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


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

    (Courtesy of Mark Vanderbeeken, Experientia SpA, Torino)

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

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

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

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

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

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    Category Archives

    November 5, 2007

    DUX 2007: A great conference, but fundamentally off the mark

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Dux07 The DUX 2007 conference begins today in Chicago. Thematically, content-wise, and in terms of approach, this is the consummate conference on cutting-edge design. The speakers are top-notch, too. If I could, I'd be there. But ideologically, DUX is discomforting. For all its virtues, DUX embodies a set of values that, while commendable, are incomplete and off-kilter.

    Despite its aspiration to be universal, DUX remains user-centric, not human-centric. And experience, inherently and essentially, is human and thus, holistic.

    DUX stands for “Designing for User Experience.” It's the "user" part that continues to annoy me, while others seem blithe to its portent. According to Wikipedia, (quoting sage designer Don Norman's 1999 book, Invisible Computer: Why Good Products Can Fail, the Personal Computer Is So Complex and Information Appliances Are the Solution):

    "User experience design is a subset of the field of experience design which pertains to the creation of the architecture and interaction models which impact a user's perception of a device or system. 'The scope of the field is directed at affecting all aspects of the user’s interaction with the product: how it is perceived, learned, and used.' "

    200711051709 Designing for experience is about holism, understanding and working with the totality of human experience. “A user's perception of a device or system” seems a peculiarly narrow niche in which to ply one's experience design skills. Of course, it's important: devices and systems are what drive the machinery of commerce and government, and even how we as consumers conduct ourselves at home and in leisure time. But so mechanistic a conception of the human being is antithetical to our knowledge of how people holistically perceive, think, act, and experience their lives. Maybe that's why Don himself on more than one public occasion has eschewed the term he invented, “user experience design,” advising that we'd be better off without the “user.”

    DUX could more realistically portray the challenges facing experience designers, and champion their successes, by replacing “user” with “human” and thereby symbolically and practically opening the conference to a wider audience of designers and composers of experience.

    (BTW, I'm not reactive to the use of “user” in all R&D contexts: I'm about to take part in a multiyear, overseas study of “user-driven innovation” that aims to understand and enhance this innate human capacity. In this context, "user-driven" makes sense. Innovation by design is instrumental and goal-oriented. Innovation serves. But experience happens.)

    This isn't a trivial matter. Many of the presenters at DUX are willing to generalize beyond the scope of device and system development. This attempt to apply mechanistic theories best suited to things and systems to the larger world of human affairs can and likely will breed skepticism and perhaps even resistance to design for experience. The backlash against “social engineering,” a counterpart to DUX once advocated by structural-functionalist social scientists in the 1950s and 1960s could easily be repeated in our own time, especially since so many designs for experience fail in important settings at crucial moments.

    A potential reason why DUX and its organizers and participants haven't grasped this relationship may be that they haven't a long history in the work they do or sufficient familiarity with the scholarly study of experience. Perhaps it's a function of the organizing process, but it appears to me that with only a few exceptions, most of the speakers and workshop leaders -- and I suppose, attendees -- appear to be shy of 40 years of age. That means they would have been born sometime after 1967, when systemic thinking was king and every person was treated as a cog in some larger device; and that they came of age in the mid-80s or later, as information technology was replacing systems as the predominant archetypal metaphor. The inclusion of Harper's and The Huffington Post's
    Thomas de Zengotita within DUX, as an invited speaker -- a man who wears his years proudly and who's the antithesis of a “user-experience designer” -- is a welcome breath of fresh air. More like him would leaven the persistent technophilia that many other speakers manifest.

    It feels to me that the concern for audiences as human beings present in the work of such great designers of the past as, for example, Chermayeff, Bel Geddes, and the Eames, has evaporated in the fiery breath of Moloch aka The Machine (per Lewis Mumford's 1967
    Technics and Human Development: The Myth of the Machine). Even those presentations at DUX that sound wonderfully focused on human fancy -- art and dance and travel to strange places -- seem prone to converting that fancy into factors that are part of technical solutions: making products and services. They don't really depict or serve edifying human experiences, although they may well fit the interests of those seeking to exploit experiences. This dog won't hunt.

    Doors of Perception's Designs of the Time (Dott07), a 23-month participatory project that will continue through year's end, is an illustrative counterpoint to DUX. Dott's slogan is, “Why our design festival has no things in it.” Besides being overtly human-centered, Dott's participation ranges more broadly by age and is geographically more diverse. Its participants are as often involved in public as they are in commercial projects. DUX's youthful audience, by contrast, comprises a bucket-load of North Americans, a moderate serving of Brits, and a dash of Dutch and German presenters mostly working in the world of business and academic/brain-trust institutions serving that world. Pragmatic instrumentality, the dominant ideology in North American, British, and Germanic cultures driven by economic, thing-maker philosophy, pervades most of what DUX is about.

    Transformation designers tell us that in order to change constituent experiences, one has to first change the constituents themselves. Broadening DUX and its focus requires broadening its base of its participants, and vice versa. Here's my call for “Designing for Human Experience” in 2008. To preserve the delightful waterfowl homonym, use the acronym, DhUX. Or continue to call it DUX -- but for gosh sakes, at least make the "U" mean ... “hUman."

    Comments (4) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design

    “From Information Design to Designing for Experience”: Keynote at 3rd International Conference on Information Design (ICID), Curitiba, Brazil, October 8-10, 2007

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    I gave this presentation on October 8th by Skype, speaking before the 3rd International Conference on Information Design (ICID) that took place in Curitiba, Brazil, 8-10 October 2007. It sums up well my current thinking about information design, user experience design, designing for experience, and the composition of memorable experiences. My thanks to event organizers Carla Spinelli and Stephania Padovani, and technical helpers Tiago Maia, Re-nato Bertão, and Charles Costa. Your comments are welcome. © Robert Jacobson 2007

     Archives Img1 BOM DIA! It’s a pleasure to join you this afternoon, albeit by digital communications and not in person as I would have preferred. Thanks to organizers Carla Spinelli and Stephania Padovani, and media men Tiago, Renato, and Charles, for making this presentation possible. Our plan is to have me make a short presentation and then for us to interact via Skype. You may see me working at the keyboard occasionally, to keep the connection running smoothly. In the film, the Wizard of Oz, the Mighty Oz loudly tells Dorothy, with great blasts of fire, “Ignore the man behind the curtains!” That’s me.

    200711042321 This is an interesting study in information design. I’m speaking to you from the living room of my home in Tucson, Arizona, in the heart of the Sonora Desert. The video you are watching today was edited in the camera, harkening back to the early days of the 1970s-era, worldwide “Radical Software” movement, when activists around the world used portable video cameras to elicit honest communication in a formerly media-dominated information environment. Theirs was authentic video, without embellishment. So, 35 years later, here is my authentic video, no frills….

    200711042328 I was invited to speak to you as the editor of the anthology, Information Design, a collection of essays by world-class designers, published by the MIT Press in 1999. In the eight years since, there has been no satisfactory revisiting of the issues we raised in ID – especially the questions: what is information design and what will it become?

    Today, I’d like to talk to you about why and how I believe information design will evolve into a new practice, “designing for experience” or, as I prefer to call, it, “composing for experience.”

    200711042328-1 Experience is the proper center of the design universe. An environmental outlook comes next. Conventional design in many ways is pre-Copernican in this regard and new approaches to conventional design, like user experience design (about which I’ll speak later), only add more epicycles. I’m optimistic that information design will more quickly adopt the new paradigm.

    200711042329 In eight years, a lot has changed, not least the quantity and quality of the information environments in which we live and work. Today, technologies of communication and information are abundant, and networking computing is more pervasive than ever – many would say, invasive – changing how we live, work, play, educate, and communicate.

    Despite information designers’ high aspirations, the sheer volume of informational activity has nearly overwhelmed their ability to design for it.
    (Image: Artem)

    Our anthology anticipated this future. Our collective concern was not for better construction of representations and artifacts. Instead, unanimously, we called attention to the ever more complex information environments into which people, individually and collectively, are plunged almost at birth and through which they must navigate their entire lives. We agreed, on this if on nothing else, that information design, as it had been practiced for 25 years – rationalizing the presentation of information, usually in graphical form – must grow conceptually as well as technically, even epistemologically: information design must become experientially and environmentally wise.

    200711042332 Eight years later, the concept of information environments is no longer exotic. We are more cognizant of the systemic relationship between information and the environments – physical, social, and personal – in which information is produced, shared, and acted upon. There is a change in orientation among information designers from the particular to the global, even universal context. (Image: David Armano)

    In the name of informational environmental awareness and holism, all sorts of recipes are being promoted for messages that are more easily assimilated.

    200711042333 Apparent is the intrusion of the market: information is now more often than not treated as a commodity that must be designed for consumption. One narrow but broadly applied variant of information design, perhaps responsible for the majority of information designs these days – on the Web and incorporated in products and services – is called “user experience design” or more baldly, “customer experience design.” Say it loud and say it proud, its practitioners have one purpose: to get people to use things and to buy things.

    200711042335 Over the last decade, “interaction” has been added to the stew as a necessary element of instrumental design, a way to draw “users” into the purchasing process. Dan Saffer of Adaptive Path in san francisco has written a pretty good how-to book on Interaction Design and IDEO co-founder Bill Moggridge has published a mighty tome of interviews with “interaction designers.”

    200711042336 BJ Fogg, a professor of design at Stanford, whom I admire, has the gumption to call this branch of information design captology, the science of persuasive technology that captures and keeps an individual’s attention. (Image: Cache Creek Casino)

    But technology can’t do the job alone.

