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
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    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
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    Design Council UK
    First Monday

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    January 6, 2008

    Designing Today for a Very Different Tomorrow: Suggestions for the coming Age of Austerity

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    1836 200 150Yesterday I wrote despairing that most designers are busy designing products intended to promote consumption and that end up as waste, while all objective indicators signal the need to start designing for a very different future of limits, constraints, and parsimony. Then I came across “Designing Behavior,” a video presentation on on Fora.TV, the outstanding website that features videos of intelligent discourse. The panelists share my concern and describe ways that designers can and are helping people to get ready for the coming Age of Austerity.

    “”Designing Behaviour“ was produced at the 2007 Battle of Ideas conference hosted in October by London's Institute of Ideas. Here's the Program Preview. It says it all:

    Nowadays, even before designers have put pen to paper, there are growing concerns about the consequences of their work and its effect on society. They are accused of everything from creating too much waste (excess packaging) to fuelling excessive consumption (producing unnecessary gadgets, luxury goods). We are told designers need to rethink their role, ensuring 'products' make a responsible contribution toward the common good, solve social problems, even promote responsible behaviour. Many designers have gone ethical; every designer wants to produce their version of 'I'm not a plastic bag'.

    While design has traditionally been about making life better by designing better things, many now argue it also has a duty to promote wellbeing, responsible behaviour, and to make people think rather than just consume. Today there are calls from government, local authorities and policy advocates that designers need to rethink their role, ensuring that 'products' make a responsible contribution toward the common good, by tackling issues from health awareness and rebuilding community to reducing consumption and global warming. -- Institute of Ideas

    Okay, so now I'm not quite so despairing. But I remain cautious. The tale will be told in the solutions' execution.

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

    January 5, 2008

    Designing Today for a Very Different Tomorrow: The coming Age of Austeriy

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Chinese Happy New Year It's another New Year. According to the Chinese calendar, which begins anew on the 7th of February, 2008 is a Year of the Rat.

    Rat years are fertile for new beginnings:

    A Rat Year is a time of hard work, activity, and renewal. This is a good year to begin a new job, get married, launch a product or make a fresh start. Ventures begun now may not yield fast returns, but opportunities will come for people who are well prepared and resourceful. The best way for you to succeed is to be patient, let things develop slowly, and make the most of every opening you can find. (

    So what new beginning should designers pursue in 2008? Try, planning realistically for a very different future.

    The last few weeks I've been researching and analyzing trends for a prominent European manufacturer of home goods. I was charged with describing current trend that characterize lifestyles in the industrial world (and elsewhere) over the next five years -- but as with most true trends (and not just fads), the trends I found most significant have a trajectory lasting well into the next two or three decades. No aware person will be surprised to read that the most significant trends include:

    • Climate change and global warming, leading to environmental stress
    • The scarcity of petroleum as a basis for gasoline, jet fuel, heating oil, and plastic products, curbing travel and encouraging recycling
    • Rising prices for health care specifically, but also for any products and services based on petroleum -- in other words, almost everything
    • A credit crunch followed by a money crunch, leading to reduced consumerism, market declines, and job losses
    • Greater reliance on intentional communities, physical as well as virtual, for personal well being
    • Greater economic globalization accompanied by devolution of national structures
    • An overarching need for parsimony, the husbanding of resources and extreme care in their deployment

    (On the plus side, dwindling energy probably means an end to the war economy, late in the game.)

    So are designers planning for for this rapidly approaching future of limits, constraints, stresses, and new behaviors? Not many, and not much.

    Recently, Cooper-Hewitt, the US National Design Museum, hosted “Design for the Other 90%.” (The exhibition closed in September, but its website remains -- and it's a good one.) The website opens with this quote from Dr. Paul Polak of International Development Enterprises,

    "The majority of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10% of the world’s customers. Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90%."

