned 180 degrees, staking its future on the more intimate but largely conventional 787 Dreamliner, with its flying efficiencies and a plethora of interior amenities. “Smaller is better” has become Boeing's design mantra (James Fallows, “The Future of Flight," TravelAndLeisure.com) despite the increase in air traffic that smaller airliners will impose on an already teetering air traffic control system. Perhaps Boeing and its partners believe that new technology can fix what already ails air traffic control and that new airports will be built (at considerable cost) to handle the load. If so, it's a race against time.

    X-48B Schematic-2X-48B Windtunnel-1Boeing, therefore, isn't done with the BWA design all together. Boeing Phantom Works is leading development of the X-48B, a new BWA, with NASA and Boeing's research partner, Cranfield Aerospace Ltd. The 8.5-percent scale model is of a larger aircraft that purportedly could have commercial application, though the X-48B's purpose is purely for research. The scaled-down but flyable aircraft doesn't carry passengers, so they're not part of its initial design equation. If it does in the future, however, perhaps Boeing and other manufacturers will want to spend more time delving more deeply into the factors that make for passenger comfort in unconventional environments. They'll need to take a more holistic point of view when describing ”passenger comfort,“ something other than ”colors, textures, and spaciousness.“ I haven't seen signs of this development yet, but even engineers have to fly. Their subjective experiences today, and those they can imagine for future passengers, must take precedence over the more objective engineering factors that traditionally have guided aircraft design and manufacture, even before the first mock-up is experience prototyped.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | ED Projects of Note | ED Projects of Note

    Passenger Comfort and the Flying Wing: human experience trumps engineering

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    One of the most enduring problems in experience design is how to ensure that products designed for efficiency and production economy still provide the requisite degree of personal comfort for those who use them. A case in point concerns the airline industry, which through trial and error has come to the conclusion that future airliners must offer comfort greater than is currently the case. Airline travelers will agree.

    250Px-1Er Vol De L' A380180Px-Airbus A380 Cross Section.SvgIn the md-90s, a design trend favoring jumbo and “superjumbo” aircraft became dominant in response to airline and air-traffic efficiency concerns. One result is the Airbus A-380. Able to carry between 550 and 800 passengers, this four-engine, double-deck superjumbo airliner stretches the limits of conventional airliner parameters. Passenger comfort is assured (Airbus claims) by resorting to time-tested factors: interior layouts and appointments, seating sizes and arrangements, adequate cabin pressurization and air circulation, colors and textures of materials, ease of movement (including evacuation), passengers services (including meals), well-trained flight attendants, and in-flight communications and entertainment.

    Bat-Fk26

    The A-380 is essentially a scaled-up conventional airliner, albeit a leap for manufacturers and airlines alike. Its paradigm is the same that was used by Dutch airplane designer Frederick Koolhoven to design the first commercial airliner in 1919: engine, fuselage, landing gear, wings, tail, and adjustable flight surfaces, with the passengers sitting in a cabin behind the cockpit. All very linear.

    Airbus, testing early passenger acceptance of the A-380, reports that it

    ...went to huge lengths to find out what passengers themselves wanted. Vast cabin mock-ups were taken to eight major cities on three continents and the views of 1,200 frequent travellers – male and female and from a range of cultures and nationalities – were listened to.

    This typical prototyping practice (described in IDEO's downloadable paper, Experience Prototyping (PDF)) produced no surprises, just a very nice, conventional -- though somewhat splashy -- interior design. No doubt, flying First Class among 500 passengers will be a different experience from flying Economy among 800. (That is, when Airbus gets around to delivering the A-380. Aviation history's only superjumbo is over a year late due to manufacturing challenges.)

    Nasa Flying WingReacting to the A-380's early announcements, Boeing Commercial Airplanes began a daring experiment to create a non-conventional airliner based on the radical “flying wing” paradigm. Flying wings have enormous lift and carrying capacity, but inherently are difficult to fly and thus more suited to high-stakes military applications (like the B-2 Stealth Bomber) than commercial air travel. Boeing, NASA, and the U.S. Air Force in the late-90s embarked on a plan to introduce a new paradigm, the “blended-wing” aircraft (BWA) combining the flying wing's cargo-carrying efficiency with traditional aircrafts' ease of control. “How Flying Wings Will Work,” in HowStuffWorks.com, describes these advantages. Like the A-380, the Boeing superjumbo would carry up to 800 passengers, but it would do away with the typical fuselage and place the passengers in the center of the aircraft, enclosed within the wing. This design is clearly depicted in an article on The Wing Is The Thing. As for passenger comfort, Boeing relied on the tried and true factors: color, texture, and spaciousness, as described in a Boeing article, “The Psychology of Comfort in Airplane Interiors.”

    bwb8.jpgEverything went swimmingly until passengers were confronted with mockups of the BWA interior. (This may have happened at the Teague Customer Experience Center operated by Boeing's Seattle-based design partner, Walter Dorman Teague & Associates.) According to sketchy reports (the only ones available to the public), the passengers revolted. Besides the auditorium seating, passengers resented the lack of windows to see outside. No matter that windows on conventional aircraft are barely useful when a plane is in flight (especially at high altitudes, at night, and in inclement weather). Passengers wanted to be able to see “out.” In a recent article, “The Sky's The Limit,” The Economist reported:

    Boeing once toyed with a blended wing-body, a sort of flying wing, to produce dramatically better aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. Passengers would have sat in a wide cabin, rather like a small amphitheatre. But tests with a mock-up produced such a negative reaction that the company dropped the technology, except for military refuelling aircraft.

    AirplanewindowSomeone at Boeing must have known about passengers' vision fetish, because when airliner windows first shrank with the introduction of jets (larger windows being difficult to seat and seal in highly pressurized environments, not to mention being more fragile), means were employed to make smaller windows appear larger. These include the curving interior “frames,” lighting, and even dual windows with the window on the inside being larger than the actual exterior window. (Today, we take these features for granted and hardly notice them, except when we have to twist and turn to see the Grand Canyon or Eiffel Tower below.) Boeing apparently tried to fix things by offering passengers video images of the outside world on seatback displays, but the tryout passengers were not mollified.

    There are two other problems with BWA aircraft: (1) the proprioceptive organs that provide passengers' with a sense of balance would be taken on a roller-coaster ride because of the steep turns these planes must make (a condition sure to be exacerbated by the lack of external visual references); and (2) evacuation procedures for airplane amphitheater seating have yet to be developed.

    The project was scrapped (“Boeing dumps plans for super jumbo,” BBC News) and Boeing turned 180 degrees, staking its future on the more intimate but largely conventional 787 Dreamliner, with its flying efficiencies and a plethora of interior amenities. “Smaller is better” has become Boeing's design mantra (James Fallows, “The Future of Flight," TravelAndLeisure.com) despite the increase in air traffic that smaller airliners will impose on an already teetering air traffic control system. Perhaps Boeing and its partners believe that new technology can fix what already ails air traffic control and that new airports will be built (at considerable cost) to handle the load. If so, it's a race against time.