    200711042336-1 Vast armies of ethnographers, anthropologists who study culture, have been deployed to observe, describe, and annotate the lives of those whom their mainly business and occasional government clients wish to affect via “user experiences.” These costly cultural explorations are justified by the unique insights that ethnographers can supposedly provide to designers. (Image: Business Week)

    In these circumstances, however, for these insights to be acted upon, they have to relate to business, and so does the design that results from these insights. Ethnography and design thus form a neat little tautology that offers employment for ethnographers, validation for designers, and comfort to the business executives who pay for each.

    What’s remarkable is that the success rate of designed user experiences, even those informed by ethnography, is anecdotally reported to be a sparse five to ten percent. It might even be less. The vast majority of products and services designed according to the tenets of user experience, supported by ethnographic findings, do not achieve their goals.

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (7) + TrackBacks (2) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | The Practice of Experience Design

    October 2, 2007

    Innovation Nation 3: The Transformation Gap

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    hands.jpgAs regular readers will know, for the last two weeks, I've been interviewing technology policymakers, VCs, government investment agencies, incubators, and innovation/concept-design consultancies in Denmark and southern Sweden (Skåne) -- the new, high-tech “Øresund Region” -- to explore how ideas and concepts are born and how they then are converted into usable products and services.

    The two nations, and especially Denmark, have garnered a lot of kudos in the press for their innovation initiatives. They execute better than almost anywhere else on earth.

    But even in these societies where a large portion of GNP is strategically reinvested in innovation, product development, and new company formation, often no spark crosses over from innovation to product or service, as it does from God's hand to Adam's in Michaelangelo's fresco. A fatal gap remains that separates the innovation process from the development process. Innovations often fail to become IP because no investor who will fund the transformation of the idea into its usable embodiment. The result is that there is no demonstration of the innovation's worth and hence, no way to argue for investment in innovation services or activities.

    One solution is to extend the innovation consultants' responsibility to include guidance and assistance regarding how to valorize and promote the innovation to investors, and then helping to find investors -- but this solution costs time and money. Few innovation consultancies can afford the stretch. Most seem happy to diddle in the innovation zone anyway, leaving their clients to fend for themselves once the brain games are over, a self-defeating strategy that devalues the consultancies' own work. There aren't enough incubators to go around -- and these mostly enter the fray after a company has a product at least in prototype, too late for the moment of creation. Business angels aren't many nor are they able to make large investments. And local VCs, like VCs everywhere, have taken the uptown route, preferring to fund companies that have made it at least to mezzanine stage. In Denmark, the state-funded Vækstfonden attempts to fill in, but like the early-stage VC that it is, VF has limited resources and can only support a handful of innovators. The situation is more dire in Sweden, where angels are almost completely absent and VCs, including the state established (but self-financed) Industrifonden and its subsidiaries, must adhere to the bankers' rules that govern most VC activity.

    Within many companies and public agencies, similar processes play out that result in lack of internal funding for transforming innovations into IP.

    This flaw isn't unique to the Scandinavian economies, where at least it's recognized and solutions are being sought. It's evident on a larger scale, and is more damaging, in Silicon Valley, a place familiar to me. The proportion of unrealized opportunities in the Valley must be huge. Given the dynamism of invention in the Valley, funding announcements are relatively few and far between. A few VCs, like Charles River Ventures with its QuickStart program, have tried to help out, but they're a drop in the bucket. The only place this problem isn't pronounced, I suspect, is China, where investment capital is copious and investments are available for almost any buildable product/service idea (although the inventor may not hold on to his or her rights very long).

    I'll have more to say about this in a following entry. I'm still catching up and getting over jet lag. Thanks for your patience.

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

    September 22, 2007

    Our Innovation Nation exploration ends; my conclusions to follow, when I get home.

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    My partner Debra and I are nearly at the end of our Øresund Region adventure, meeting and speaking with friends and colleagues in Greater Copenhagen and Malmö, the capital of Skåne, the southernmost region in Sweden. We've had an active two weeks filled with learning and sharing of ideas with a full menu of good thinkers. Our experiences, professional and social, have been memorable.

    Tonight, to add to our collection of exquisite experiences, we're off to see the Royal Copenhagen Ballet, in Denmark, and meet personally with Kirsten Simone, one of the Ballet's outstanding prima ballerinas, whose 1964 appearance in Tucson sent little Debbie off on her own balletic adventures. Theirs will be an emotional reunion.

    On Sunday, having returned to Sweden across the beautiful Øresund Bridge, we'll further explore Malmö, Sweden, which everyone agrees is this region's most exciting, up and coming city in a region already known for its natural beauty. It's where we'd like to live and work, if we have the chance.

    On Monday, I'll have important “summation” sessions prior to departing for home (“home” this time meaning, not the beautiful, green Danish farmstead or the bustling maritime city that have been our home bases for most of this trip, but rather our sunny, cactus-studded Arizona desert homestead).

    We return home on Tuesday, after which I'll share my conclusions regarding the practice of innovation policy and consulting generally, and their specific expressions in Denmark and Sweden, which differ substantially.

    yq_StCRxVLLgtjPEmn4V.gifAlso when I return, in my thread of entries about the “design” of experience, I'll further expand on my notion of composing rather than designing experiences and the consequences that flow from it. Conversations during my trip to Scandinavia strengthened my feelings in this regard. Thanks especially to my hosts, Professor (and occasional DJ) Bo Reimer, and Professor Jonas Löwgren, of Malmö University's outstanding School of Culture, Art, and Communications, "K3" (specializing in interaction design and new media production and studies), and K3 Dean Ingrid Elam, who joined us. Jonas' confirming thoughts on the composition of experience have been especially useful.

    Now sets in the inevitable sorrow at the journey's conclusion. In a couple of days we must make the difficult but necessary cultural tradeoffs: herring on flatbread to beans and burritos, aquavit to tequila, and cool to warm. Ah, if one could but be in two places at once -- and not just quantumly, but forever!...

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | 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,; Øresund Bridge, Malmö)

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

    The best experiences aren't designed. They're composed.

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    The most evocative experiences -- those that have lasting power, that alter one's perspectives, apprehension, appreciation, and actions -- aren't designed. They're composed. The distinction isn't subtle. Compositions are easy to identify and remember: everyone can cite his or her favorite composed experiences. Designs, for the most part, aren't so easy to identify or remember. In many cases, they're not even designed to be memorable; they're designed to be imperceptible.

    My brilliant partner Debra Jane, a talented creator of great experiences -- in fashion, dance, art, and story-telling -- sent me down this thought-path when, one night, she announced, “You know, I'm not so smart...but I sure know how to concatenate!”

    “Compose” has many meanings, but the two to which I refer (from are:

    1. To make or form by combining things, parts, or elements.


    2. To create (a musical, literary, or choreographic work).

    Composition is an act of creative combination, working with elements in the environment. The assemblage that results may or may not find an audience or serve a purpose. The composer knows this going in: his or her motivation is simply to compose.

    “Design” also has many meanings, but central to its definition, in the sense that designers use it, are:

    1. To form or conceive in the mind; contrive; plan.


    2. To plan and fashion the form and structure of an object, work of art, decorative scheme, etc.

    Design begins with a purpose in mind. Commercial design has as its first purpose to serve a client. The designer must succeed in this purpose.

    Composition draws on inspiration from deep, often hidden emotional, spiritual, and psychological aquifers. Design occurs largely in the mind. The difference in results is profound, especially when it comes to creating experiences.

    The acts of composition and design thus start from different premises and have different intended outcomes. Good experiences may be what each act is intended to engender, but one act is artistry and the other, science and engineering. Increasingly, I'm led to believe that artistry is key to successful creation of the best experiences. The composer may fail, of course; only a relatively few composers achieve excellence; whereas, there are many good designers. But design thinking, although probably more reliable as a methodology, inherently limits the designer's artistry. It places strictures on design in order that a design should work; these strictures include basing designs on reasonably hard data and not deviating too far from audience preferences or too greatly challenging existing behaviors.

    Also, a design's consequences, for that design to be considered a success, must be measurable. Compositions, on the other hand, must merely be memorable.

    My colleague Barry Howard creates exhibitions and museums. He and I are part of a team preparing a plan for the US Pavilion at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo. Barry has a long and successful career in his line of work, beginning with the pioneering Coca-Cola Pavilion at the 1964 New York Worlds Fair. Barry is an artist. Each project begins with a storyline, a visionary narrative, which then is translated into its physical evocation. Barry is a composer of experiences.

    Barry related to me a relevant anecdote. Walt Disney had captured the American imagination on the silver screen when he decided to turn his studio's creations into a physical place, to be called “Disneyland.” There was no one with prior experience creating a theme park on the scale Disney envisioned, so he called upon his studio team -- writers, illustrators, animators, musicians, and so forth -- to come up with the plans for Disneyland. The result was a remarkable collection of experiences, magnificent and small, that remains an icon of creativity and spirit (some would say, chutzpah) to this day. No one on the team considered himself or herself a “designer.” Its members considered themselves artists, the original “Imagineers.” Over the years, the original Imagineers were replaced by individuals with backgrounds in business, technology and social sciences, and design. Imagineering became something of a science. As most of us who experienced the original Disneyland agree, the result has been less than sterling. The new parks created by these Imagineers, for all their splendor, efficiency, and effectiveness as revenue generators, didn't manifest the same excitement as the original Disneyland. The rides were stupendous but numbing and the overall experience of the new Disney theme parks was one of grandiosity, not edification. New management at Disney is now working hard to turn the parks around and restore the creative luster that the second-generation Imagineers' calipers and mechanics almost erased. Composers are back in charge.

    Another of my experience-creating heroes is the landscape architect and educator, Lawrence Halprin. At a landscape architecture conference I attended at the University of Washington, he issued a powerful edict: “Design not with forms, but with forces.” Halprin excels at apprehending deep meanings in the physical environment and then creating compositions -- literally scoring the subject environment and things in it -- to produce wonderful experiences. Anna Halprin, the renowned choreographer, inspired Lawrence's approach. He is a choreographer of environmental experiences. Halprin values design methodology as a means of realizing his visions -- but always, his visions are preeminent.