    Most people will read this, as have many reviewers, as a cliché: "Once again, designers are neglecting the developing world." But that's not what Dr. Polak's saying. At least half, if not more, of the world's customers don't live in the developing world. They live here, in the advanced and advancing industrial nations. In other words, 90 percent of the world's designers are designing to serve only a tiny fraction of customers...everywhere.

    And in the future, the situation could get worse. One of the megatrends resulting from the trends listed above and others (including falling stock markets and incipient economic recession or depression) is a noticeable bifurcation of advanced societies, particularly the United States and other “free market” economies, as the middle class is absorbed -- a small proportion into the genuinely rich class and a much larger proportion into the genuinely poor class.

    (Even designers are feeling the pressure: young designers are mainly just getting by and older designers are discovering that seniority brings no security.) Given the easy foreseeability of this future, one might expect more designers to begin identifying with “the other 90%” and restructuring their design practices for future survival and prosperity, such as can be accomplished in a society under extreme pressure.

    But with the exception of designers who explicitly design for the developing world -- and designers in the developing world, who are used to economical design (though not necessarily designing economically) -- there appears to be no groundswell of realism among designers. Most continue working on interfaces for electrical gizmos, expensive medical technology, furniture for mansions, fashions for consumption, food that contributes to obesity, homes and cars that queer the air, and all the many other environmental and energy sinks that promise to drag down the quality of life for “everyone else.” Caught up in their professions and determined to get ahead of the rest of the pack, designers, ethnographers, marketers, and brand managers all seem caught up in the same lemming race. Not this time, Horatios. We're all in this together. Nor will “designing green” or “living simply” suffice. The are merely affectation, luxury options for the rich. They will not buy dispensation in the real world to come.

    Bill Calvin, a well known mind scientist at the University of Washington, was one of a hundred-plus very smart people asked by the Edge Foundation its World Question for 2008: how have you changed you mind? Bill replied that the evidence of rapid global warming changed his mind, and it should change others:

    "...We're not even back paddling as fast as we can, just drifting toward the falls. If I were a student or young professional, seeking my future being trashed, I'd be mad as hell. And hell is a pretty good metaphor for where we are heading if we don't get our act together. Quickly."

    The same goes for the design profession. Especially for designers of experience, whose creative inventions won't survive the extreme trauma of new experiences foisted on all of us, rich and poor, in a world under harsh stress: environmental, economic, and social.

    Happy New Year.

    (But wait! "Hope springs eternal in the human breast." Check back next week....)

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

    December 17, 2007

    Prisoners in the Digital Panopticon: The Experience of Constant Surveillance -- Or, When Bad Things Beckon to Good Designers

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    PanopticonThe Panopticon was 18th-Century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham's concept of the ideal prison. It consists of two components: a central tower in which the jailers reside, invisible to the prisoners; and a ring of cells around the central tower in which the inmates toil, behind bars that do not, however, obstruct the view of the jailers into each and every cell. We live in a Digital Panopticon.

    French social critic Michel Foucault based his theory of self-censorship as a means of social control on the Panopticon. Commenting on Bentham, he wrote:

    ...The major effect of the Panopticon [is] to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. Bentham laid down the principle that power should be visible and unverifiable. Visible: the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central tower from which he is spied upon. Unverifiable: the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so. In order to make the presence or absence of the inspector unverifiable, so that the prisoners, in their cells, cannot even see a shadow.

    Foucault then observed that in contemporary society, the media, our means of communication, have become a modern form of the Panopticon, with most of us in the prisoners' ring. Foucault died before the Internet became a reality. Had he lived to see the excesses of personal revelation and voyeurism associated with Internet use, he would have considered his theory proven a million-fold. The Internet has become our Digital Panopticon. Powerful interests can invisibly record and analyze our every conversation, domestic and international -- and without the force of law to restrain them or, as in the case of the Bush Administration, with active encouragement to violate the law -- they do so, often.