    X-48B Schematic-2X-48B Windtunnel-1Boeing, therefore, isn't done with the BWA design all together. Boeing Phantom Works is leading development of the X-48B, a new BWA, with NASA and Boeing's research partner, Cranfield Aerospace Ltd. The 8.5-percent scale model is of a larger aircraft that purportedly could have commercial application, though the X-48B's purpose is purely for research. The scaled-down but flyable aircraft doesn't carry passengers, so they're not part of its initial design equation. If it does in the future, however, perhaps Boeing and other manufacturers will want to spend more time delving more deeply into the factors that make for passenger comfort in unconventional environments. They'll need to take a more holistic point of view when describing ”passenger comfort,“ something other than ”colors, textures, and spaciousness.“ I haven't seen signs of this development yet, but even engineers have to fly. Their subjective experiences today, and those they can imagine for future passengers, must take precedence over the more objective engineering factors that traditionally have guided aircraft design and manufacture, even before the first mock-up is experience prototyped.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | ED Projects of Note | ED Projects of Note

    September 18, 2006

    The Cultural Web: “Social Networking Ties the Knot” (in India)

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    240169031 C6C5420D6DOn Taulli.com, Ash Kumra, a member of the METal professional group to which I belong, recently blogged “Social Networking Ties the Knot?”, a brief, fascinating interview with Murugavel Janakiraman, CEO of the family of Indian websites, BharatMatrimony.com. I usually don't write about the Web per se, but in cases like this one, where the real and virtual worlds conjoin to produce concrete results, the Web becomes a lively environmental element. Janakiraman describes BharatMatrimony.com as a “matrimonial,” not a dating website:

    The entire concept and origin of a matrimony site is entirely different from that of a dating or relationship site. Our model has been strongly triggered by cultural connotations of specific regions where factors like compatibility, horoscopes, and family backgrounds play a key role. Our target audiences are very serious about marriage as an institution and hence it would be inappropriate to compare ourselves with such relationship portals.

    One glance at the BM.com website and you begin to understand the complexity of the challenge. BM.com has 7.5 million registered members and 15 sibling websites each catering to a different Indian region or religion. Since 30 percent of its users are NRIs -- “non-residential Indians” -- its reach is actually truly global. (BM.com now includes job listings and product links, including real estate: the complete domestic package.) The company maintains an offline presence through its Bharat Matrimony centers, which it plans to expand in India from 38 to over 300 locations in the next few years, with investments from Yahoo! and Canaan Partners. (Three hundred may seem not enough for India's middle class of 150 million, but the websites support the network of connections.)

    Vertically focused relationship social networks are nothing new. Hundreds are organized around personal persuasions, occupations, and hobbies. There's been a long-standing debate in the social networking industry regarding the efficacy and financial viability of vertical social networks vis-a-vis horizontal, “mass” social networks like Match.com, Yahoo! Personals, or the behemoth MySpace, on which everyone's a member; but on which also, no member can be easily found. In America, social networks reflect well the fact that we are a society of individuals, constantly reinventing our identities and affiliations. In Indian society, cultural norms require verticalization: despite the invasion of India over the last 500 years by some Western values, the value of self-identity and communal membership, shared with a partner, remains a central life experience.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | ED Projects of Note | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    September 14, 2006

    Experientia's e-democracy, RED's “Kitchen Cabinet,” and Planetizen: bringing experience design to the public sector -- and the public

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Logo-4e-democracy is a new blog launched by Experientia, the Torino-based experience-design consultancy co-founded by Mark Vanderbeeken, author of Experientia's well-read other blog, Putting People First. It's a necessary new venture aimed at exploring the interface between more representative forms of governance, technology, and social innovation. The announcement:

    Experientia, the international experience design consultancy, launches today a thematic blog on e-democracy.

    E-Democracy is aimed at public authorities.

    It gathers information on citizen participation, the use of web 2.0 technologies, and innovation in general in the websites of public authorities, public administrations and local governments.

    The blog starts from the premise that the role of public services is to help people or to represent them, based on people’s needs and contexts. It is set up to guide innovation-oriented public website managers with examples of best practices and a discussion of the main issues. It is managed by Mark Vanderbeeken.

    Designcouncilred R1 C1The role of experience design in governance, the provision of public services and infrastructure, and public participation has become timely given the many crises facing local and national governments. The UK Design Council's RED program (written about earlier) has embarked on “Kitchen Cabinet”:

    Kitchen Cabinet is a project to design and prototype new systems of interaction between MPs and constituents and to create an open resource of ideas, suggestions and best practises that MPs can use to strengthen the connection between people and politicians.

    A summary description, downloadable video, and report are available on this work-in-progress.

    Planetizen-LogoA third source that focuses on similar issues is Planetizen, a volunteer-edited, news-and-features website/blog that serves the planning community and which is hosted by Urban Insight, a web and interactive design firm in Los Angeles that provides services to a large number of local governments, public agencies, and non-profits. (It also serves commercial clients.) I read it regularly to keep in touch with my planning roots. Planning as a discipline has evolved from utopian “City Beautiful” and more mundane zoning practices to become highly involved with citizen visioning of desirable futures and planning for their achievement. At UCLA, where I studied, heuristics were the order of the day, learning how to make decisions to bring about desired futures.

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

    September 11, 2006

    Book Review: Design for Interaction -- one of the best books yet about contemporary design

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Showcover Design for Interaction (New Riders/AIGA, 2006) is one of the best books yet about contemporary design. Read it!

    Dan Saffer, whose online persona is Danny Boy, has crafted the most accessible and instructive book I’ve read about interaction design – and more. Dan deals handily with interaction design, which he characterizes in a Venn diagram as a subset of experience design. There are issues regarding experience design that discussions of interaction design inherently can’t reach, as I’ll discuss later; but having set out primarily to explain interaction design, Dan’s done a superb job. Indicatively, the book is co-published by the AIGA in recognition of the “revolutionary transformation” for “ordinary people to influence and design their own experiences.” Dan's exposition of design thinking is as important as is his fine job of explaining the how-tos of interaction design.

    Many recent bestsellers popular in the design community have featured cosmic themes: “the long tail,” “the wisdom of crowds,” “the tipping point,” and so forth. They describe social phenomena that the individual designer can only observe.
    Designing for Interaction is about things the designer can do to make life better, increasing what we might call the “liveability” quotient. To quote Dan,

    Interaction design is the art of facilitating interactions between humans through products and services. It is also, to a lesser extent, about the interactions between humans and those products that have some sort of “awareness” – that is, products with a microprocessor that are able to sense and respond to humans.

    (Calling design of any type an “art” – even an “applied art” – is bound to be controversial, especially as science increasingly is applied to the task. This is even more the case with interaction design based on digital technology. But unavoidably, there is an artistic dimension to any discipline in which human beings ultimately are responsible for making decisions.)

    Headshot SafferDesigning for Interaction is practical and action oriented. It provides the reader with a comprehensive history of interaction design, contexts for the application of interaction design, and tools for interaction design. It also contains numerous examples of interaction design and wonderfully informative, personal sidebar interviews on specific topics with leading interaction and experience designers including Brenda Laurel, Marc Rettig, Hugh Dubberly, and others of equal accomplishment and insight. Finally it gets down to the “craft” of interaction design, presenting categories of problems and solutions (with the caveat that the field is still new and all rules for practice are provisional).

    Dan’s chapters on “Smart Applications and Clever Devices” and “Service Design” indicate how interaction designers are expanding their field of focus from interactive objects to include customer services and in the future, robots, wearable computers and devices, ubiquitous computing, and digital toolsets.

    The 230-page book, small enough to easily tote around, is beautifully designed. The graphics complement the text and convey complex meanings in visually memorable ways. Designing for Interaction also has a dedicated website to continue the interactions between the author and his readers, and among the readers. The only dissonant note is the blurry and iconically unclear front cover. It doesn’t represent the rest of the book and its contents well. Don’t be put off by it. This is a great read.

    Dan’s concluding chapter, “The Future of Interaction Design” and his epilogue, “Designing for Good,” extend the discussion into new realms and propose canons for the ethical practice of interaction design. These provocative peeks into a larger realm indicate where interaction design reaches its limit. The goal of interaction design is a better product or service, and who can fault these goals? But experience design, as Dan initially pointed out, is the superset of which interaction design is only a part. What about the environments in which human beings interact with products and services? Who designs these? Or the vast number of experiences that condition how people come into contact with discrete objects and processes, and that determine indirectly, but decisively, how they react?

