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


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

    (Courtesy of Mark Vanderbeeken, Experientia SpA, Torino)

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

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

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

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

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

    Total Experience on Technorati
    Technorati Profile

    Get Camino!

    Total Experience

    Category Archives

    October 30, 2007

    "I'm b-a-a-a-c-k!"

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    I've been absent from Total Experience for several weeks. Here's why....

    Movable Type,'s server software, was upgraded in September. In the process, it became incompatible with my Ecto for the Mac blog editor. Having worked so long with Ecto, I can't go back to MT. Ecto's that much better. After a lot of hard work on their part, übermeister Hylton Jolliffe and tech wiz Reeve Jolliffe got the softwares working together again. Mighty thanks to both!

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: TE Blog

    June 28, 2007

    “Back in the saddle and ready to ride!”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    111936073 C8136Ec32FThe last two weeks have been glad and sad.

    Glad to be in a new place, see old friends, and be free of the last year's emotional burdens. Sad to have left Santa Monica and my dear friends there, the relationship that was my family, and the fabulous little girl I came to love as my own. Sad, too, that my destroyed Mac G4 Powerbook rendered me unable to blog here, to experience the catharsis of creation.

    These too shall pass. The memory to upgrade my Mac G3 Powerbook, the best machine I own for writing and blogging -- a work of ergonomic genius, as subsequent Macs have not been -- finally arrived. I installed it a couple of days ago and have been testing it. It works. As you can see, I'm “back in the saddle and ready to ride!” (to quote local rodeo lore). Thanks to Paula for her continuing postings of interest in the meantime.

    Tomorrow I'll pick up again where I had to leave off: exploring the varieties and qualities of spiritual experience, and their relation to the experiences that we seek to understand and for which we design. I'll also open a conversation about my future plans, which include a total immersion in innovation, and invite your comments....

    Over on Speedbird, Adam Greenfield has penned one of the best essays on experience and experience design ever to grace a blog. It's a modern take on philosophy and general systems thinking as applied to experience design, and what we can and cannot design for, experientially. Thank you, Adam, for a smooth exposition.

    (Image: Odd Items)

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | TE Blog

    May 28, 2007

    Don't touch that dial! “About Experience” is coming right up (this week)...

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Images-3My weekend plan to describe Experience as that term has been used in different traditions -- spiritual, philosophical, scientific, and so forth -- was set back by a surprise assignment that requires me to temporarily relocate out of state.

    I'll be moving next week (to Arizona, for the month of June). I used this weekend to decide what I'll take with me and what I'll let go. As an itinerant scholar and consultant -- a peddler of ideas -- I like to pare down with each bend in the road.

    But I'm on the case. Please stay tuned: the promised blog entries will appear this week.

    (Image: Peter Horvath,

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | TE Blog

    May 7, 2007

    Away for the week at Esalen

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Esalen.jpgI'm away for the week at Esalen, in Big Sur, CA, the birthplace of the "human potential" and "transformation" movements: discovering the potential of the self in preparation to engender positive changes in the world. I'll be writing of my experiences on my return. And yes, I intend to use Esalen's fabled hot tubs as well as engage in meaningful conversations. Possibly both at the same time....

    In the meantime, check in to see what Paula's up to.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: TE Blog

    January 29, 2007

    A stroke of good luck!

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    ZhuanjiThis is zhuanji, the Chinese word for “a stroke of good luck!" As you may have noticed, I've been absent from this blog for the last week. I'm engaged in probably the most important experience design project of my career, and this phase of it has an early February deadline that I absolutely must meet. I can't talk about this project now: it's what the current generation of money-chasers call “stealth.” I promise to tell all, once this mission is accomplished. Thanks for your patience and thanks also to Paula Thornton, who continues to post provocative entries worth your while. (For a much-needed caution on the frequent but incorrect use of the Chinese word for crisis, weiji, to mean “opportunity," as I almost did, see “Danger Plus Opportunity Does Not Equal Crisis,” on Weiji is actually a situation to be feared: the unknown abyss.)

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | TE Blog

    January 8, 2007

    Why we publish in spurts

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    My colleague Paula and I tend to publish Total Experience in spurts. A week or even two will go by without a blog entry -- and then three, four, or more explode out of our minds and onto the screen. Maybe that's because we don't have brilliant thoughts every day, at least not ones we deem worthy of taking your time to share. Real insights come of their own accord, on their own schedule. Not each day when we wake up.

    This defies the laws of media, best exemplified by television with its mostly empty content, but content nonetheless, continuously broadcast, cablecast, or netcast so that the viewers won't tune out. Media colleagues, they've already tuned out. They sit passively, thankful for the experience of a mental void. (See my preceding article, Stress and the Internet.)

    I have more faith in our readers, that you prefer to look in when something's significant and not be bothered the rest of the time. RSS notwithstanding, it's the policy with which we'll sit tight.