    Today, a filibuster took place in the U.S. Senate, led by Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd. You probably didn't hear about it watching TV, reading the or listening to the radio this weekend. If you had, you'd have known that what was at issue was a request by President Bush to grant AT&T neé SBC and Verizon -- two oligopolists that control most of this nation's telecommunications links, including the Internet's “backbone” fiber -- legal immunity from charges that they conspired with the National Security Agency to illegally supply the NSA with real-time and archival access to telephone calls, email, and all other forms of digital communications. Only Qwest, the third oligopolist, resisted the urge to collaborate without a judicial warrant. Those familiar with SBC (formerly Southwestern Bell, which acquired the shell of AT&T and then took its name), will not be surprised: it's long enjoyed playing sheriff, ever eager to participate in law enforcement, sometimes almost without being asked. Verizon's capitulation is no surprise, either: as General Telephone, junior partner to the Bell System, it always toed the prevailing Bell line. Now it's AT&T's line. Nothing's changed.

    Dodd's filibuster succeeded! When time ran out and the Senators began wanting to go home for the holidays, Senate President pro tem Harry Reid pulled the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) with the offending provision. The President says, if you're a huge corporation -- a more powerful element of the modern industrial state than the government that supposedly regulates it -- you can illegally collaborate with giant spy agencies to deprive Americans and those with whom they communicate, here and abroad, of their privacy...the essential condition of free and honest speech. What will the Senate say when it eventually gets to vote, after the New Year?

    Speaking with colleagues and friends here and overseas, I'm made aware more frequently than I'd like that we share a Dark Secret: we're being snooped, we know it, and sheepishly, we live with it. We are being snooped by corporations, we are being snooped by government, and in a figurative way, we are being snooped even by each other. It's become big business for startups to devise ever better ways of disrobing oneself in public view and conversely, being able to spy on one another. Many technologists and interaction designers are making careers of creating ever more invasive technologies and enabling their ease of use.

    Our every utterance and writing, even our very ideas, can be swept up by a giant vacuum cleaner wielded by private interests and an oppressive government, working in collusion, apparently without fear of prosecution. Nothing can be done about it if the law cannot prevail. What's the effect on free speech and honest discourse of being surveilled, geospatially tracked, and represented by thick, information-rich dossiers kept secret from us? We all know the answer...and it isn't pretty, democratic, or much of a future. The new American experience of constant surveillance is deadening. And it will take only one insane President, someone out of touch with America's democratic ideals or enthralled by religious quackery, to put the machinery of surveillance to truly evil use. For all we know, it's already our reality. Why did I disconnect from Twitter and Spock? Maybe because, even if I'm as vulnerable as before, I don't want to aid, abet, or encourage others to exploit my personal information in untoward ways. I'm protecting my property and their souls. Plus, I'm not a techno-lemming.

    Stealthy surveillance makes a mockery of our best designs. Take the iPhone, an icon of innovation: sold by Apple, that paragon of freedom, into the monopolistic grasp of AT&T, snitch to the most powerful. How can you design for a better tomorrow when the very things you design are put to such terrible use today? The Nazis had good design, too.

    Where, today, were the voices of the web developers, designers, technologists, ethnographers, and other technologically smart and socially sophisticated individuals and their professional organizations as our communication birthright went on the auction block? There will be more votes in the Senate and the House. Live your life like you design for it. Speak out for corporate accountability, for privacy, and for freedom of speech. It's your turn now.

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

    November 19, 2007

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

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    November 15, 2007

    'Fill 'er up!“ as a customer experience, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Big Oil

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Red Gas PumpThe price of sweet crude oil futures is nearing a $100 high-water mark that will inevitably result in social sticker shock, followed by resentment everywhere except among the OPEC nations. Marketers and brand managers of gasoline and other consumer petroleum products will be busier than ever. My best guess: Big Oil's customer-experience sycophants will portray Big Oil, a closed, self-serving global cartel ready and willing to use any means to defend its economic privilege and political power, as "people like us." "We're all in it together!" "Like the rest of us, Big Oil is a victim of circumstances beyond its control." "Big Oil's members are good citizens doing their best to maintain our accustomed lifestyle AND protect the environment." Watching the flood of corporate TV ads, I sense the din's already begun. (But where's the tiger? Where's the Happy Engine?)