    Of equal significance are experiences that don’t fall under the purview of an interaction designer working for an organization with narrower goals – like the experience of power in the workplace or the sense of security one has, or lacks, in day to day activities. There remains to be written the full story of experience design. But
    Designing for Interaction goes a long way toward setting the stage for a deeper conversation. He’s described the craft and laid out the tools for an approach to design that can be applied on a larger canvas. You must at least start here.

    You can share an interview with Dan in the July 2006 Business Week's Innovation.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | ED Projects of Note | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | The Practice of Experience Design

    July 27, 2006

    Chronographic opening in Detroit celebrates the Public Clock

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    According to Michael Doyle on Archinect,

    Chrono2 Chronographic was dedicated in Detroit this morning [Monday, July 24], to celebrate the city's 305th birthday. Chronographic is a public time keeping machine (read: clock) designed and fabricated by o2 Creative Solutions. Located in the front window of the historic Himelhoch Building, the hands of Detroit's newest pedestrian-scale landmark are tubes of light which track across two large photo-murals on custom designed robotic carts.

    st-imier.jpg Public clocks once played a significant role in the experience of civic life. Everyone within earshot simultaneously experienced the same passage of time and organized their lives accordingly. Louis Mumford is perhaps the best known historian of science and technology to have examined the importance of public clocks. The personal wristwatch and now, digital clocks in every appliance, by eliminating this shared experience, have played a tacit role in the dissolution of community. Perhaps Chronographic can turn back the hands of time and help to restore Detroit's sense of community, hard pressed of late by changes in the global economy and the composition and spirit of Detroit itself.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ED Projects of Note | Events and Happenings

    July 21, 2006

    PingMag: “New levels of Experience Design,” an interview with Liisa Puolakka, Nokia's new Head of Brand and Sensorial Experiences

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    PingMag - The Tokyo-based magazine about “Design and Making Things” features Matt Sinclair's probing inteview of Nokia's new Head of Brand and Sensorial Experiences, Liisa Puolakka. The lengthy interview, interspersed with copious visual examples of how Nokia takes to heart the lessons of experience design, is worth careful reading.

    Puolakka offers this observation regarding the deployment of experience design:

    Experiencedesign01You can see it used everywhere nowadays, but I think the main thing is that rather than just designing an object you take a more holistic approach. That means the design language and how it relates to other products; how does it feel to use, both rationally and emotionally; how it’s packaged; what accessories are available; the kind of environment it may be sold in; what services should be targeted to the consumer of that product. And when you start with that kind of approach you end up with something much more purposeful for the user, but not just purposeful, also more pleasurable, so the consumer is surprised, in a positive way, when they use the product. That’s perhaps why experience design is so talked about right now, because those things relate back to the brand, to the way that consumers think about a company’s image. Experience design is about the way a person experiences a brand.

    And how does that translate into a job? Puolakka's is a broad mandate to intervene throughout Nokia's product-design and brand-management activities:

    For the last two months I have been working as the Head of Brand Visual and Sensorial Experiences, and basically that means the way the brand is experienced by the consumer, the ‘look and feel’ of Nokia. That can be in any of the situations where a person touches, or comes into contact with, the brand; it could be online or in a Nokia Flagship store, it could be advertising campaigns on TV or in magazines, it could be events which Nokia sponsors or attends. In terms of execution most of the work is done by agencies, so that means we need a clear view of the brand strategy in order to brief and communicate with those agencies. I’m not really involved in the creation of the product any more, though of course there is a strong link, we need to start at the same point and head in the same direction.

    Liisa Puolakka is inspiring and instructive -- and in her new role, she demonstrates why Nokia continues to rule the mobile devices field despite assaults from its lower-cost (but little-inspired) competitors.

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

    July 7, 2006

    Living In (And Learning About) Our Risky World: Toward the World Simulator

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Horsemen-1We live in a risky world. War, disease, genocide, crime, natural disasters, and random violence destroy lives and livelihoods. Political strife, oppression, poverty, and homelessness take a toll, widespread and continuous, on the quality of life for billions of people. We don't know what to do. Even in advanced industrial nations, even within the pockets of prosperity where the wealthy and upper-middle classes live, there is a desperate perception that world events increasingly are out of hand. More often than not, the unexpected consequences of rules and regulations imposed by national governments and transnational institutions (like the International Monetary Fund) exacerbate rather than mitigate risk. High-speed telecommunications, the media, and the Internet accelerate humanity's sense of a world out of control.

    Ciaseal-1Unwilling to deal with the stress, it's not surprising that people, in America especially but also globally, studiously remain ignorant about world events (even bare-bones geography). But businesses and governments can't afford voids in their knowledge. For them, specialized services exist -- often very large and lucrative -- to assess the state of the world and the meaning of things. The best known are institutional, like the CIA and its counterparts around the world; university centers and foundations; and the think tanks (like RAND, SRI International, Global Business Network, and INSEAD) that trade focused intellect for influence and profit.

    More interesting, however, are the private firms that offer informed analyses, scenarios, and forecasts about global processes and world events that most of us may never even know about. This knowledge has commercial value. So the knowledge these firms provide is protected, proprietary, and confidentiality. If you have the means, however, they'll share it with you (usually at a considerable price). Though not always accurate or actionable, the knowledge these firms provide mitigates uncertainty for their clients. Able to see through the fog of world events better than the rest of us, the knowledge buyers can act to abate or exploit real or imagined risk in their own interest. For this article, I took a spin on the Web among the private knowledge providers.

    Zoom-Globe-PressIn the English-speaking world, the best known of these private knowledge providers about world events are publishing houses including Reuters, Pearson's Financial Times Group (Financial Times), and Dow Jones & Company (Wall Street Journal and Barron's). Also publishers, but more deeply vested in consulting, are The Economist Intelligence Unit and Jane's Intelligence Group. I was particularly impressed by Aon, Inc., a global insurance and risk-management firm, that offers on its website downloadable “risk maps” depicting global and regional risks and dangers. A tier of lesser-known companies operates more quietly and privately. These include Oxford Analytica, Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor), and Kissinger McLarty Associates (whose amazing website features...nothing!). And then there are the “black” intelligence providers that are so secret, they defy Google itself (or anyone else) to locate them on the Web. Although I knew a few of these dark dealers during my prior professional work, I'm no longer able to say who's in the business today and what they're doing. They aim to keep it that way. C'est la vie.

    There is a moral dimension to informing others, as there is to being informed. No religion condones lying, at least overtly, or refusing to render aid to the endangered and suffering. In most legal systems, withholding vital information that can prevent harm is a criminal offense. And most of us feel it's reprehensible to withhold information that would result in socially beneficial outcomes. That's why the majority of firms engaged in analyzing world events and risk-abatement eventually are open with their findings, albeit after giving first notice (and advantage) to their paying clientele. But this openness comes with blinders imposed by professional and cultural biases, and political and disciplinary boundaries that isolate rather than integrate knowledge domains. These limitations defeat the practical benefit of sharing knowledge, which is to help people generally make better, more beneficial decisions about how to live in the world.

    NationalgeographicThe nonprofit National Geographic Society, is an exception. Its National Geographic magazine's universal content and ever bolder coverage reaches a broad public, making its brand of global awareness (and advocacy for geographic knowledge) available for the price of a mere magazine subscription. National Geographic's topics range the gamut from geophysics to cultural geography, but increasingly, unavoidably, it's editors, writers, and photographers are drawn into geopolitical conflicts and topics that force the magazine's readers to confront the realities of life in a risky world. Happily, new leadership in the Society has abandoned the pollyannish “only good news” philosophy that was conflated with an almost exclusive boosting of Western values. National Geographic has gone “International Geographic” in deed, if not in title.