    It may be somewhat disturbing for you, as it is for me, to acknowledge that artistry, not science or engineering, is the sine qua non for creating the best experiences. (Architects who excel, for example, consider themselves artists of space.) Artistry, sadly, can't be learned. It's an inherent talent that can be improved upon, but not taught. Artists must mingle with designers for designs to be infused with compositional fire. Otherwise, design remains an interesting, challenging, but ultimately mundane process. The best experiences aren't designed. They're composed.

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | The Practice of Experience Design

    August 20, 2007

    Spirituality and Design, Part 2

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Next: Philosophical perspectives on experience.

    (Image: Sri Chinmoy Bio)

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

    May 28, 2007

    Read Archinect and add it to your RSS feeds

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    ArchinectI can't say enough good things about Archinect, the online magazine of architecture, landscape architecture, and design.

    Founded and published by Paul Petrunia (in L.A.) and edited by John Jourdan (in Chicago), Archinect has incredible breadth and offers wonderful analysis of all things in the built environment. The current issue features an article on Cooper-Hewitt's exhibition honoring designers who serve “the other 90%,” the world's poor; and dozens of Features describing current works in progress. There are book reviews, job listings, and the whole nine yards.

    I try to read Archinect religiously, but it's a push: each issue is so jam-packed with information. So don't wait on me to synthesize and report. Read it yourself!

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | 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 to 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'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

    April 17, 2007

    The emerging ubiquitous Internet challenges experience designers to literally “get real”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    (Sorry about my delay getting back to this blog. My various projects culminated at the same time. I've caught my breath and here goes my first new installment....)

    Art06 3 470X470About 10 days ago, in my last entry, I noted that current online “experience” is highly constrained to two senses, vision and hearing -- a timid palette with which to paint persuasive, memorable experiences. I argued that most people want to spend less time online, not more (regardless of their actual behavior) -- and that Flash animations, a favorite tool of web designers, is not favored by most visitors. (It takes substantial time to load and then uses huge chunks of active memory.) It wasn't a satisfying tete-a-tete for my readers: the article I criticized was simplistic, and so was my criticism. (Thanks to the commenters for their indignation. They got me to thinking.)

    In retrospect, I believe that while the Web is and will remain relatively static as a designed environment, the Internet will bloom in new and often surprisingly novel ways, in the real world beyond the computer. The ubiquitous Internet will drive all of the changes formerly forecast for ubiquitous computing, and more. Ubiquitous computing in a networked universe is a powerful idea whose time is nigh. (Click here for a video of Bruce Sterling's take on the possibilities, delivered as a keynote at the Ubicomp 2006 conference.)

    Xperex1An article in Internet Retailer, “Webby Stores” by Paul Demery, foretells a sea change in the Internet and computing that will require a much broader perspective and substantial retraining on the part of information architects, web designers, and online marketers, who practice the limited discipline of “user experience design.” But that's hardly its greatest significance. As the Internet is deployed off the computer, in the material world where we spend most of our time -- as it becomes ubiquitous -- our lives will be dramatically altered.

    This change, the Internet's integration in offline environments, has been happening for sometime, including such instances as:

    ...and so forth. (You might have a few bellwether favorites. Please share them with me in a comment or email.)

    In each of these applications, the Internet's content and interactivity take on new aspects, and project greater experiential power, because they are perceptually melded with environments less narrow and isolating than a personal computer. These applications don't require 100 percent of the participant's attention, as do most computer-presented web creations. Instead, they complement other things going on. Multimedia multitasking, when Internet content is included, is similarly involving.

    The “Webby Stores” article is indicative. It may have “Webby” in its title, but it's not about the Web: it's about the store environment and how this environment assimilates and wraps around the Internet. The two components do a synergistic dance that, it's claimed, produces strong customer loyalty and a propensity to buy things. The applications it describes -- Internet-enabled kiosks -- contextualize the Internet as part of a process in which human beings regularly engage, like buying products in a store. These simple kiosks may be trivial in their operations and purpose, but their implications for web design, interaction design, multi-platform marketing, and design for experience is profound.

    ...continue reading.

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

    January 17, 2007

    Quick, read this article before it's branded!

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Nyt Urban Advertising GraphicWhile I'm on a rant about marketers -- who are on the verge of replacing politicians as Least-Admired Persons -- permit me to direct you to Louise Story's emperor's-new-clothes article in the New York Times, “Anywhere the Eye Can See, It's Likely to See an Ad.”

    Story begins:

    Add this to the endangered list: blank spaces.

    Advertisers seem determined to fill every last one of them. Supermarket eggs have been stamped with the names of CBS television shows. Subway turnstiles bear messages from Geico auto insurance. Chinese food cartons promote Continental Airways. US Airways is selling ads on motion sickness bags. And the trays used in airport security lines have been hawking Rolodexes.

    Explains one marketing executive:

    “What all marketers are dealing with is an absolute sensory overload,” said Gretchen Hofmann, executive vice president of marketing and sales at Universal Orlando Resort. The landscape is “overly saturated” as companies press harder to make their products stand out, she said.

    Story observes:

    Outright advertising is just one contributing factor. The feeling of ubiquity may also be fueled by spam e-mail messages and the increasing use of name-brand items in TV shows and movies, a trend known as product placement. Plus, companies are finding new ways to offer free services to people who agree to view their ads, particularly on the Internet or on cellphones.

    More is on the horizon. Old-fashioned billboards are being converted to digital screens, which are considered the next big thing. They allow advertisers to change messages frequently from remote computers, timing their pitches to sales events or the hour of the day. People can expect to see more of them not only along highways, but also in stores, gyms, doctors’ offices and on the sides of buildings, marketing executives say.

    And that's just the beginning. Sprays and odors and even physical assaults on our sensoria are in store. How much can our psyches tolerate before we develop “allergies” to this stuff, serious mental asthma? Public space, the last commons, is in the process of being informationally trashed for private ends. It's taken for granted, even praised, so lost has our culture become.

    In Europe, there are laws against noise pollution. Why does it sound ridiculous to speak about outlawing marketing pollution? Are we all, as Don Henley sang, just prisoners here of our own device?

    Story's article will be archived next week, when it will become available only for a price, so grab your copy now. It's a classic. And a warning.

    (Photo; New York Times)

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

    December 8, 2006

    We need theories of experience design

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    In few other fields is so much reliance placed on first-hand, insider accounts as a source of knowledge, as in the various fields of experience design. The one exception, historically, has been the built environment, including architecture and landscape architecture. Otherwise, most of what we learn we learn from design practitioners, even if they have no personal agenda, is subject to their biases that inherently come with the job: idiosyncratic points of view, client pressures, career aspirations, ego, and so forth. We lack an objective perspective to measure the success of our work and commentaries to improve upon it. We need theories of experience design.

    64Worldsfair 12This realization came to me during an intense luncheon discussion with museum and exhibition designer Barry Howard, who practices in Marina del Rey, a suburb of Los Angeles. Barry is my ideal of an experience design. His self-effacing demeanor belies an incredible lifetime of accomplishment. Barry's career dates back to the highly regarded Coca-Cola Pavilion at the 1964 Worlds Fair (where Pepsi-Cola competed with “it's a small world,” now immortalized as a Disneyland attraction). Since then he's created attractions with a cumulative value of over $500 million. Barry is notably rare among experience designers in that he applies a reflective perspective to his work. (He calls it “academic,” although his training was as a fine artist.) I'll be doing a future interview with Barry, in which I'll get deeper into his experiences and insights. But one of lunchtime topics was worth separate mention: the lack of formal criticism in our field.

    I was sharing with Barry my plans for a forthcoming book on experience design. In it, I'll be highlighting best practices drawn from case studies in a variety of experience-design disciplines. My goal is to extract certain overarching principles and methodologies that can be synthesized as theories of experience design. Theories are important: they're tested short-cuts to knowledge that can be shared widely within the experience design community, including with new designers just setting out. If you think about it, it's pretty difficult to state a theory of experience design. Theories are rare in every design discipline, but in those where theories exist -- like the theory of taxonomical structure in information design or wayfinding theory in environmental design -- they're reliable guides to practice. Experience design is still considered mainly an art, because (in my opinion) of a radical disconnect between those who study experience (cognitive scientists, environmental psychologists, etc.) and the designers who create experiences. Sometimes I think that designers' ignorance of the pertinent science is almost willful, because science imposes constraints that require more than shoot-from-the-hip creativity to succeed. On the other hand, it may just be that designers are practicing remarkable heuristic feats, doing the science in their heads. (All of this goes for the ancillary professions marshalled to support designers, too, like ethnographers and market researchers.)

    In any case, Barry made the astute observation that if I lined up these case studies side by side and compared them, what would be most interesting would be, not what was common practice, but what wasn't common practice -- that is, the designs that didn't get done because Designer A didn't consider, or perhaps even know about, the experiences of Designers B or C; and vice versa. Everyone is so heads down pondering solutions and cranking out work -- strictly within disciplinary silos -- that whatever synthesis might take place or transcendent solutions found, doesn't take place or aren't found. Experience designers need a broader, interdisciplinary knowledge, but they haven't time or resources to gain it. This isn't news: I wrote about it in an unpublished article for the AIGA Advance for Design magazine, in 1999, when the now-defunct Advance was striving to become an experience design community. The article wasn't published because, I think, it was critical -- and because I really had no answers for providing that broader point of view, at the time. Now I think I do. Our field needs outside observers, formally trained critics who can remark on what we do without the burden of being a practitioner per se.