    Downstream oil companies long ago understood the value of positive and negative “customer experiences.” In the post-WWII America, they joined with the then-Big 3 automakers to promote unbridled driving (“See the USA in a Chevrolet!”) as a positive customer experience. Simultaneously, with help from the automakers and tire manufacturers, they worked hard to make the use of public transit as unpleasant a customer experience as possible -- ultimately, by getting cities to tear out the efficient tramways that once got commuters to work without driving. This dual strategy successfully (a) equated driving a car with personal freedom, turning the phrase, “the open road,” into a kinetic metaphor for the First Amendment; and (b) made transportation policymaking a wholly inter-corporate process (except for the taxes collected by a villainous government to finance necessary infrastructure: the highway, roads, and parking).

    Today, however, Big Oil's customer experience people must be working overtime. First, there's the visceral experience we have of crude oil's skyrocketing price, leading to our future experience of rapid, continuous, unprecedented price hikes at the pump. Second, there's the physical experience, conveniently camouflaged by TV ads filmed in scenic national parks, that most time spent in automobiles, in the US, is dead time. (Over on The Oil Drum, the best blog about Peak Oil -- our historical era, in which demand for petroleum exceeds supply -- I read a quote that Americans spend literally billions of hours each year idling at red lights and in traffic jams.) Third, there's our uneasy awareness, fed by scientists and our own environmental experience, that automobiles run on oil account for nearly a fourth (or more) of all CO2 emissions and thus, cataclysmic global warming. Fourth, there's the knowledge, the cognitive experience, that American policy and policymakers, from the President and Congress at the top, down to local traffic planners, are enslaved by the Big Oil/Automobile & Trucking/Highway Construction Establishment -- and that there's no escape in sight. These are pretty negative customer experiences.

    Big Oil, to preserve its leading role in our society, is working hard to generate more positive customer experiences. “Empowerment”: pump your own fuel, at your own convenience. (Bonus: it costs less in labor.) “Green”: Standard Oil, a multi-multi-billion-dollar a year global oil enterprise, proudly announces it's generating enough eco-energy to power a city of seven million. (About a third of LA County.) “A Better Future Through Big Oil”: BP is proud of its plan to invest in eco-energy. It's plan. Sometime. Funny, I haven't yet heard anything from Big Oil's customer experience experts about walking or riding a bike, taking public transit, or simply driving less.

    Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore in their fascinating new book, Authenticity (which I'll be reviewing here later this week), decry this sort of bleating as “Fake/Fake authenticity” -- in other words, inauthenticity, worse than not saying anything at all. The pitches are false and they're perceived to be false. The problem is, Big Oil doesn't really care. Perhaps its silence would be taken as the most inauthentic thing of all, so used have we become to the oil industry's blaring self-promotion and take-no-prisoners attitude in terms of getting its way.

    I thought I might carry out a collective exorcism and call out all those strategic marketers, ethnographic and market research firms, and customer-experience designers who lend their expertise and earn their livelihoods (and a good deal more) from this in-vain effort to turns sows' ears into silk purses. Shame them into renunciation of their wage slavery. (I too once fed at the teat of Big Oil myself, leading a startup whose software products Big Oil coveted. But as I've learned, there's life after Big Oil.) The task proved too immense. It would be a lot easier to list the relatively few professionals who refuse to serve the Petro Beast.

    But what's the point? It's just one more customer-experience racket we endure for the sake of denial, like Big Media, the Military Industrial Complex, and The National Exceptionalism Myth. When the oil's gone, it's gone. And that will be the end of it. And us?

    (Image: Big Red's Place)

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

    November 5, 2007

    “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.

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    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!...