    Another exception, in blog form, is the excellent worldchanging, whose mission I find perceptive and highly sympathetic:

    Worldchanging-2 WorldChanging.com works from a simple premise: that the tools, models and ideas for building a better future lie all around us. That plenty of people are working on tools for change, but the fields in which they work remain unconnected. That the motive, means and opportunity for profound positive change are already present. That another world is not just possible, it's here. We only need to put the pieces together.

    What if there was an open, global system that enabled everyone to learn about, understand, and cope with world events, current and anticipated? It would be revolutionary. To a small extent, today's Internet serves this function, if one has the ability and is willing to slog through swamps of information to discover and organize gems of knowledge that give meaning. However, because most people don't have knowledge about world events in the first place, most of the knowledge available on the Internet is trivial and can't be acted upon.

    Several initiatives may point the way to this System. These include (of course) Google Earth and the online bulletin board, Digg, on which readers direct other readers to the best articles on the Web dealing with pressing problems; and Meople.net, an “attention bazaar” that enables experts to advertise their availability and sell their knowledge in Attention Stores open to all comers at affordable prices.

    200607070015But by far the most ambitious of these initiatives is one in which I'm personally involved, the World SimulatorTM. Fully developed, the World Simulator will be an open-architectured Web service accessible to everyone for learning about world events. Real-time data feeds will keep its world model always up to date. Individuals and groups will be able to easily access the World Simulator to see what's happening and, if they follow the rules of construction, also be able to compose and integrate regional, process, and domain-specific knowledge modules with the world model, making it ever more realistic. People can then run simulations to test hypotheses and scenarios, globally or regionally, depending on the knowledge modules they choose to implement. We're concentrating our first efforts in the domain of geopolitics, because geopolitical events as a class are familiar to most people even if they aren't fully understood or their meanings appreciated. In the same way that Linus Torvald's open-source project resulted in Linux, the software language that drives most Web servers, or as the Wikipedia community is building the world's most comprehensive encyclopedia (caveat lector), we expect the World Simulator to result in a broadly public, heightened geopolitical awareness ( “Gaia consciousness”, in its most enlightened form). In turn, that awareness we believe will enable real-world action with beneficial outcomes, public as well as private.

    I don't want to get ahead of myself while the project is in its early stages, but if you'd like to learn more, write to me. As well as being project organizer, I'm its evangelist. I can't think of a better cause, living in this risky world.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | ED Projects of Note | Theories of Experience

    July 1, 2006

    America in Miniature takes steps forward

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    American In Miniature RevisedI earlier wrote about America in Miniature, the first miniature theme park in the United States, a planned companion to the 50-plus other miniatures of nations around the world. Edward van de Meer, who leads the America in Miniature venture, subsequently wrote to share with me America in Miniature's updated design (see the thumbnail) and its acquisition of additional executive talent. Edward also wanted to make these points:

    1. More than three-quarters of all miniature theme park visitors are adults. We are not Legoland: we'll welcome kids, but America in Miniature, like other miniature theme parks, is designed for adult enjoyment.

    2. Education, education,
    education! At America in Miniature, a major effort will be made regarding education about the United States, its geography, history, and culture.

    3. America in Miniature will be the only indoor miniature park in the world. In Las Vegas, providing a climate-controlled environment will benefit our guests and the miniature models alike. Also, we can take visitors from day-time to night-time at will.

    4. “Patriotism.” How far can we take this? In the end, I promise an amazing experience, seeing all the beauty this country has to offer! Our mission statement reads,
    “Provide a guest experience well beyond the visitor's expectation.”


    Interested parties -- especially potential investors -- are invited to write to Edward directly.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ED Projects of Note

    June 25, 2006

    June 14, 2006

    MTRL: New initiative (including website) on Materials and Design

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Posted by TE co-author Paula Thornton to her excellent Experience Design newsgroup:

    MYSTERIOUS WORLD OF MATERIALS OPENS UP TO DESIGN COMMUNITY

    Mtrl seeks to bridge design and engineering with wealth of materials information

    MATERIALS PARK, Ohio, June 13, 2006 - The fast-growing community of creative people who design products, objects, processes, services and systems has a new source of inspiration with the launch of Mtrl - an industry initiative aimed at providing designers with “material about materials.” Ranging from industrial and consumer product designers to architects and interior designers, Mtrl's wealth of materials information will be provided in the manner and format needed by designers - through first-hand experience, interactive workshops, a comprehensive website, sample books, and more.

    According to the ICSID (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design), designing requires consideration of aesthetic, functional, and many other aspects of an object, which involves extensive research, thought, modeling, iterative adjustment, and re-design to find the right colors, texture, sounds, and other sensual aspects concerning a product and its ergonomics.

    Mtrl is the brainchild of ASM International, the Materials Information Society, which has been the leading resource for the advancement of materials knowledge for nearly 100 years. And while ASM traditionally serves an audience of engineers and scientists, the launch of Mtrl marks an explicit expansion of ASM's scope to include those who use and specify materials in the funkier world of design.

    “Through extensive research, we found that designers explore a very interesting world tucked between the constructs of art and manufacturing,” said Laura Marshall, ASM's Director of Business Initiatives. “Mtrl will capitalize on this by providing tangible experiences with materials, promoting experimentation, and inspiring design through exposure to materials from the everyday to the extraordinary.”

    Mtrl will debut with designer workshops in Boston and Chicago this month that will allow designers to explore materials through the intersection of art, science, industry and product design. Mtrl's series of workshops will expose designers to materials in innovative ways, such as tours through manufacturing facilities, hands-on field exercises, and lectures by leading industry professionals, scientists and artists.

    A new website, Materials About Materials (Mtrl, www.materialaboutmaterials.com [not yet operating]), will be a central location for materials information for the design community. Details of the upcoming Mtrl workshops can be found on the site, and in the coming months, the site will include searchable materials databases and other resources for designers.

    “From the latest in automotive design to popular consumer products, there is a new appreciation for the tactile and aesthetic value of materials in the products we buy and use,” added Marshall. “As designers look for new sources of inspiration and information, Mtrl will provide a fresh perspective and a concrete connection between the worlds of design and engineering.”

    Contact:

    Laura Marshall
    Director of Business Initiatives
    ASM International
    440-338-5151
    laura.marshall@asminternational.org

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    June 12, 2006

    Avenu makes for a really BAD customer experience at Albertsons Market

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    We finally moved into our new place, Cherie, Savanna, Sammy Jo (our dog), and me, in the heart of Santa Monica. It's just up the hill from the local Albertsons supermarket. I descended to buy a bottle of wine and some popcorn -- we really know how to party! -- and had one of the worst customer experiences in my life.

    The checkout lines were characteristically long, as they have been ever since Albertsons bought out the wonderful Lucky Markets and chopped their staffs by at least a third and probably a half. That's not the problem. Long lines, even at 8 PM on a weeknight, were to be expected.

    Imageforavenu BWhat wasn't to be expected was being hammered while a captive in line by something called “Avenu,” a continuous, loud, insulting program of banalities blasted at us from flat-screen TVs and powerful speakers at every cashier's station. It was horrible. I can't remember a single advertisement among the two score or more forced upon us by Albertson's experientially lame but craven management, but I do remember wanting out of there. Avenu is apparently the creation of the Jewel-Osco retail conglomerate. Now both Jewel-Osco and Albertsons are both about to be assimilated into a corporate retail Borg, Supervalu (which resembles nothing so much as a sentient supply chain. It's not your corner grocer.