    However, we are cooking up some pretty good new stuff. I promised earlier a state of the art discussion of experience design. It'll be here later this week. Turn on your newsreader and when you get the call, do read up.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: TE Blog

    December 29, 2006

    My apologies for a slow week; ahead, a critical review, "The State of Experience Design"

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson many in Southern California, last week I contracted a trilogy of viruses that took me out of action until now.

    Thanks to TE co-author Paula Thornton for holding down the fort with her provocative postings. For the New Year, I'll be jumping back on the horse, bareback, with a critical review, "The State of Experience Design."

    Meanwhile, I hope you're having a happy holiday season. Out here, we celebrated the Winter Solstice and Santa Lucia, two Scandinavian occasions of spiritual import I experienced in Sweden; personal experiences never to be forgotten. And already, it's the Baby New Year knocking at the door!

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: TE Blog

    October 5, 2006

    Total Experience is recruiting Guest Authors!

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson


    The Total Experience team invites designers from every discipline to become Guest Authors and share in our conversation.

    Experience design is eclectic. It explores and interacts with the full range of human phenomena. Culture. Technology. Behavior. Experience. Our practice encompasses a diversity of disciplines. We want to honor that diversity on Total Experience and facilitate its integration.

    As a TE Guest Author, you can cover any topic in the experience design (not "user experience design") universe. Contribute an entry when you're motivated and able. Paula and I will review your entry and if it's of the quality that our readers expect of TE, we'll post it and credit you as its author. Or we'll suggest changes to improve its fit.

    Also, when you become a Guest Author, you'll become a TE "Official Commentator." We hope you'll frequently reply to others' entries.

    How's that for a low-maintenance way to converse with the global experience design community (and show up more frequently on Google)? Send us an email (the link is to the left, above our bios) telling us about your interests, background, and abilities. We'll reply promptly.

    Thanks to those who've already submitted ideas and those who do in the future. We'll see you online!

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: TE Blog

    September 10, 2005

    Relaunching Total Experience

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    View image
    It’s time to relaunch Total Experience. Summer’s sloth is over, fiscal years are ready to begin, and it’s time to bring in the harvest.

    Paula’s and my experience leads us to an unavoidable conclusion, one that has yet to percolate thoroughly within the experience-design community: to become a professional practice, and to be taken as the same, experience design needs constraints. So, how do we characterize “experience design,” its content and boundaries? What gives it value and meaning?

    Here’s a definition we’re batting around:

    Experience design is about the design of environments -- from conception through deployment – that convey an idea, engender an emotion, and catalyze action.

    Put another way, for our purposes, immersive sensorial environments created by experience designers generate affects that result in effects. We are what we experience.

    Paula and I propose a practical purpose for TE: to identify, critique, and recommend exceptional experience design that’s happening today. Here’s an indicative list of issues and cases that we hope to address over the next six months, things that matter to us (in no particular order):

    * Designing Experience Design: Creating Our profession
    * Interdisciplinary/holistic/synergistic/integrated Design
    * Las Vegas: Our National Exhibition of Experience Design?
    * Case Study: Designing the Washington Mutual Experience
    * Case Study: Designing the Starbucks Experience
    * The Evolution of the Shopping Mall
    * Sports Arenas: Minimal Design, Maximal Experience
    * Who Will Be The David Macauley of Experience Design?
    * The Design and Consequence of Refugee Camps
    * Macro-Experience Design: RAND’s “Arc” for Palestine
    * Virtual Environments: The Skew of Military Patronage
    * Envisioning the “Learning Environment,” 1880-2005
    * The Coming Surgical Room
    * Hell House: Sin, Redemption, and a Lot of Fake Blood
    * Where Does Experience Design Reside: In the Plan, Its Implementation, or the Experiencer?

    While you send us your comments, we’re going to get going, developing TE in practice while we develop experience design in theory. Welcome to the relaunch of Total Experience!

    -- Bob Jacobson, Co-Author

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: TE Blog

    December 28, 2004

    A holiday slowdown.

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Season's greetings to everyone! The TE Team wishes you the very best in 2005.

    You may have noticed a slowdown in our postings. That's because we're taking a break from the hectic pace of late 2004 which affected each of us -- and so is much of the experience design world.

    We're continuing to scan the frontiers and will be posting again with greater regularity as the new year approaches and finally arrives. In fact, our articles are going to be even better: more hands-on, more first-person by significant EDs, and more critical commentary.

    Thanks for your loyalty to our conversation and please continue to tune in. Set your RSS readers for BUZZ!

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: TE Blog

    August 30, 2004

    New TE Coauthors Coming Online

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Ethnographer Steve Portigal, innovation strategist Tom Mulhern (former principal, Conifer Research), and design theoretician and director Paula Thornton, i knovate will soon be joining me as coauthors of Total Experience. Their participation will add a whole new dimension to our blog, the ability to dialogue on issues. Moving away from the typical one-person point-of-view, TE will feature a multifaceted discussion in which, we hope, you too will take part. Welcome Steve, Tom, and Paula.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: TE Blog