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    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

    September 4, 2007

    An odd little book: Everyday Engineering: What Engineers See, by Andrew Burroughs

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Everyday EngineeringEveryday Engineering: What Engineers See, by IDEO engineer Andrew Burroughs (Chronicle Books 2007), is an odd little book -- and I do mean odd, it's almost completely pictorial; and little, about 4“ x 6”. It's now part of my permanent collection of design books worth keeping. Why? Because it's a perfect evocation of, as the subtitle says, how engineers see the world of everyday life: as an assortment of things -- objects, assemblages, and machines -- maintained in relation to one another by unseen forces, both manmade and natural.

    Over time, these relationships are altered -- the objects' purposes are sometimes defeated and at other times improved -- in ways that designers and engineers can't always predict. It's the engineers' responsibility, however, to anticipate these vagaries, to make these arrangements work and keep on working -- or if things go really out of kilter, to shut them down and replace them. One would like to think that designers -- a term I use broadly, to include professional designers but also architects, carpenters, industrialists, and other de facto designers -- are the engineers' equal partners in this pursuit. But as the prolific photographs that constitute the main content of Everyday Engineering illustrate, too often this isn't the case.

    Everyday Engineering is a study in visual literacy. Burroughs' foreword and brief introductions for its 17 chapters are too short to fully explain his meanings in every sense. (Part 1 focuses on Creation, Part 2 on Degradation.) I would have liked more of Burroughs' insights and recommendations for how everyday artifacts, machines and processes, should be created and maintained. Instead, he's assembled hundreds of full-color photographs to make a persuasive case for more advance thought on the designers' part before they foist their inventions on the engineers who must convey them to the public. Some are close-ups of obscure elements, others broad landscapes; most are portraits of things.

    Yet it's the unforeseen forces that most need to be elucidated. These are largely implied in the photographs, not explicit. This may be the nature of everyday environments and the their elements, but the delightful website, How Stuff Works, is a more accessible guide for those whose curiosity about everyday life requires more than Burroughs the engineer's visual lyricism. (HSW is about more than engineering. It ranges across mythology, biology, physics, media -- you name it, it lives up to its title.)

    Published by Chronicle Books, at $29.95, Everyday Engineering is pricey. ( currently discounts it to $19.77.) The cover is stylish but impractically constructed of black paper that doesn't resist stains. The pages, however, are substantial. I liked very much the press kit that accompanied Everyday Engineering: it provides a context that increases the reader's appreciation for Burroughs' accomplishment. Perhaps Chronicle Books or IDEO will see fit to incorporate the press kit in a website that allows Burroughs and his readers to more fully explicate their take on everyday engineering and its future.

    I'm placing my copy of Everyday Engineering next to my copy of the 25th-Anniversary Edition of Vintage Books' Tao Te Ching, translated by Gia-Fu Feng and illustrated with photographs by Jane English. The two books' classy illustrations are yin-yang representations of the manmade world and the natural world, respectively. The contrast is remarkable. “Designing with nature” has a long way to go.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Commentary | The Practice of Experience Design

    April 23, 2007

    Edward Castronova announces Ludium II, a Conference-Game on Virtual Worlds and Policy

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Header01Professor Edward Castronova has announced Ludium II, a conference built around a game that will examine virtual worlds and possible policy responses. It's part of his continuing groundbreaking work at Indiana University's Synthetic Worlds Initiative.

    According to Ed, the reigning sage of online-game economics and policy,

    The consensus Platform will emerge from the game CONVENTION that has been designed specifically to help disparate groups of people come to common understandings. The game, designed by Studio Cypher LLC, puts conference attendees in the role of delegates to a political party convention whose objective is to hammer out a common platform. CONVENTION’s incentives will lead the group to a set of policy recommendations believed by most participants to be important, sensible, and feasible.

    The rules of the game are available at

    What a great idea! After all, isn't all policymaking a game to win, in real as well as virtual worlds?

    The Ludium II conference and game will take place June 22-23 at Indiana University. Registration starts today. For more information and to register, visit The Ludium II website.

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

    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.