    Unfortunately, the punishment for Supervalu's captive audiences won't end with the merger. In fact, it's going to be extended to a whole lot more shoppers across North America. Supervalu, the entity acquiring Albertsons and Jewel-Osco, relies on Avenu as a regular part of its armory of tools intended to bludgeon shoppers' senses into submission. What Supervalu gains by heaping visual and aural abuse upon shoppers waiting in line, removing any opportunity for meaningful human chit-chat -- the sole redeeming quality of waiting in line -- is beyond me.

    WfGiven these provocations, our family's shopping at Vons or Whole Foods Market. Say what you will about the Safeway chain (which owns Vons) or the Birkenstock billionaires who charge through the roof for WF's organic fare, they know how to create shopping environments that create a more pleasurable experience, at its best (as at WF) quite enjoyable. Even the warehouses like Costco and its smaller counterpart, Smart & Final, do just fine: they have no pretentions, but neither do they dump virtual garbage on the consumer merely to create another trivial revenue stream, all for the sake of promotions in the marketing department.

    Good bye, Albertsons, we'll hardly miss ye. Supervalu, from our point of view, you're dead on arrival.

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    May 14, 2006

    May 10, 2006

    May 9, 2006

    “America in Miniature,” in Las Vegas (and no, it's not another Wynn casino!)

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    UsdecoratorAmericans struggle to make sense of a largely unknown, sometimes hostile world -- but unfortunately, they know just as little about one another. A 2006 Geographic Literacy Study conducted by National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs revealed staggering ignorance about America's geography among 18 to 24 year olds: half of the 510 individuals sampled couldn't find New York State on a map. What goes on in that unknown region no doubt is an equal mystery for them.

    Geo-moronics are not limited to America's youngsters: compared with their overseas counterparts, American adults travel infrequently, except to a relatively few over-visited destinations. Maybe it's time America had a miniature park where Boomers, X and Y Gens, and children can learn something about their nation, their fellow Americans -- and themselves. What's a miniature park?

    Madurodam 2Tricia Vita explains in the April 2006 issue of Funworld, the IAAPA magazine. Miniature parks in Europe -- models of nations, complete with their regions and their historical landmarks -- are highly popular attractions for locals and visitors alike: informative as they are lucrative. Madurodam, in The Hague, is the most famous miniature park, but the International Association of Miniature Parks has 17 other members including parks in Turkey, Israel, the Canary Islands, and Canada. In all, there are 45 miniature parks around the world. But there's not even one in the 50 United States.

    In the Funworld article, American Russell Bekins, who helped to design the new Italia in Miniatura, tells Vita, “Europe looks to its great cities and their architecture as the maximum expression of their culture. The United States still looks to its wide open spaces,” he says. “Perhaps a miniature park of our national parks would fly.”

    Render AerialBetter than that! America in Miniature (user ID and password, “eagle”) is a real-life project led by Edward van de Meer, a former immigrant from Holland where he was a fan of Madurodam. His goal is to create a 10-acre miniature park in Las Vegas...of the United States. I was fortunate to recently speak with van de Meer, who in three years has assembled a powerhouse team able to realize his vision of America in Miniature as a national attraction.

    Like a good businessman, van de Meer can justify his enterprise on the basis of its financial viability. Indeed, his strategy and planning are vastly more sophisticated than many of the startups I've counseled. All he needs to make his dream come true is an enlightened investor. He'll find one.

    What impresses me most about van de Meer's concept is his determination to create a mirror -- not just with the miniatures, but with the crowds of visitors themselves -- in which Americans can see their full diversity. Diversity, after all, is the most notable feature of American life for those who've lived overseas, where societies tend to be less diverse. The American “mosaic” is one of the positive aspects of American culture -- American patriotism in its most benign, humane form. Guests from overseas, who typically take in only one or two American cities in a lifetime, can share in that admiration.

    A 10-acre park may seem a small endeavor in physical terms, but evaluated as a designed experience (with a sophisticated appreciation for haptic learning), van de Meer's vision is anything but small. Steve Wynn, are you listening?

    (This posting is dedicated to my former neighbor Lou, who passed away today from a recurring brain tumor. Lou, a truly gentle man, always dreamed of becoming a Rotary Club Ambassador in charge of creating miniature Americas around the country, to spread understanding and love. Rest in peace, dear Lou.)

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    April 22, 2006

    David Armano's “Experience Map”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Experience MapDAVID ARMANO, creative lead at agency Digitas, in Chicago, has published a pretty neat “experience map” on his blog, Logic + Emotion. A work in progress, it's visually stimulating, and conceptually as well as practically interesting. However, I'm waiting for David to extend the map's concepts off the Web page and into the material and experiential world. The map's downloadable. Your comments are welcome (we'll share them with David).

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    February 2, 2006

    Show and Tell: Meaningful business meeting environments.

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Let me tell you about the worst and best of meeting environments, so that you can consider your own.

    Last week I attended a public meeting sponsored by a large local government, all about technology and innovation. The networking that occurred was valuable and the program, interesting.

    But the meeting room! We were lodged at the end of the floor -- the entire end of the floor, the office building was partly vacant -- with six rows of fold-up chairs spanning the length of the room. Thus the space was a long rectangle, with podium and flipcharts in front of the lengthy rows. Because of construction, participants registered in a cloak room and entered through the hallway for the restrooms. Once they encountered the forest of chairs, fully occupied on our end, most stopped dead, right in front of displays at the side of the room. Few participants thought about circling back and entering the opposite hallway and thus reaching vacant seats that existed on the other side of the room. Neither had the organizers, apparently.

    The lighting through walls of window was glaring. The speakers occasionally stayed behind the podium, but mostly they sacrificed the mike and audibility for intimacy with the front rows of listeners. The flipcharts were promisingly original; but when mixed with PowerPoint slides, the combination was truly mind-numbing. The room was half empty before the morning break.

    The government agency and private sponsors spent good money and created this experience? So often it goes!

    At the other extreme was a glitzed up dot-com office I once occupied, where the noise and confusion negated any communications that might have usefully occurred in the arbitrarily laid-out open space. Unfortunately, with the easing of the financial crisis, such expensive excuses for "working places" may be coming back into favor. Hope not.

    The best meeting environment I've experienced -- and one I've been intending to replicate, if I can find an executive open to thinking about office space (a task usually relegated to office managers) -- was that created by the Institute for Systems Studies (ISS) at the National University of Singapore. It was on the next-to-the-top floor of a new campus office building. (The top floor was reserved for the Faculty Bar, which gave ISS staff a certain advantage.) It combined planning with serendipity to support a continuing discourse, highly creative, yet intellectually rigorous and technically. Let me describe it for you.

    The ISS occupied the entire floor. Offices with windows lined each length of the floor. Each office had a ceiling and a door (no cubicles here). Offices were traditional, walls filled with shelves. Each desk had with a desktop or laptop computer connected to a broadband network. (This was before wireless was big.) Building lighting was flourescent, but in most offices ceiling lights were kept off in favor of mutable window lighting with incandescent lights.

    Between the offices and the center of the space, staff had lined up tall filing cabinets and other office furniture (shelves, storage spaces, etc.) to form a high wall. This created two walkways, each running length of a row of offices. This barrier held down ambient noise from the center space and provided privacy for the office holders. At strategic distances, there were spaces in the walls of cabinets that allowed people to pass between the two hallways and the center space defined by the walls.