    I know, it sound pointy-headed to advocate formal criticism. Mark Hurst, in an email exchange, argued that first-person accounts by “do-ers” are inevitably more informative than critiques by non-practitioners. To a certain extent, he's right: if you want to practice as an experience designer, you need to learn how to hold your pencil from someone who knows. But if you want to practice highly effectively, you need to see things kaleidoscopically, including from the perspective of individual “experiencers” and society collectively. Formal critics provide this context for films, TV shows, product reviews, Web experiences, theater, architecture, advertising, musical performances and recordings, and innumerable other outcomes of cognate activities; and they're better for it. Why not experience design?

    Barry said that his exhibition designs are his art. Never do we want to give up the power of personal expression. But if we can alloy it with a deeper understanding of what experiences are and how they are invoked, how much smarter experience design will be. It's still not a popular cause. No one's getting hired by experience design firms to criticize their work. But one day, they will be. And that's when experience design will fully come into its own.

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    December 5, 2006

    Information Design redux

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    The importance of information design (ID) as a discipline with much to loan other design disciplines -- especially those that deal with human-human and human-system communication -- was brought home to me by two events.

    The first event is happening as I write: a passionate, even fierce conversation taking place online among the practitioners of information architecture (IA), a subset of ID that deals almost exclusively with Web design. (You can read a summary of the argument with numerous comments and links to other blogs on the IA website, Bokardo, “Thoughts on the Impending Death of Information Architecture.”) The IA practitioners tend to agree that the contours of that discipline, all wrapped up with computer interaction, are becoming confining, though they are at odds how to liberate themselves from these strictures: Change the name of the practice? Change the practice? Or give it up entirely for other pursuits?

    For a decade, IA eclipsed ID, Web design being a lot more glamorous (and for a time, more lucrative) than designing mundane artifacts like signage or brochures (the ID legacy). Now ID is looking quite attractive as an overarching discipline absolutely relevant to IAs -- and other designers -- pushing the envelope of their professions.

    SbdiThe second event was receiving an unexpected but welcome invitation from Carla Spinella, an editor of InfoDesign, the journal of the Brazilian Society of Information Design (SBDI) to attend and keynote the Third Information Design International Conference 2007 taking place next year in Curitiba, in the south of Brazil, October 11-13. I presume the invitation honors the contributors to a book I edited, Information Design (MIT Press 2000), who together described the applications of information design principles to fields as varied as exhibition design, the design of learning methodologies, architectural wayfinding, interaction design, book design, media design, and about a dozen others. Information Design sold out and went to a second printing on the basis of audience expectations as much as what it delivered. The Brazilian conference's broad themes -- education, science and technology, cultural effects, etc. -- demonstrate the pervasive influence of ID everywhere in the world.

    Two other conferences with long-established traditions complete next year's official ID trilogy. (There are many smaller events, of course. See the excellent
    InfoDesign website and news digest for a calendar.):

    Logo1-V3The Information Design Conference 2007 hosted by the Information Design Association in the UK takes place March 29-30, 2007, in Greenwich, London. “Our overall aim this year,” reports the IDA, the first national information design professional organization, “is to construct an eclectic event, particularly strong on interdisciplinary learning and practice. The purpose, as ever, is to share ideas about how to make information easier to understand, in such diverse fields as..

    • Government and administration
    • Healthcare and health promotion
    • Technical instruction and user guides
    • Reference and learning materials
    • Transport information and wayfinding/showing
    • Forms and transaction interfaces
    • Financial and billing information
    • Web and interface design

    Iiid LogoThe IIID Vision Plus 12 Symposium, taking place in Schwarzenberg, Austria, July 5-7, 2007, ”Information Design -- Achieving Measurable Results.“ It's hosted by the International Institute for Information Design. The theme for Vision Plus 12 is ”measurement“: how can we measure and quantify the impact and results of informational communication? This has become a hot topic both in business and academia, a daunting challenge. Vision Plus 12 will explore this controversial question from all sides:

    • How and to what extent can we measure the success of a given work?
    • How do we quantify the role and impact of intangibles like design?
    • What techniques and technologies can be used to get measurable results?
    • How are information designers building the necessary metrics into their projects?

    The IIID, headquartered in Vienna, is a nonprofit organization partnered with several national ID organizations (in the US, the AIGA). It's also the the driving force behind initiatives to establish an Information Design University under the auspices of UNESCO (similar to the Experience Design Institute championed on this blog). The IIID ID Summer Academy, in the Cape Verde Islands, in August 2007, has as its purposes ” defining the requirements of branding, communication, and related vocational education, enhancing sustainable tourism at the Cape Verde Islands.“

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | Theories of Experience

    December 3, 2006

    CHI 2007 Workshop on User Centered Design and International Development

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Chi2007 Logo

    Via the Experience Design newsgroup, I received the following invitation to the forthcoming Workshop on User Centered Design and International Development, scheduled to take place during CHI 2007 (the annual conference of the ACM special interest group on Computer-Human Interaction). Educated in part as a regional development planner, I found it interesting that interaction researchers and designers feel a need to become involved in international development, a field more commonly occupied by regional planners and economists, politicians, and an infinite number of think-tanks. I asked Susan Dray of Dray & Associates, one of the Workshop organizers who posted the announcement about this. She replied,

    We used the term “user centered design” (rather than human centered design, also used in the field) because it is the most common moniker for the computer-human interactions (CHI) audience (and we first had to get the workshop accepted to the conference before inviting others to come.) That said, we think it’s the user-centered/human-centered process that is most critical – not only the interfaces, which are more the norm in the CHI community as the object of interest. Some people and projects do better at this than others in all spheres, from building technology to planning water projects in a village. Interestingly, the original title was “Participatory Design and International Developmen” – but in the CHI community, PD has a specific political meaning (developed by the workplace democracy folks in Scandinavia), so we decided to use the term UCD instead to avoid confusion.

    Sounds good to me: I'm a fan of interdisciplinary design whenever it occurs, for any purpose -- especially one with a concrete, global benefit: equitable development.


    User Centered Design and International Development

    A workshop at CHI 2007
    Saturday, April 28, 2007
    San Jose, California USA


    Much work in international economic and community development emphasizes empowering host communities in designing and controlling development projects. Many development projects make use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as part of their plan. However, there have been few explicit efforts to bring together the international economic and community development, user centered design (UCD) and interaction design communities to find ways of designing more appropriate and effective solutions that truly meet local needs. The aim of this workshop is to initiate such a dialogue.

    Specifically, we hope to extend the boundaries of the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) by spurring a discussion on how existing UCD practices can be adapted and modified, and how new practices be developed, to deal with the unique challenges posed by the context of international community and economic development. We call this User Centered Design for Development or UCD4D.

    This workshop will provide a space to exchange experiences, explore differences between developed and developing world contexts, to develop new partnerships, and to learn from each other about problems we have encountered, the solutions that we have proposed and ways of working that we have discovered.

    Topics that we hope to cover in the workshop include:

    • Experiences of interaction design in developing countries or with traditionally underserved populations in developed countries
    • Uses and adaptations of participatory methods in economic and community development projects
    • Cultural factors in designing for economic and community development
    • Innovative techniques for engaging users in developing world contexts
    • Examples of solutions that are sustainable in context

    We also hope to use this workshop to begin to build an international community of engaged scholars and thoughtful practitioners who understand each other and who can bridge between disciplines and boundaries to create appropriate, effective and sustainable community development solutions.

    Expected Outcome of the Workshop

    Outcomes from the workshop will be reported in the MIT Press journal, Information Technology and International Development. In addition, based upon submissions and the review process we expect to publish a special issue of the journal on the workshop themes.


    We anticipate obtaining limited funding to allow participation from those in soft-currency economies. If you need financial assistance to attend, please let us know.

    More information

    Click here for more information on the workshop. Or contact the organizers directly.


    This workshop will be open to anyone with relevant experience or interest in UCD4D and/or ICTs in international economic and community development. To participate, please submit a 2 page position paper describing your experience, findings or interests relevant to the themes of the workshop. Participants will be chosen to represent a good cross section of communities and key themes. Papers should be submitted by email to Andy Dearden. Accepted papers will be posted on the workshop website.

    Important dates

    January 12th 2007: Submission deadline
    February 1st 2007: Notification of acceptance
    April 28th 2007: Workshop

    Please note: As with all CHI workshops, at least one author of accepted papers needs to register for the Workshop and for one day of the conference itself.


    Andy Dearden - Sheffield Hallam University, UK
    Michael Best - Georgia Tech, USA
    Susan Dray - Dray & Associates, Inc., USA
    Ann Light - Queen Mary University, UK.
    John Thomas - IBM, USA
    Celeste Buckhalter - Georgia Tech, USA
    Daniel Greenblatt - Georgia Tech, USA
    Shanks Krishnan - Georgia Tech, USA
    Nithya Sambasivan - Georgia Tech, USA


    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design

    November 5, 2006

    What's an "experience designer"? BRC Imagination Arts offers a definition

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    BrcWhat's an “experience designer”? This current job posting on Archinect by BRC Imagination Arts, in Burbank, CA, a paragon among experience-design firms, offers a multifaceted description of one type of experience designer. Experience designers come in all disciplines and domains -- conceptual, process, environmental, and many who go by other names. The clarity of BRC's description, however, is exceptional:

    Experience Design Lead

    BRC Imagination Arts
    Burbank, CA

    Posted on: Nov 02, '06

    We’re looking to meet bright, talented and enthusiastic Experience Design Leads to join our idea circle and eclectic ranks. If you have an amazing portfolio, a passion for design, and a “do whatever it takes” attitude, we want to see what you’ve got.

    The Experience Design Lead is responsible for the creation of ideas and visual aspects of experiential and exhibit design for the concept and master planning of museums, visitor attractions and cultural heritage centers.


    • Conduct design research to inform and support conceptual ideas
    • Work closely with designers and writers to find the most effective, killer way to communicate an idea.
    • Develop and present ideas in illustrative sketches, plans, media, polished presentations and/or 3D models that effectively communicate the concept vision both internally and to clients.
    • Manage project budgets and work with the Design Studio Manager to keep staff and resources in balance.
    • Enjoy travel? There’s a fair amount of it in this job.