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    April 2, 2007

    The Experience Is the Product

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    When you can't seem to find the right words to explain what experience design is all about and how it fits into business, point your conversation partner to this fast-paced 4 minute video of Peter Merholz describing the what's important to consider -- how customer experience is something beyond the product itself.

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    March 16, 2007

    More on my search for cases of exemplary experience designs

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

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

    I forgot to add an important category:

    Pageants, Festivals, Rituals, and Spiritual Places and Experiences

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

    (Illustration: Festivals in India)

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

    February 28, 2007

    "Making Meaning": Nathan Shedroff interviewed by Steve Portigal on Core 77

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Broadcasts ShedroffNathan Shedroff, a good friend and author of the first (and so far, only) book on holistic experience design -- aptly entitled, Experience Design 1-- is interviewed by Bay Area ethnographer Steve Portigal on the ever informative design portal, Core 77 (link here for the MP3, 47MB). From the Core 77 introduction:

    Nathan Shedroff, experience design guru, author of the seminal Experience Design 1 and co-author of Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences, sits down with Steve Portigal in San Francisco to talk about the experience and design of experience design. Seriously.

    Shedroff's definition gets things started: “Experience design is an approach to design, and you can use that approach in pretty much any discipline—graphic design or industrial design or interaction design, or retail design. It says the dimensions of experience are wider than what those disciplines normally take into account. And if you think wider—through time, multiple senses and other dimensions—then you can create a more meaningful experience.”

    And he follows it up with the 5 levels of significance:

    1. Function (“Does this do what I want it to do?”)
    2. Price (“There are lots of cars out there to get me from point A to point B”)
    3. Emotion (“That's where lifestyle is engaged. How does this make me feel?”)
    4. Identity or Value (“This is subconscious: ”Would I be caught dead with this?; am I a Nike fan, or an Adidas fan?“)
    5. Meaning (Not ”Is this me?“, but ”Does this fit my reality?“ ”Does this even fit inside the world as I perceive it?“)

    Nathan addresses his talk mainly to commercial designers, but it has universal application to all design disciplines and practices. I understand from Nathan that he's contemplating republishing his book online, in an easier to read format. Nathan: please do!

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Experience Design & Technology | The Practice of Experience Design | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    February 7, 2007

    Fake Authenticity: Ersatz Experience, The Next Big Thing

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    ERSATZ Notwithstanding the imminent Second Coming of Authenticity to the experience economy, where all the world's a stage, a long line of modern philosophers, from Husserl and Nietsche through Heidegger and Sartre, have had a lot to say about what true authenticity is all about -- and it's not about pushing product, making sales, collecting votes, gathering converts, or creating good vibes. It's about being in the world, authentically. Which is harder to do than it sounds, especially as one tries to navigate among all the clever invention and meanings passed off as the real thing.

    But slogging through their work on ontology and phenomenology may be difficult for a generation of marketers -- self-designated “user experience designers,” “customer experience designers,” and just plain “experience designers”-- raised on Truth as revealed by TV anchormen and NY Times columnists; or more recently, rap music, the Internet, and the wisdom of the crowds (i.e., bloggers like me).

    Hermenaut LogoSo I was delighted to discover an article on Hermenaut, the Digest of Heady Philosophy, by Joshua Glenn, “Fake Authenticity: An Introduction.” It appears in Issue 15 of the Hermenaut, which explores Fake Authenticity in the context of the writings of science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick, whose short stories inspired such iconic films as Bladerunner and Minority Report. Glenn's easy to read essay sets the tone for the coming Age of Ersatz.

    The editors designate Dick as Hermenaut of the Month, posthumously. Glenn in an insightful biography of the foresightful author, reports that Dick was fascinated by the “semi-real” -- another term for manufactured authenticity. Realistic fakery, which is apparently what's in store for us all.