    The center space was the charm, what made it work. Beanbags, comfortable chairs, and small tables were arranged the full length of the center space, in clusters that were adjustable in size simply by moving things around. Here, intense conversation was the rule, even loud conversation. It was where ideas were worked out and collaboration managed. Down the center of the clusters, running the entire length of the center space, was the "Rabbit Run." On the Run, a person could walk (or run, as the name suggests) from cluster to cluster, spanning incredible intellectual domains with each cluster. Lighting of the center space was totally ad hoc: table lamps, standing lamps, halogens clipped to the cabinet walls, and so forth. Presentations were on laptops and notepads, with books and models readily available.

    The center space was completely maleable, continuously reinvented to serve the needs of its inhabitants. Meetings here defined the environment, not the other way around. The experience for ISS people was entirely self-designed.

    ISS's record speaks for the quality of the space it inhabits. I'm sure the ISS location has undergone change since my visit in the late 90s; perhaps I won't recognize it the next time I'm there. That would be too bad, since it would signal the triumph of convention and inadequacy over value. Certainly, the ISS floor as I experienced it cost less than a traditional office environment.

    Good meetings are the machinery for doing good business. The environments we create in which to hold our meetings determine how good our meetings will be, and in no small way, how successful are the businesses we run.

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    January 22, 2006

    November 17, 2004

    Cornerstone Festival of Gardens in Sonoma

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    Posted by Steve Portigal

    Last weekend we visisted Cornerstone Festival of Gardens in Sonoma (part of the wine country, just north of San Francisco). For an admission charge of $9.00, visitors can explore a fascinating range of garden/art exhibit/environment/installations created by landscape architects, design firms, artists, and more.

    It's not quite like visiting purty gardens somewhere, nor walking through a gallery or a museum. The installations engage many of the senses in some interesting and powerful ways.

    "Break out" is a maze of screen doors in a "room" of hay bales, while Johnny Cash music plays on several speakers (out of sync) - you get the slamming screen doors, tinny music and smell of hay.

    "The Lullalby Garden" looks like sand dunes in the distance, playing an interesting game of scale, and as you take your shoes off and stroll on the small hills (covered in many mats of plastic fiber woven by Vietnamese villagers) you may feel as a giant. The visual expectation of texture and scale is confounded by the experience, and the detailed story of handicrafts from far-off lands are jumbled together to create a whole new story.

    "Daisy Border" is simply a series of fields of blowing flower pinwheels.

    Daisy Border



    "Rise" is a corrugated metal sewage tube that separates two zones with contrasting foliage on either side, and as you walk through the tube you experience the world you left behind, and the world ahead of you through the portal of the end of the tube, while sound folds in around you.

    Rise




    Rise





    "Changing Rooms" is a winding path to a curtain covered round space. Along the way are stations where you can use a Sharpie to write a wish on a translucent disc, but it's not until you enter the inner "room" that you understand what the wishes are for - a changing scuplture built from the words and wishes of visitors.

    Changing Rooms




    Changing Rooms







    Changing Rooms







    Changing Rooms




    Changing Rooms






    "Earth Walk" is an incredibly simple concept - a wedge cut into the ground, creating two ramps on either side on which you can descend about 8 feet below ground level. Surrounded by haybales, you feel even deeper. As you walk down the ramp the environmental sound gradually recedes until you feel a moist hush. At the bottom, then is a contemplative water garden.

    Earth Walk



    "Eucalyptus Soliloquy" takes tree leaves and attaches them with various densities to metal mesh walls, creating different spaces that let pass through in different ways, with the visual texture of the drying leaves behind mesh adding another layer.

    Eucalyptus Soliloquy



    "A Small Tribute to Migrant Workers" tells a story in literal and symbolic ways - one part of the display dangles printed profiles of immigrants who have come to the US to work, their financial situation, their history, their families and more, putting faces and names to a complex social issue. Elsewhere in the garden you can do some gardening, tending to plants with tools provideded, or briefly recreate a symbolic border crossing across shards of broken plant pots.

    A Small Tribute to Migrant Workers



    "Blue Tree" is the most iconic of the Cornerstone Gardens - a (dying?) tree is completed covered with plastic blue ornaments - the effect is fantastic, your eye sees a real tree, but almost none of the texture of a real tree is visible, so your brain questions the legitimacy of what you're seeing. A range of perspectives gives many different takes on the tree, from being in a surrealistic painting to playing with a giant molecular modelling kit.

    Blue Tree




    Blue Tree



    It's worth checking out if you are in the area. These are all sensory experiences, and words/photos (click to enlarge, by the way) certainly don't do it justice.

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    November 14, 2004

    Converging on Experience Design from Three Directions: Advertising, Retail Marketing, and Urban Design

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    NYT_home_banner.gifOn the way to my rural hideout on the fringes of Kansas City, MO, I came upon three articles – all in the New York Times – that are bellwethers of the emerging power of integrated, interdisciplinary design. What’s most interesting is the angle of attack differs in each case: from advertising, retail marketing, and urban design.

    Because these articles are archived (with the exception of the Arnell Group article) and must be purchased from the New York Times, following is a brief synopsis of each. For more details, acquire the original Time's articles or click to the other online articles I've linked.

    Omnicom.gifADVERTISING. Stuart Elliott, in an article in his Advertising column, "Thinking Outside the Marketing Box," spotlights Omnicom’s Arnell Group, a former ad agency that's outgrown the parochial boundaries of the ad business to enter, as its website proclaims, the "value creation and enhancement" business. According to the Elliott article, Peter Arnell, the founder and CEO of the Arnell Group, “is to oversee a broad effort – everything from product design to in-store marketing to traditional advertising – to help Electrolux introduce a line of small domestic appliances” in Q4 2005. Lars Goran Johannson, SVP for corporate communications at Electrolux’s Stockholm HQ, hired Mr. Arnell because of his reputation for thinking beyond the boundaries of conventional advertising and venturing into realms like graphic design, retail marketing, and branded entertainment, reports Elliott. “This is a different kind of business, an interesting mixture of design, creativity, and technology,” says Johansson.

    Other experience-design projects Arnell is tackling, according to the article, are:

    • A midtown Manhattan store for Jacob the Jeweller that evokes the interior of a gem mine

    • A store in Philadelphia for Reebok that is a showcase for its shoes as well as a place to buy them

    • A line of fire extinguishers and other home-safety products for Home Hero. According to Arnell, “the typical fire extinguisher is “so ugly, nobody wants to leave it on a counter. We need a product like what Braun did with coffee makers,” i.e., making coffee-making visible, interactive, and entertaining, and the coffee maker a domestic modern art piece.

    starbucks.jpgRETAIL MARKETING. In the Business Section, Robert Levine writes about Starbuck’s new plan to sell music with the French Roast, “Would You Like an Extra Shot of Music With That Macchiato?” The chain is altering its mix of in-store purchasables, reducing its line of domestic goods and now promoting “burn-it-yourself” CDs accessible via the 3,000-store broadband network that many of us use when we bring our laptops to do work in a Starbucks. Provided by T-Mobile, the network was originally derided as not providing Starbucks with sufficient ROI: by encouraging slow sipping while doing real work, the “new commerce” pundits predicted Starbucks was shooting itself in the foot. Now, with the addition of downloadable music, the broadbank foray is paying off in spades.

    The project is headed by Dan MacKinnon, VP of Starbucks Entertainment. Starbucks Entertainment? Ahah, here’s the clue. Coffee is still mainly how the chain parts consumers and their dollars, but ambience, long recognized as a key component of the Starbucks brand, is now being elevated to the position of a purchasable. You’ll come to a Starbucks to (a) drink coffee, (b) do your work or chit-chat, and (c) interactively create unique musical collections to take home and enjoy later.