    Work experience requirements:

    • Solid experience in museum exhibition and story-driven design, with a background in spatial and interpretive experience design. Knowledge of theater design is a plus.
    • Familiarity with a variety of the field’s concepts, practices and procedures.
    • An understanding of sustainable design and cultural sensitivity is a big plus. We care about the world and the future we all share.
    • Extremely organized and ability to problem-solve.


    • Must have strong design and business skills and have the ability to lead from the front. Powerhouse at generating ideas and design solutions. Ability to generate ideas, projects and edits quickly and effectively.
    • Must be able to think through the end of your pen or mouse. Ideation skills are critical to our design process. You’ll be responsible for generating quick sketches in meetings that awe the client and clearly communicate the concepts being generated by all participants.
    • Strong communication and supervisory skills.
    • Ability to work on multiple projects and meet sometimes crazy deadlines; strong time management skills.
    • We work at a very high rate of speed. You must be able generate ideas, projects and edits quickly and effectively.
    • Ability to work well with other designers, non-designers and management and be comfortable presenting and meeting with clients.
    • Extremely organized with attention to detail.
    • Flexibility

    Software Requirements

    • Must know Illustrator and Photoshop.
    • SketchUp, CAD or other media programs a plus.
    • Basic knowledge of Microsoft Office applications.

    Education Requirements

    • Multiple degrees, interests, passions and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and experiencing life is a big plus.

    How to Apply

    Email a cover letter and resume along with a link to your online portfolio to Matthew Solari, Design Studio Manager. If you don’t have an online portfolio, you may send 3 PDF samples of your work.

    (Hey, if the shoe fits...wear it!)

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | The Practice of Experience Design

    October 30, 2006

    Digital Hollywood LA Report (complete)

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    290X50La06Fall-1If it's one thing they should tell you when you assume the mantle of a not-for-profit blogger is not to promise anything with a deadline attached. Lots can happen (and did this week) to retard this blog-in-progress.

    But my delay in publishing this entry is a direct result of my lingering inability to get my head around Digital Hollywood LA, until now. conference is one of the best of its type. Few publicly-accessible conferences in any domain or at any cost (let alone DH-LA with its modest registration fee) bring together so many high-level executives, technologists, academics -- all do-ers -- and the press to talk about their subject. Even fewer conferences examine as topical and shifting a target as the morphing media in their multiple roles of information channels, places to sell things, political soapboxes, an infinity of forms of entertainment, and cultural events; and for most of the people at Digital Hollywood, also their livelihoods. The Loew's Hote provided an intimate, personal setting. Everyone was approachable. DH-LA was a kaleidoscope of ripe meanings just waiting to be plucked. Congratulations to Victor Harwood, Digital Hollywood's founder, who persevered in his vision of a conference populated equally by people in media, entertainment, and technology, before convergence was cool.

    DH-LA was so rich in meanings, however -- overt and subtextual -- it could also be confusing. Several smart people told me they were bewildered by DH-LA and “what it all means.” For many participants, the conference is a stage on which to play out the part of New Hollywood types, characters you'd cast in a 2006 remake of The Day of the Locusts or Sunset Boulevard. For others, high level executives who didn't “get it” before, it's a chance to hop on the digital-media bandwagon before it leaves town. Technologists are there to pitch their latest “enabling” products while the producers, big and tiny, use lots of video to hawk their products for mobile, locational, in-the-workplace, at-home, while-you're-out-having-a-good-time, and morning-after-edification purposes. A few press types like me, fairly low-key at this conference (perhaps because so many attendees are bloggers themselves and can publish a thing or two about too-intrusive inquisitors), are checking it all out, trying to capture the infinity of announcements -- some made off-hand during panels -- and spotlight what they consider the most salient points about this gathering.

    As you readers will know, I covered the Preview Day in an earlier posting and the rift it revealed between those who see the Internet as a service to the Broadband Nation and those who see it as something to be sold. I missed Day 1 due to my own affairs. Day 3 was pretty much a repetition of Day 2 and I used it to cruise the exhibition hall. (So I didn't attend the panel on adult entertainment, “The $10B Opportunity”? I didn't think the thesis, that adult fare drives technological innovation, needed further defending.)

    I'm going to concentrate on Day 2, because the three panels I attended together tell the story most of interest to experience designers: the errant, often-unclosed loop joining technologists, media monetrizers, and the people whose sensoria and pockets they're trying to reach -- known respectively as the “users,” “consumers,” and “us.” Media's ability to shape our society and cultural values is immense. Yet, it turns out, there's no Invisible Hand working to ensure that anything turns out right. The disconnects among the actors who are deciding the future form of our media environment, and between them and the rest of us, whose quality of life will be enhanced or diminished, are dramatic -- which all readily admit. For all the learned dissertations churned out by media scholars and visionary forecasts dispensed as corporate white papers on glossy stock (or now as podcasts), theirs is not The Media Future that actually will be. Personal agendas may be partly at fault, but there's more than a little Heisenberg Principle at work here, too. Speak the Next Big Thing and suddenly it's not, it's Something Else. No wonder they pay people so much to worry about what comes next, and how to plan for it. It never stops.

    The first panel I attended on Day 2 was “The Networked Entertainment Home -- the PVR/DVR -- the Set-Top & PC Entertainment Server,” to see what the technologists had to say, the people building the pipes and devices. It turned out that the panel, smartly chaired by Strategic's Gary Price, was about a lot more than just media centers. I took copious notes, but the bottomline was that the scientists and engineers who are responsible for developing the technological infrastructure that make possible today's and tomorrow's media wonders don't get much guidance from the media people who guide their work -- and when they do, it's often contradictory within and among the industry sectors and the companies and agencies they comprise. The complexity of working on a global basis, Motorola's Nick Chakalos reported, makes vendors slow to roll out services because of all the different markets, strategies, and channels that now must be served. This affects technologists' planning and development activities, emphasized Nvidia's Scout Vouri, right down to the level of the microprocessor: the “chip.” There was a vigorous debate about how to deal with security in the Net. Many panelists and attendees side with individual user, whose identity must be kept secure, thus requiring all sorts of interoperability bridges (and opportunities for them to fail) between standards-setting and solutions. Others, like Sun's Bill Sheppard, believe that identifiable personal devices are our best bet to create the “Open Media Commons” (an open DRM -- digital rights management -- regime) that provides equal open access to services.

    During the Q&A, I questioned whether the industry, while the FCC dithers about decency, is taking its own steps to learn what it is that users want, need, and will use. It turns out, it is, but in a somewhat indirect manner, through its own technology councils and standards groups. These IBM's Stephen Mannel advocated as worthy of greater industry participation. CableLabs' Frank Sandoval noted that TV (particularly as cable) is now the entry point for most new media -- largely, TV shows and movies, and gradually, interactive experiences -- suggesting that their success on cable, because of its large audience, is a reliable de facto metric for their success. (Now and in the future?) He also made the trenchant observation, seconded by the other panelists, that “the distinction between devices, service vendors, even content providers, will disappear.” Disney's Phil Lelyveld, in the audience, had several important things to say; two stayed with me as relevant to media designers. First, interoperability, as much as it may be the technologists' Holy Grail, is a danger to artists' rights in a environment that's universal, where content can flow without regard to the artists' wishes. If one repository is cracked, they all can be. Second, Phil lamented that none of this is very sexy and thus it's not large in the public's consciousness.

    But all of this reconnoitering among the technologists left my question still unanswered: why is the infrastructure segment of the media industry still disconnected from its end users? Perhaps because the middle-men and -women, the media vendors, are as benighted as anyone else.

    This was the impression I got from the second panel I attended, “TV & Interactivity: Evolving Content & Business Models: Content, Commerce, and Branded Entertainment.” It's not that the self-moderated panel (four interactive TV executives and one advertising researcher) didn't appreciate the environmental changes taking place. They do. But most of their employers don't.

    The four interactivists -- FOX Reality's Ed Skolarus, A&E's Jim Turner, Showtime's Chris Lucas, and NBCi's Jon Dakss -- were strong, proponents for the case that the established broadcast and cable media should embrace interactivity as a way of more closely aligning with their audiences. The examples they gave were really stunning, particularly NBCi's exciting interactive promotions that spice up some very uninteresting shows; Showtimes' portal art forms, employed most recently exemplified by the Dexter and Weeds websites; and Turner's videogames, prepared in collaboration with Kuma Reality Games, that will allow viewers to simulate historic battles depicted on The History Channel's “Shootout!”, debuting November 3. (I intend to download my share). The problem is that, for all their successes, these imaginative folks' work is hamstrung by enormous inter- and intra-organizational bureaucracies -- once again centering on who owns properties and who earns from their reuse -- and budgets that, in my opinion, limit their scope. Sure, as with any Internet offering, it's possible to measure various aspects of an interactive audience and its opinions. But the interactive audiences, though growing, remain barely representative of the larger TV-viewing population. Through lack of vigor in funding and promoting the interactive services, it remains distressingly disinterested in them.

    More broadband access is one solution that doesn't require voluntary media transformation; in fact, it's driving transformation, involuntarily. (FOX's Ed Skolarus predicted the emergence of virtual channels online in the next year.) Still, what's it all about? Lydia Loizides, VP for Consumer Experience in Interpublic Futures Marketing Group, disconcerted everyone with her unit's survey research that found that for all the hoorah, most people still haven't warmed to mobile media forms, let alone more sophisticated inter-media packages. As a result, a good deal of her time is spent brokering relationships among advertisers, media, and technology vendors in order to create a more hospitable business environment. Her goal is to realize potential alternative media synergies -- which she characterized as “permission-forming,” gaining viewers' acceptance -- especially in underexploited markets.