    Parenthetically, although I'm skeptical of many premises regarding intentional authenticity, I do like experience-economy evangelist (
    or “E3,” an interesting coincidence) Joe Pine's article on “Architecture in the Experience Economy” on DesignIntelligence -- if you discount the possibility of there being an “authentic architecture,” a concept Glenn destroys -- makes a lot of sense. Designed places aren't necessarily authentic, but they're a hell of a lot more fun to co-create and inhabit than the designed buildings, architectural ego trips, in which most of us must spend most of our time.

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

    January 19, 2007

    Maybe ad agencies don't get it, after all

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Closed SignI hope I'm not a Cassandra. Only months after I praised the advertising industry for acknowledging the value of full-featured experience design, Interpublic Group, one of the world's largest advertising combines, dissed its pioneering Consumer Experience Practice. MediaPost's Joe Mandese broke the news(“Interpublic Shutters New Media Practice”).

    While the eight-person unit was beginning to generate genuine insights, it was also incurring significant costs without a clear revenue stream back to Interpublic, pitting it in a political quagmire with other operating units doing similar research tied directly to client business. Under [Nick] Brien's helm, Universal McCann in particular has amassed an array of new research techniques and products that one insider termed “duplicative” with those of the Consumer Experience Practice. Universal also has been rebuilding a formidable communications practice and is getting close to announcing some of the fruits of those labors.

    The full story remains to be told. No doubt corporate politics and power plays had something to do with it: within IPG, CEP executives Stacey Lynn Koerner and Lydia Loizides were intellectually avant-garde. Koerner was with IPG for a decade, always pushing the envelope. Loizides was a relative newcomer, from the new-media world. But more indicative is the issue of ROI. Old line marketers and ad agencies still have a problem with developing new knowledge that can't be sold, unlike Google and other new-media leaders that correctly perceive in knowledge a currency more valuable than dollars. Knowledge can be exchanged for more knowledge, which in turn creates generative value (nearly infinite). IPG told Mandese that it intends to press on with innovations like its LA-based Emerging Media Lab -- which, for the life of me, looks like a sparsely-equipped college research lab -- and more client-linked research initiatives like those of its main competitors, Publicis (click at your own risk, the Flash crashed my Powerbook) and Omnicom. Bon chance.

    Meanwhile, while we wait for the other shoe to drop, you can read Loizides' ever-interesting and provocative observations on her blog, Media Technology Futures. I do and either learn something new, or gain a new insight, with almost every posting. Her postings from CES were great.

    I hope CEP's closure isn't a trend, but with so much breathless “new research” taking place, much of which is useful, but much more of which is duplicative, I sense a bubble bursting.

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

    Much, much, MUCH ado about nothing: “Billions for toothpaste advertising, but not a penny for floss!”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Awhile back on this blog, in “Finding experience in a tube of toothpaste,” I critically considered GlaxoSmithKline's multi-multi-million-dollar investment in the development and promotion of AquaFresh Toothpaste, which it hopes will best rivals Colgate (Colgate-Palmolive) and Crest (Proctor & Gamble). I concluded that despite GSK's sizable investment, Tom's of Maine does a better job at creating the warm fuzzies that make customers seek and stay with its products.

    17Adco.1901Now it turns out that P&G's back in the fray, reports the New York Times' Louise Kramer. “In a Battle of Toothpastes, It's Information v. Emotion,” Kramer describes P&G's massive $100 million roll out of Crest Pro-Health, which certainly sounds healthy but really doesn't have much more to recommend it than the toothpaste it allegedly betters, Colgate Total. Colgate's counter-punching with its own nine-figure advertising campaign.

    Like most consumers, I can't keep all of these shelf space-stealing brands in my head, so pardon me if I observe that the billion-plus dollars going into North American toothpaste advertising have basically one function: to make the owners of Saatchi & Saatchi and Young & Rubicam (Publicis and WPP, respectively) and their counterparts a lot richer, and the rest of us a lot more confused. The ad agencies like to pin the blame on the consumer, that intrepid seeker of facts about toothpaste who demands more, more! I doubt it.