    What else will be added to the mix? The possibilities aren’t infinite – selling elaborate sandwiches apparently didn’t pan out, and watching TV would definitely diminish the experience – but everything from audio books and MP3 lectures to on-site or remote game-playing, for a price – are definitely within reach. Says Phil Quartataro, president of EMI Music Marketing, quoted in the article, “Starbucks is a branding machine. Nobody buys a 40-cent cup of coffee for $4 unless they’re buying a brand.”

    That’s what marketers always say. But it’s more than that, Mr. Q: they’re buying an experience. The experience expresses the brand.

    A more extensive analysis of the trend toward mixing in-store product offerings and environments is provided in
    Richard Siklos' account in the Business.Telegraph, "Starbucks Pushes Limites of What Its Customers Will Swallow."
    It's an excellent treatment and goes into some depth to explain why this is an industry-wide phenomenon not just limited to cutting-edge companies like Starbucks.

    updated_render04A.jpgURBAN DESIGN. The new city of Rancho Cucamonga, CA, in the Southern California region known as “The Inland Empire,” centered on San Bernardino, is preening its feathers with the development of Victoria Gardens, “A Different Sort of Mall for a California Town,” as reported by Morris Newman. “Within an area that encompasses 1.3 million square feet of retail and office space covering 12 blocks of this affluent suburb” – effectively, most of its budding downtown – Victoria Gardens is a “super-regional lifestyle center.” Despite the novel label, observers may recognize the development, by Cleveland’s Forest City Enterprises in a joint venture with Lewis Retail Centers, as a neo-Main Street in the Venturi tradition, a Las Vegas casino-style shopping mall, without the casino. But a little different.

    Newman describes Victoria Gardens – a name somewhat out of keeping with the city's high-desert environment – this way:

    “A turn-of-the-century citrus-packing plant inspired the building that houses the food court. Next door is a replica Craftsman home, of the type built in the region in the early 1900s. Elsewhere are a group of 1940s-style department stores, whose side walls of plain red brick add a note of humility to the elegant façade. (The bricks are actually painted on a stucco surface, in a trompe l’oeil style.) A freestanding brick fireplace, accented with colored tiles, purports to represent the remnants of a rancher’s house long destroyed by fire.”

    The development comes loaded with intention, beyond being just a collection of typical retail-chain storefronts. A chief consultant to the developer was San Francisco urban design firm Field Paoli, famous for its eclecticism and comprehensive treatments. Says principal Yann Taylor, “We wanted to avoid a formulaic approach in which all the streets have the same width. Instead, each street has a slightly different character and is planted with a different type of tree, to contribute to the sense of the project having been built up over time.”

    More interesting than this faux historicism, however, is the developer’s integration of Victoria Gardens streets with Rancho Cucamonga’s city streets, thus giving Victoria Gardens a real circulatory function. As writer Newman observes, “Perhaps the most innovative part of the site planning is that the private development has been designed to blend into the existing street pattern of the city by aligning it with existing streets.” Covering a substantial 147 acres in a still relatively small city, “the project is not a stand-alone,” according to Linda Daniels, the Rancho Cucamonga’s redevelopment director, It’s “meant to integrate with the residential neighborhoods that surround it.”

    Putting aside for a moment serious qualms that the unreal may overwhelm the real in a city as young and in formation as Rancho Cucamonga – or perhaps, acceding to the notion that there is no practical difference in a modern suburban development, where the developers, not history, city government, or the residents, call the tune – the combination of thought and resources brought together to create Victoria Gardens is impressive. The roster includes the developer, a retail management company, three architectural firms (besides Field Paoli, also Altoon & Poerter, L.A., and KA Inc., Cleveland), and the city itself (not to mention the retailers).

    Despite Newman’s well-founded qualification, that “despite its urban bravura, Victoria Gardens is an amalgam of the regional mall with elements of traditional town planning,” from an experience-design viewpoint Victoria Gardens is a strong statement in favor of integrated planning and design. While its overt purpose is to move goods and generate revenues for its tenants, Victoria Gardens is actually having a salutary effect on the city’s own development plans, which initially envisioned a traditional shopping mall, all pre-fab and parking lots.

    Reluctant to sign on for a nontraditional retail location, retailers were brought onboard when the city agreed to build nearby a public library and a performing arts center, to lure its high-income residents downtown. Says Brian Jones, president of developer Forest City, “The last thing we wanted to do was create a theme park…. The project is actually a community gathering place.” The driver, says Simon Horton, Forest City’s project lead, was that “retail has become polarized, in the form of value” – cheaper locales, traditional mall settings – “versus experience.” Of course, experience wins hands down when people, as in Rancho Cucamonga, are affluent and can vote with their dollars.

    Which begs the revolutionary question: if you’re not wealthy, must you have a bad shopping experience? Is commercial purgatory class-based? Whose purpose does that serve?

    A more florid, less critical, description of Victoria Gardens can be found in the Daily Bulletin article, "Victoria Gardens a Shoppers Shangri-La," by La Rue Novick.

    Kudos to the New York Times staff for its continuing insightful examinations of the experience design paradigm emerging in practice.

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    October 21, 2004

    Give the Gift of Experience

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    Posted by Steve Portigal

    i-logo.gifLast week in Toronto I made a quick trip to the Shoppers Drug Mart to pick up some of those great chocolate bars I can't get at home in California, and I noticed a point-of-purchase display (right near the checkout, as if to suggest impulse buying) for Life Experiences - gift cards with a range of experience gifts (a weekend getaway, a romantic dinner) priced at $199 or $299. Their site lists the complete set of offerings, including several spa packages, a resort weekend, a Jaguar rental, a home cleaning, a sky diving experience and more.

    Click to enlarge

    Click to enlarge

    Click to enlarge

    It's a perfect business for a large metropolitan area like Toronto (the GTAA as it's known now) since the end-customer and the bundled-providers need to be local to each other. I wonder how it can scale?

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    October 20, 2004

    Urban Planning Military Style

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    3d_f.jpgWhy do the names of military simulations always sound like Steven Segal movie titles?

    Wired Online today reports on "Urban Resolve," a military simulation intended to deal with the new/old reality of urban warfare. "The old crusade days when you go into a city with catapults and rubble everything are over," said Joint Forces Command's Jim Blank, modeling and simulation division chief for the project. "We know now that you can take down a city by isolating different nodes in the city.... This lets us look at each one of the nodes and decide how best to go after the adversary....

    planviewdisplay_f.jpg"If you take down a sewer plant, you're going to cause a great deal of discomfort to the city's inhabitants," said Blank. "A lot of these things have gone on in previous conflicts but the result has been collateral damage that's not acceptable." It's not clear from the interview whether Blank approves or disapproves of disabling vital sanitation services. It's not his job to decide, only tto highlight the possibility. Do virtual dysentery and cholera come with the package?

    "Urban Resolve" reportedly cost $195,000 to develop. For a videogame that deals with a million virtual entities, that's really something. That comes down to less than two cents per entity. You can't beat that on Everquest.

    However, the quoted price doesn't include the cost of years of previously developed software (lots of AI) and two massive Linux clusters in Hawaii and Ohio that support the simulation, or the time that referees and developers spend tweaking.

    Urban Resolve is an odd mix of strategy and tactical street combat. Already its creators are talking about law enforcement agencies using it for crowd control. But what about the bigger picture? What's to prevent Urban Resolve from being used to test 24/7 universal surveillance of a city -- even a friendly city? Even one here at home? Ah hah, maybe that's what all the cameras on streetlight stanchions are all about!

    Now we need software from the military that portrays what to do when a military base closes down, leaving unemployment and toxic wastes behind. That also would be a valuable game to play. I couldn't find it online, but it must be somewhere in the $500B defense budget.