    Following on her comment, I speculated during Q&A that if the panel had been titled “Interactivity & TV,” rather than the other way around, it might have revealed a very different point of view. Interactivity would properly be seen as the potential growth market, rather than stagnating TV for which the demographics are declining. Obviously, that's why the TV moguls have brought all of these very bright people onboard (most of whom, BTW, were experienced, of middle-age, and not post-teenyboppers) -- to stem the bleeding. Yet few TV executives are making the necessary investments to find out how to grow this market and then support it. They hardly know their audience. No wonder the technologists are baffled.

    The third and last panel I attended on Day Two, “Venture Funding and Leadership in the Entertainment and Technology Space: Games, Wireless & Broadband, decisively tipped me toward my conclusion that the technology-media-entertainment circle is broken. The panel, moderated by spunky business consultant Joey Tamer, consisted of three well-known VCs, two investment bankers, and a corporate VC, all with strong histories of media investing -- Charles River Partners' George Zachary, ComVentures' Roland Van der Meer, Spark Capital's Todd Dagres, UBS' David Higley, Oppenheimer's Sun Jen Yung, and Intel's Mike Buckley. Although all trek to “Hollywood” occasionally, only Higley, so far as I know, lives and works in Southern California. In fact, This weak link in relations between those who fund the development of new media and those who will deploy it is only one of the impediments that afflicts the cutting-edge of media innovation. Another is the unspoken tension between the traditional investment community and the media industry -- the production houses and producers, not the product technologists trying to sell into the industry. Venture investing is big on risk reduction and high on reliable growth and earnings, two factors that make non-entertainment investors skeptical of working with the industry, where risk is abundant and growth/earnings are a binary deal: they briefly skyrocket before descending or, more often the case, vacillate and then plummet.

    As for coordination between the media industry and the investors whose money defines the media environment five or ten years out, it's a little thin. Roland Van der Meer cuttingly commented, “When it's hot, it's already not.” He meant that whatever is currently in the public's eye, or the eye of media executives, is already passe from an investment standpoint. MySpace, GooTube, and their ilk regardless of their merits, held little interest for investors for most of this year and generate less now. George Zachary told us: like the others, he's investing in “do-able, innovative Web services that haven't been done yet.” Taking George at his word (and knowing him well, I do), the results of most early-stage technology investments will manifest over the horizon, well beyond the state-of-the-art technology and services currently deployed or about to be. A cognitive gap separates them. It's not actually a disconnect. The VCs are pathfinding; but the medial industry will be able to follow only a few of the paths that the investors are breaking, and then only slowly. Which ones will they tread? Why, of course, the one's the users -- us -- want them to. And there's the rub. No one knows which they are.

    I respect investors. VCs, made had my last company, also visionary, possible. Investors, like designers, rapidly suck up and process information, maintaining real-time situation awareness about the sectors they care about. Their limited partners, large pension firms and the like are often less intuitive and sometimes exert pressures that result in unwise investments. Investment bankers and corporate VCs tend to be more conservative, but those in the media/entertainment domain are likewise more intuitive than their mundane counterparts. All successful investors -- those who survive -- develop a sixth sense about what will work and what won't based on many factors. They may write and speak prolifically about the orderly manner in which they do this, but the sagest among them will admit that experience, heuristics, and a hyper-sensitive business radar, plus a wise personal network, have more to do with their success than lessons learned in management school. In the same way that designers often turn up good designs without knowing why, smart VCs and other investors make guesses about the future that are right more often than wrong. Most of their portfolio companies fail, but usually from poor management, not misdirection. Trusting to investors, however, we're consigning our media future to a tiny handful of men and women whose personal judgments, no matter how informed, are a weak substitute for “what the people want, need, and will use.”

    One of the reasons for ferment on the leading edge of media invention is the fact that “too much capital is flooding the domestic market,” several of the panelists agreed, motivating investors to take chances that share characteristics with investments made during the Dot-Com Bubble. “Too many successful companies today are blood-soaked ticks that arbitrage services carried on others' infrastructure,” Todd Dagre sneered. “And I support them. That's capitalism. But it doesn't build a future.” Eventually the free-flowing capital will dry up and investors will retreat. The legacy they leave behind will be the companies that are tomorrow's new media. For now, there's a glut.

    Nevertheless, as David Higley pointed out, “Two years ago there were all these tech types at Digital Hollywood, and the media guys just watched from their offices down the street and smirked. Now it's changing. Suddenly it's all media types, and the tech guys are in the minority.” Is that good? Is that bad? Does it mean more on-target media in the future, or more of the same? Digital Hollywood brought the players together, once in a very long time. Whether it achieves the melding of visions and interests that remains Victor Harwood's goal remains to be seen. I know, as an experience designer, that I'd be a lot happier if there was a discernible common strategy among those creating our new, digital media environment. There's nothing like a road map to know where you're going. But there isn't one. For the foreseeable future, we're driving -- or being driven -- by the seat of our pants. Hand over your A Ticket and buckle up: we're on a Mr. Toad's Ride into the future!

    * * *
    I was proud to see at Digital Hollywood so many members of METal, the Media-Entertainment-Technology Alliance, actively participating on DH-LA's panels and in the audience. METal, a collegial, professional men's group based on LA's Westside, is an organization with possibly the greatest concentration of new-media experts anywhere. Its founder, Ken Rutkoskwi of leads one of the industry's greatest resources. Thank you, METal Men, it's an honor to be among you.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings | Experience Design & Technology | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design

    October 16, 2006

    Studio 360: “Scratch and Sniff,” The Mystery of Smell

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    The first 40 minutes of this week's Studio 360, New York Public Radio's always fascinating show about design and experience, is entitled “Scratch and Sniff,”and features four short audio programs (in Real format) about the wonders of smell.

    Small Portrait“Scratch and Sniff” begins with a conversation between Studio 360 host Kurt Anderson and author Chandler Burr, the New York Times' first perfume critic (“Scent Strip”) and author of the bestselling The Emperor of Smell: A True Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses. In Emperor, Burr profiles the biochemist Luca Turin, a compelling force -- and highly controversial -- in the $20-billion-a-year perfume business. Turin believes that smell is actually a result of molecular vibrations, not chemical reactions, and can be tuned like music. (An archive of Turin's now-closed blog, Perfume Notes, can be downloaded here in PDF format. Turin's monthly “Duftnote” is now published in English in NZZ Folio.) Burr advocates founding a “museum of smell” to celebrate smell as an evolutionary triumph and driver of creativity and commerce.

    The show's other smell-related audio articles include “Snow in a Bottle,” describing the work of Christopher Brosius, “a perfumer with a different approach: he bottles the smell of celery, a gin and tonic, thunderstorms, even snow”; “Scent of a Painting,” which looks at the love of painters for the smell of paint and canvas; and “Death in Venice,” in which writer Adam Haslett, author of the short story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here. admires Thomas Mann's Death in Venice for its stench. “Everything in the story, he says, is 'overripe.'”

    Profile Nose Smell, as poet and naturalist Diane Ackerman reminds us in her lyrical A Natural History of the Senses, is the most emotive of the senses, able to evoke memories of places, people, and events long after their sights and sounds have been forgotten. When two people experience a smell together, it can be the basis of a lifelong bond. Yet smell is the sense we have the most difficulty talking about. Because smell and taste are so intimately fused in the human sensorium, we commonly use taste words to talk about smells (“sweet,” “sour,” “like roses,” etc.). Ackerman also introduces us to the mysterious folks within International Flavors & Fragrances, IFF, a multibillion-dollar laboratory that invents smelly and tasty chemicals for inclusion in our foods, cosmetics, new cars, and virtually every perfume not made with 100% natural products. IFF's new Visionaire 47 TASTE is “a limited edition arts publication that pairs paintings, photographs, and conceptual images with specially-created flavors.” A best-smeller, for sure.

    Digital media do a poor job of capturing and representing smells. Smell-O-Rama, a recent technology for “attaching” scents to email, and other such strange inventions for conveying the experience of smell are notable more for thier oddity than for their effectiveness, although the search continues. One non-digital format that works is “scratch-and-sniff” paper, the once ubiquitous stinker-upper of fashion magazines, now largely banned because it stirred allergic reactions in too many readers.

    mid_logo.gif Black-DeathHow can we design compelling experiences to exploit people's sense of smell? Displays of perfumery and taste enhancers are common. A more expansive example is London's Museum in Docklands (sister museum to the popular Museum of London). As part of a historical walkthrough, reports Museum spokesperson John Joyce, modern chemical science has recreated the smells of tides, ships, warehouses, inns, trade goods (like spices, tobacco, and tea), even sailors and sewers, that characterized the Dockland's streets and quays during successive historic periods. Most challenging of all, according to a radio reviewer? Creating the odor of disease and death during the 17th-Century calamity, The Great Plague of London (recalling Monty Python's classic line, “Bring out your dead! Bring out yer dead!”). A laboratory commissioned to develop these aromas reportedly was all too successful: the display is a repellent success.

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

    September 25, 2006

    Down Under, Anecdote brings storytelling to the business world

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Around the world, Down Under, a daring but charming young company, Anecdote is touting that most ancient of experience-design crafts: storytelling -- relabeled by Anecdote, “business narrative.” Led by experienced electics Andrew Rixon, Mark Schenk, and Shawn Callihan, the Australia-based company is pioneering the use of business narrative in Australia, Southeast Asia, and other (for North Americans) exotic realms. It's also reaching out to other Asian, European, and Western Hemisphere markets.

    Anecdote is offering several opportunities to delve into the business narrative experience:

    Toppic11. If you're in Australia in November, you can attend one of several storytelling and improv workshops led by the Anecdote team and American Izzy Gesell CSP, one of the first people to bring improvisational theater concepts to organizational life. The workshops are entitled -- take a deep breath -- “Change your Story, Change your World: How storytelling and improv theatre skills can help you honour your past, understand your present, and shape your future.” Izzy will be touring the Australian Eastern Seaboard with Anecdote, delivering this workshop in several commercial centers.