    Images: USC Institute for Information Science via Wired

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    October 9, 2004

    Gate 3 WorkClub redefines the meaning of the "workplace"

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Gate3logo.gifWhen the Gate 3 WorkClub opened its doors this week in Emeryville, CA, it dramatically redefined my notion of a "workplace," combining modernitywith the expert community character of a guild hall. Work may be work, but for WorkClub proprietor Neil Goldberg, an award-winning industrial designer who once worked for Herman Miller and led the influential Praxis Design, work can be a medium for personal growth and expression. Work that occurs in a designed environment can itself be a desirable experience.


    Earlier this year I partnered with Neil, Gate 3 director Amy Catalano, Drs. Charlie Grantham and Jim Ware from The Future of Work Foundation, and Garrett Choi, now VP Engineering at BeHere, Inc. At the time, Neil was coming to grips with the reality that when he shut down his design firm, he became the owner of a large, empty building. Within a few weeks, however, led by Neil, we managed to come up with the rough outlines of what would become the Best Place in the World to Work.


    Gate-3-1.jpgWhat makes WorkClub such a likely success? Design. Design of space. Design of functions. Design of process. Every aspect of the Gate 3 experience has been intentionally crafted to enhance the quality of worktime spent at Gate 3.

    For example, as a "WorkClub," Gate 3 has Members (rather than renters) who can adjust their use of the facilities to suit their working style and requirements. The building is divided vertically and laterally to create varied functional and physical properties for each "region" within the Gate 3 building. For example, on the second floor where most work takes place, baffles, telephone booths, and various wall design make for a quieter ambience, the further one walks from front to back. Silence is the property at the end. Lighting, too, is handled with aplomb.

    Gate3-3.jpgGate 3 has three environmental layers that correspond with each other and which serve to satisfy WorkClub members' multiple requirements.

    The Infrastructure. Building, lighting, acoustics, furniture. It helps
    that Herman Miller is Neil's former employer and a sponsor of Gate 3.

    IT Services, the "Virtual Office." Telecommunications, technology,
    networks, wireless, computer and video applications.

    Human Milieu. A constant stream of facilitated activities: workshops,
    lectures, presentations, brainstorms, guest speakers, the Cafe. A Gate 3
    facilitator arranges and manages these interactions.

    Gate3-2.jpgIt's the interaction of these three experiential strata that makes Gate 3 such an intriguing experiment in redesigning the workplace and the experience of work, perhaps the most significant advance since the invention of the assembly line. The challenge now is for Neil and Amy to spread the word and attract the necessary critical mass that will determine Gate 3's viability. If WorkClub Emeryville succeeds, expect to see others elsewhere, put together quickly and with a clear vision of an unbounded, global work environment that serves the people who labor within.

    I'm meeting with Gate 3 innovator Neil Goldberg later this month for a full report. Send your questions for Neil and his team to me now.

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    August 26, 2004

    The Birch Aquarium: Interview with David Krimmel, Designer

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    I'm still in San Diego, looking for distinctive landmarks that set it apart from other regions in California. So far, my impressions are that this "big small town" exists in a literal desert bounded by Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, and that it's main unique features are aircraft carriers, old and new.

    topleft.gifAn exception is the Birch Aquarium operated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a unit of the University of California. Scripps, now celebrating its 100th anniversary, has long been synonymous with oceanography. Like Woods Hole in MA, Scripps is one of the places that the discipline was invented.

    The Birch originally was a simple affair, a collection of ocean-water tanks containing bright marine flora and fauna: mainly, fish. And that's how it remained until relatively recently, when the Birch finally acquired an executive director, Dr. Nigella Hillgarth, capable of formulating a vision for the Birch other than just showing off local fin folk. In fact, the Birch's newly expanded mission, accompanying a four-fold increase in its floorspace, is complex: describing and visualizing for the public the hundreds of research projects ongoing within Scripps, most of which are abstruse but many of which are relevant to the general public.

    "The challenge we face," said David Krimmell, a designer and Manager of Exhibits whom I interviewed on a recent visit to the Birch, "is portraying the full range of exciting science taking place within Scripps to a visitor population that's largely parents with seven-year-olds in tow." David, an artist who joined the Birch after earlier stints with other local exhibitions, faces a few other challenges that exhibition designers elsewhere will recognize: limited floorspace, limited access to technology, and a budget that shows no signs of imminent expansion, other than whatever new revenues the Birch can itself generate via visits.

    ...continue reading.

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    July 30, 2004

    GM Finally Climbs on the Virtual Reality Bandwagon

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    gm_nav_logo.gifIn “Virtual Design: As clay fades, GM shifts toward digital imagery,” Auto News, July 21, 2004, writer Dave Guilford reports that GM is finally getting on the virtual reality (VR) bandwagon. It may be big news in Detroit, but elsewhere, VR as the principal tool for vehicle design is fast approaching “the way things are done.” DaimlerChrysler, BMW, Toyota, Renault, Peugeot, and Fiat – all use VR in major ways to produce their new cars. In the U.S., leading independent truckmaker PACCAR is also experimenting with VR as a way of reducing design cycles and product time to market.

    Guilford credits GM’s getting off the dime to design chief Ed Wellburn, formerly head of GM’s brand character studio, now in his first year as GM North America VP for design and global design leader. GM subsidiaries Opel, GM Brasil, and GM Daewoo have all built or are building VR design studios. Wellburn offers a caution: “Design executives can evaluate concepts but not final executions. Evaluations of vehicles in VR is challenging and can only be done by those who spend a lot of time in that environment."

    Well really, no, it’s not that mysterious.

    ...continue reading.

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    July 29, 2004

    Impromptu Drive-In Theaters

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Chris Thompson reports in the NYT ("Now Playing, a Digital Brigadoon,"July 29) on a wonderful, wonky return to the 50s: impromptu drive-in theaters, organized on the spot. Reports Thompson from Santa Cruz, CA:

    drive-in.jpg"For three years, cult-movie buffs have been organizing "guerrilla drive-ins" in a number of cities, rigging together a nest of digital projectors, DVD players, and radio transmitters or stereo speakers, spreading the word online, and assembling on parking lots or fields to watch obscure films beneath the stars.

    They project the image onto warehouses or bridge pillars, tune their car stereos to a designated FM frequency, and sit back and enjoy the show. The only thing they do not do is ask for permission."

    Talk about the design as the experience. I'll see if I can get the heroes of the piece, from SC, Florida, and Pennsylvania -- this thing is happening so fast and so big, it's scary! -- to comment. Stay tuned...or rather, don't miss the next installment....

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    Coming Attractions!

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Here's a list of notable experience design projects (among others) on which I'll be reporting during the coming weeks. Please let me know the projects that you think are deserving of mention and commentary.


    • The Lincoln Presidential Library, BRC Imagination Arts

    • Las Vegas "Fashion Show" State-of-the-Art shopping mall, Rouse Co.

    • Sound Design for the film, Master and Commander

    • Linden Labs/Second Life Online Virtual Environment

    • "Occasio," A Redesigned Consumer Banking Environment, Washington Mutual, Inc.

    • Passenger Experience in Future Fused Wing Aircraft (flying wings), Boeing

    • The Rose Center/Hayden Planetarium, American Museum of Natural History

    • The Apple iPod User Experience

    • The Gensler Education Environment

    • Amplified Collaboration Environments, Electronic Visualization Laboratory, UI-C

    • Integrated Onboard Driver Information Systems, DaimlerChrysler PARC

    • VR Applications Center, Iowa State University

    • US Joint Forces Command Theater Simulation System

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