    Evolve2. You can get a taste of this workshop by participating with Anecdote (it's free!) in an EVOLVE ‘Leading Light’ webinar that Anecdote will conduct on Tuesday, October 10, at 10 AM Sydney Time. (For North Americans, the webinar takes place the preceding day, Monday, October 9, at 8 PM EST.) All you need to participate is a telephone. Having Web access will enhance the experience.

    Zahmoo3. Later this year, Anecdote is launching a new online service based on storytelling, Zahmoo. It's designed to help organisations big or small, public or private, government or non-government, to address the challenge of evaluating intangible, hard to measure projects. Rixon writes, “Some call it a story approach to organisational learning. Others know of it as Most Significant Change. We call it Zahmoo and we'll be releasing it live into the world later this year.” You can visit the Zahmoo website to register and be notified when the service launches. In the meantime, you can read more about it on Anecdote's Zahmoo blog.

    I visit the Anecdote website frequently. It's full of good ideas, case studies, white papers, and the proprietors' own insights -- all told in a charming, easy to assimilate manner, as you might expect of professional storytellers. (Something to think about for our too often buzzword-confounded design profession.)

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

    September 9, 2006

    A New Meme: The Experience Design Institute

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Yesterday, I sent the following email note to 20 of the world's leading experience designers:

    Dear Lifetime of Design Friends,

    I'm writing to instill a meme. Yes, I know, it's the end of the week, almost the end of summer. Perhaps the last thing you want to do is think big thoughts. But this is a good an opportunity to share with you my idea and let it percolate. Then it's back to blogging!

    You're on my list of recipients because you are among the most distinguished and capable practitioners of Experience Design, whether you call it that or not. You do it, you write about it, or you teach it. Whatever it is you do in experience design, you contribute to our emerging field's evolution and development. You're ripe for my meme.

    So, here is the meme: there needs to be an Experience Design Institute. There needs to be a real place hosting real events, exhibitions, research, and studies, like Pasadena's Art Center where traditional design is studied; Ivrea, where interaction as a science was studied; and the Design Council and its RED, where transformational design is practiced. The Experience Design Institute will bring together practitioners from various disciplines who share a deep and abiding desire

    • What constitutes experience and good experiences (as defined by...?)

    • How environment, technology, knowledge, and perception interact to produce human experiences

    • How (with greater knowledge) we can systematically design experiences that are edifying, educational, and frequently entertaining for the “experiencers” -- and that produce the result, in terms of awareness and action, that the designer intended

    • How different design disciplines and modalities can combine to create richer and better experiences

    • What experience design portends for other design practices, business, and culture generally

    • Where this is all leading for future experience designers

    The purpose of the Institute would be to give us a place to really get into these issues, other than the workplace, where real sharing across disciplines and approaches could take place on a regular, continuous basis.

    Conferences and seminars are well and good, but they are extremely finite -- and if you miss one, you usually have a year to wait before the next on the same topic. (Of course, most of us miss most conferences.) Plus, conference and seminar audiences tend to be narrowly chosen on the basis of the very divisions that the Institute would bridge.

    Imagine a place -- let's take the Pilchuk Glass School cofounded by Dale Chihuly (, Esalen (, and Taliesin in its golden days as models in the US; or the Bauhaus in its prime, overseas -- where experience designers can go to study, learn, and converse with their creative peers. Where practitioners at various points in their careers can share their experiences and learn from one another. Where students can meet with teachers and mentors. And where the public can be invited on a regular basis to learn firsthand what it is that we do. Not just once a year, but continuously.

    Why not such a place for Experience Design, especially now as historical forces push it to the forefront of business, cultural, and social concern?

    How to get there is another matter. If such a place was designed, I'm confident it would be funded. Or conversely, if it was funded, it would be designed. This is a chicken-and-egg problem for which my meme provides no immediate solution. But maybe you'll think of one over time, individually or collectively.

    Thanks for taking time from your leisure to spend a few minutes considering my meme. Now, park it in the back of your cranium and have a restful, restorative weekend. Where did summer go? Please let me know from time to time where the meme has traveled and what's happening as a result.


    Bob Jacobson

    This morning, on Putting People First, Mark Vanderbeeken replied with a comprehensive list of schools where elements of experience design and related design disciplines taught -- but acknowledges, there is but one small program in comprehensive experience design, at the Design Academy Eindhoven, in Holland. I thank him for his comments and even more, his challenge to our community to do more.

    Even if there were a hundred programs in schools around the world, it would not be the same as a place where practitioners, students, and the public that we serve can come to share and learn: the Experience Design Institute, our community's Mecca.

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

    August 29, 2006

    Design Council's RED Open House during the London Design Festival, Sept 22, 2006

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    RedRED, the (UK) Design Council's “do tank,” has published several papers about its groundbreaking projects on the Design Council's attractively redesigned website. RED's modus operandi is “Transformation Design,” which it deems a new design profession: “Creating future services with and for the public.” Projects include those on aging, democracy, sustainability, energy, open health, and citizenship. You can download RED's seminal paper on Transformation Design [PDF]. Authored by Colin Burns, Hilary Cottam (RED's director and 2005 Design Museum Designer of the Year), Chris Vanstone, and Jennie Winhall, the report begins...

    In June 2005 Hilary Cottam was awarded the title ‘Designer of the Year’ by the Design Museum, London, for her work redesigning prisons, schools and healthcare services. The public, who had overwhelmingly voted for Cottam, knew that they had seen a good thing.

    The design industry, however, was in uproar. Cottam is not a trained or traditional designer of ‘things’. Instead, she has applied a design approach to some of the UK’s biggest problems: prisoner re-offending rates, failing secondary schools and the rising burden of chronic healthcare. At the Design Council’s RED unit, where she is Director, she forms multidisciplinary teams – with designers working alongside policy makers – who use the design process as a means of collaborating with pupils, teachers, patients, nurses, prisoners and prison officers to develop new solutions.

    RED is applying design in new contexts. We use product, communication, interaction and spatial designers’ core skills to transform the ways in which the public interacts with systems, services, organisations and policies.

    RED is not alone in doing this type of work. A new design discipline is emerging. It builds on traditional design skills to address social and economic issues. It uses the design process as a means to enable a wide range of disciplines and stakeholders to collaborate. It develops solutions that are practical and desirable. It is an approach that places the individual at the heart of new solutions, and builds the capacity to innovate into organisations and institutions.

    This new approach could be key to solving many of society’s most complex problems. But the community of practice is small, and its emergence has already caused controversy. There are those who argue that it’s not design because it doesn’t look or feel much like design in the familiar sense of the word. Its outputs aren’t always tangible, and may be adapted and altered by people as they use them. It is a long way from the paradigm of the master- designer.

    Companies and public bodies are, however, increasingly faced with more complex and ambiguous issues. At the same time there is a growing desire among designers, both young and old, to tackle society’s most pressing problems.

    Through our work at the Design Council we are in a position to stimulate demand for new design-led approaches to complex problems, and to show that the potential market for a new design approach is clear. But is the design industry ready?

    Welcome AmmendRED's hosting an Open House at the Design Council on September 22, 2006, during the London Design Festival, September 15-30, 2006, an affair with its own heady themes and execution.

    For years, the Design Council has pioneered themes in the design profession that eluded higher profile design organizations. It deserves commendation and attention.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | The Practice of Experience Design

    IDEA 2006 in Seattle, Oct 23-24: Designing complex information spaces (in the real world)

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    I received this from Peter Merholz, cofounder and partner at Adaptive Path and president of the Information Architecture Institute:

    Idea-2006The IDEA Conference, organized by the IA Institute, takes place October 23-24 in Seattle, WA.

    The event is a unique offering on the conference scene -- practitioners from a wide range of fields will present on the subject of designing complex information spaces. Disciplines represented include museum design, interaction design, information visualization, librarian, network guru, environmental design, architecture, design for mobile devices, and research. See the Program here.

    Seattle1This event is designed for those who recognize that design problems are larger than any one medium, channel, or device, and that in order to succeed in an increasingly complex world, we need to work with one another to understand how to address the situations people find themselves in today.

    Discounted registration ends September 15. Register soon!

    See you in Seattle!

    Peter and I had a super schmooze about IDEA 2006 (among other things) during his recent homecoming to Santa Monica. I highly recommend this event as one that encapsulates and expands upon many of the ideas expressed on TOTAL EXPERIENCE.

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    Mark Hurst's euroGEL happens in Copenhagen this week

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Gelman-Eurogel06euroGEL 2006 takes place in Copenhagen later this week, August 31-September 1. It'll be a joyous as well as informative event.

    GEL stands for Good Experience Live. Mark's made a career of helping to create good experiences and decrying bad ones. He explains why this first European GEL is being held in Copenhagen:

    I've always thought that good experience is a universal way of looking at the world - at design, technology, art, architecture, work, performance, and life - and not merely an American idea. To find out whether that idea is true, the Good Experience team now heads to Copenhagen, Denmark to run our very first Good Experience Live in Europe, or euroGel, this Thursday and Friday (Aug. 31 - Sept. 1).

    The question I usually get about euroGel (other than “what is Gel?” from people who haven't attended) is, “Why Copenhagen?”

    Here are a few of the reasons:

    - The Danish experience. As I wrote in June:

    Copenhagen 1Certain aspects of Danish culture capture the spirit of “good experience” - attention to quality, an attitude about life and work that's refreshingly free of cynicism and irony, respect fo the past and enthusiasm for the future - and just plain friendly people. (The Danes also happen to be very good at design, but I'm here because of the overall experience - including, yes, design as just one element.) ( )

    - We've made a number of friends and supporters already:

    - Denmark is the happiest place in the world:

    - It's very photogenic - here are my photos:

    Even if you can't be there, take a look at who will be joining the now global Good Experience community, both as attendees and as speakers:

    - Partial euroGel attendee list:

    - Full euroGel speaker list and schedule (and registration link):

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | The Practice of Experience Design

    August 14, 2006

    Behavioral Economics

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    With lots of good intentions, I've resigned myself to simply share important stuff as I come across it rather than waiting to find the time to comment on it (as illustrated by the many half-written pieces that sit on my desktop).

    I've mentioned repeatedly (on many different 'channels') the importance of economic concepts to our work. If I wasn't able to convince you before, perhaps these will add another perspective. Check out two important pieces: A Perspective on Economics and Psychology and Behavioral Economics: Reunifying Psychology and Economics. [Step gingerly around the highly-academic voice of these pieces.]

    The only commentary I'd want to add is that the flavor of the pieces are still very 'large market, classic economics' in nature. See if you can transpose the concepts to markets of one and individual choice. And lastly, anyone who questions the validity of 'rationality' in behaviors doesn't understand the true meaning of rationality -- it's contextual. The real value to us as practitioners is to figure out what makes certain behaviors 'rational' to those who engage in them. Those values and/or motivators are the hues that define the paint of our designs.

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

    August 9, 2006

    July 17, 2006

    “A Beautiful Conference”: SIGGRAPH 2006's creative schizophrenia

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Sig2006SIGGRAPH 2006: The 33rd International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, happens this year in Boston, MA, close to MIT and...? Well, sure, there's more happening in the Northeast than interminable rain, blistering heat, and high-humidity -- but Boston isn't the epicenter of computer graphics that LA, the longtime home of SIGGRAPH, has been and remains. (For those that do not know, SIGGRAPH is the Association for Computing Machinery's “Special Interest Group” -- SIG -- on “Computer Graphics” -- GRAPH. The ACM is the world's largest organization of computer-associated professionals, academics, organizations, and fans.)

    This year's SIGGRAPH is truly fascinating, in that its organizing committee has slipped the surly bonds of computer graphics to fly high with interaction design. SIGGRAPH's keynoter is Joe Rohde, Disney Imagineering VP and Executive Designer responsible for Disney World's Animal Kingdom attractions, most recently Expedition Everest. (I like the DW website's request to “Choose Your Experience.” Very nice.) Themed attractions are interaction design raised to a very high level.

    The result is a creative schizophrenia that on the one hand thematically subordinates computer graphics (CG) to the creation of experiences (mainly interactive) -- the conference's main draw -- and on the other hand continues to focus, via expert panels, on the specifics of creating, producing, and selling/using CG technology and techniques. Don't get me wrong: I applaud this blurring of boundaries. CG is a computer-science concept. Sequestering CG from the broader human context within which it's being applied -- to increasingly holistic experiences, beginning with film but now expanding to full-blown experiences like Expedition Everest -- has always been an artificial distinction. Attendees noticed this in the mid-90s, when virtual reality exploded on SIGGRAPH's stage as the Next Big Thing. (It's once again the Next Big Thing, I happily note, now that Web hysteria is subsiding after a decade, “Web 2.0” notwithstanding.) Synaesthesia is the Bomb.

    Sigchi-Logo-Homepage(How does SIGCHI, the ACM group on Computer-Human Interaction, feel about this? SIGCHI's April conference came and went without much fanfare, that's for sure. Since SIGs compete for members and vendors to survive, does SIGGRAPH's poaching signal hard times ahead for SIGCHI -- or a merger?)

    TruckI'm sorry I can't be at this year's SIGGRAPH. SIGGRAPH is always a wonderful event, full of surprises, a lively gathering of unusually knowledgeable, talented, and adventurous people. Plus, the exhibition floor, at least for me, is far more interesting, involving, and provocative than such circus affairs as E3, which features nothing more than loud “ka-booms” and dead avatars. On this point, I draw SIGGRAPH attendees' attention to the Sandbox Symposium on videogames, colocated with SIGGRAPH 06, and organized by my friend and colleague, and noted CG authority, Alan Heirich (now with Sony). Have fun in the Sandbox...!

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Experience Design & Technology | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design

    July 15, 2006

    A unique future role for design research?

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Co-author Paula Thornton posted this insightful comment to her Experience Design newsgroup on June 7, responding to an article in Business Week, June 3, 2006, “The Science of Desire”:

    One quote from the article: “Ethnographers' findings often don't lead to a
    product or service, only a generalized sense of what people want. Their
    research can also take a long time to bear fruit.”

    This is absolutely a “'symptom'”of something that is clearly not specifically
    called out in our disciplines. We always like to think that we need to be
    the ones doing the research (and/or be involved in it). Clearly, that's a
    symptom of our experiences -- where in most cases there is little or no
    background information.

    But imagine a future where there is a specific role dedicated to Design
    Research. A "team support" role that is akin to a Findability specialist and
    a Content Management strategist. While individual projects would engage
    "deeper" research, the work starts by tapping into a base of continuous
    research. Such research informs what additional research would be most
    effective -- it determines which questions haven't been probed deeply enough
    and/or warrant more investigation.

    There are four distinct areas of focus for experience design research:

    . Discovery
    . Continuous Listening
    . Metrics
    . Synthesis and Sharing

    Of course, there are the Centre for Design Research at Northumbria University, in the UK, and its new counterpart at Stanford University, the Center for Design Research.. But these centers' foci are universal, about design, less project-specific. So, Paula -- want to finish your thought? I'd love to see where you go with this.

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

    July 9, 2006

    February 18, 2006

    Mark Hurst: “What Makes a Good Experience”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Mark Hurst, author of the Good Experience website/blog and host of the Good Experience Live (GEL) conference, in November 2005 blogged two important entries, “The Over Determined Experience” and “Three Strands of Experience.” They're important elements of a theory of experience of design: what makes a good experience.

    Mark's empiricism is in keeping with his personal focus on the real-world and day-to-day -- but his ideas are broad enough to be of interest to anyone wondering what really goes on when an experience is designed. The comments on Mark's blog that his readers have posted are rich in good ideas.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | Theories of Experience | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    June 9, 2005

    Embracing Zero

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    As we approached the new decade, one of the buzzwords was 'coopertition' — finding ways to embrace the competition to increase potential. Just a short time before that, at a Gartner conference, I was shocked to recognize a significant change in Bill Gates that would seem to support this position. Sitting on a panel with his major competitors, in the past had they directed challenging comments toward him you could feel him restraining himself to avoid leaping across the stage to accost them. Instead, this time he was calm and collected — a decidedly distinct change. But there was one telling comment that explained his demeanor. He said something to the effect of, "Every time the competition makes a dollar the pie just gets bigger. I realized that this isn't a zero sum game."

    Now a new group of entrepreneurs has found a way to capitalize on 'zero' — free phone calls. In metropolitan areas of New York, phone kiosks have been set up allowing the caller to make 4-minute long distance calls for free. The tradeoff? The kiosk is an advertising billboard. Just like advertising was the economic mechanism which provided tele-vision at no cost to the masses, now tele-communication is going economically retro.

    The responsible entity, Popa Media, often finds an 'open arms' business demeanor as they hunt down new locations to position kiosks. Where in many situations they would need to rent space to place a phone, they are often offered free space because of the additional foot traffic the phone draws. After all, people have to 'stand still' for those 4 minutes and are likely to take a closer look at their surroundings than they might otherwise. Popa capitalizes on this with the byline: "The hottest branding platform on the planet."

    Additionally, the phone itself provides an interactive component to the experience. Many advertisers are local businesses. The phone is equipped with a speed-dial number directly to the advertisers. Finding the right combination of location and offering is key. In an installation on the campus of SUNY an apartment advertisement got a call 5 minutes after the promotion was put in place.

    This 'branding platform' helps shorten the distance between sellers and potential buyers, all the while offering an economic return to the buyers for their attention.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design

    November 22, 2004

    Bruce Mau: "Massive Change, the Future of Global Design"

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    metropolis.jpgBruce Mau, founder of Toronto's Bruce Mau Design, is a man with a mission: to encourage design sensibility and practice -- holistic, vernacular, personal, collective -- as a means to making our world a lot better.

    Mau's recent presentation at PopTech, a trendy conference in New England, describes the groundbreaking "Massive Change" exhibition he recently mounted with international support and participation, a clear manifesto for design in the service of practical social change. It's totally persuasive, unlike the many design declarations that have gone before, because it's backed up by deed and example. I found Mau's soft-spoken, storytelling delivery irresistible.

    An online recording of Bruce Mau's talk at PopTech is available for streaming or downloading at IT Conversations.

    Image: Metropolis (from a feature on Mau)

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    October 12, 2004

    Online Test: "How much do you know about design engineering?"

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    designnews.jpgIn the interest of ecumenism -- all of us in the same boat -- Design News, the online magazine for mechanical and design engineers, offers you an interactive, graphical online test: "How Much Do You Know About Design Engineering?" It's scary: in my own case, despite a knowledge of civil engineering and an abiding interest in packaging -- not that much!

    Take the test and see if you measure up to our design engineering colleagues! Of course, if you ARE a design engineer, we'll find another test for you....

    The website on which the game happens, How Machines Work, is a hoot. Lots of orthographic and 3D illustrations of naked machinery at play.

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    August 27, 2004

    Where does experience design begin?

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    It's intriguing in how many different professions the design of experience takes place. But where does the designed experience begin?

    Does it begin with the conception of a need? Or when a prototype design idea is floated? When a design team actually sets forth to design an experience? Or when the designed experience is first translated into a form that can be experienced by a human being?

    labyrinth.gifI've asked leaders in key industries to get back to me with their impression of where the design of an experience originates and how a design idea percolates throughout the design process. I'll be reporting back shortly with their comments.

    In the meantime, where do you believe intentional experiences originate? Enter your comment and let's see if you and the experts agree.

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