    Much ado about nothing. A billion dollars is a lot of money to push goo that lubricates your toothbrush, applies meager amounts of medicinal material, and most importantly, tastes good. These companies can't find anything better to do with it? How about educating kids (and adults, a tougher mission) to eat less sugary foods? Or initiating programs to train people how to use floss, which would be infinitely more valuable to dental hygiene? Oops, I forgot, there's no shareholder ROI in that!

    HappytoothWhat Brooke Shields, whose white-capped smile graces the Colgate ads, has to do with dental health is beyond me.

    Oh yeah, she's a mother as well as an occasional actress. She knows what kids need.

    I prefer to get my toothpaste advice from Colgate's original spokesthing, Happy Tooth, from my Howdy Doody days. Happy Tooth knows: It's been there.

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

    December 13, 2006

    Time Warner Communications gets customer experience right

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Too few companies get customer experience right. “Customer experience” is a hidden component of experience design, how an organization -- governmental, commercial, or membership -- employs social processes, standards for employee interactions with customers and the like, to enhance and deepen relationships with its customers, constituents, or members. It's common these days for organizations to rely on market researchers, ethnographers, communication experts, and CRM (customer relationship management) technology to develop complex systems for improving the customer experience. But often, a simple phone call or email communication with a customer is more effective and easier to implement on a continuous basis. This simple method requires a motivated staff that knows its customers inside and out.

    Time Warner CableBut some companies do get it right. A case in point: Time Warner Cable (TWC). In this regard, in the past, large communication companies have been no one's favorites. The The phone companies', TV networks', and early cable TV operators' past poor management of customer experience -- a vice of which cellular phone companies are now most guilty -- has tainted the image of all communication providers. But my recent experience with TWC was definitely heartening.

    My lovely city and hometown, Santa Monica -- now often referred to as “Hollywood West,” for all the media that's moved here in the last decade -- used to be served by Adelphia Cable, a company that provided high-quality service for its customers but not enough profits for its shareholders. (Its owners were convicted of various crimes having to do with financial mismanagement.) Adelphia declared bankruptcy. Recently, it was purchased by TWC. According to all accounts, the switchover strained TWC to the limit. The company did well alerting customers to the coming customer handoff, including telling us about future inspections to ensure proper infrastructure. It did less well, however -- in fact, it did terribly -- preparing us for outages and downtime associated with actual technology porting of its cable TV and Internet services. Also, the changeover of billing and service-order methods confused customers who had little or no warning about the changes. Lastly, the cantankerous but user-friendly Moxi boxes provided by Adelphia to cable TV viewers were swapped out for generic Motorola DVRs, with a loss of navigation and content on which Adelphia customers had become accustomed. All of these taken together resulted in a tidal wave of customer inquiries and complaints that even the City of Santa Monica's telecom officers were unable to staunch. The transitional staff's answer: voicemail and endless waits online, which added fuel to the blaze, not just here but in many cities where TWC was assuming ownership of cable TV systems.

    Cherie and I were two among thousands of TWC's unhappy new Santa Monica customers, many of whom are media industry influentials. A new California law allows telephone companies to provide video service, and many of us, forgetting our past experiences with the phone companies, were seriously considering them as providers. Imagine customer service so bad that it made TWC's inept phone-industry competitors like AT&T (the former SBC) and Verizon (the former General Telephone) look good!

    imagine my pleasure, then, at receiving a personal call from TWC's VP of Community Affairs, Patricia Fregoso-Cox. (The call was arranged by Kate Vernais in Santa Monica's City Manager's Office, to whom I personally complained.) A former Adelphia corporate officer, Patricia told me she was proud of the service Adelphia had maintained despite its stressed financial circumstances and alarmed at the state of affairs as TWC took over. Her answer wasn't to call in consultants. Instead, she seized the bull by the horns and start talking with city officials and their constituents about improving TWC's service in Santa Monica and Southern California generally -- not just the technical service, but the customer experience, too. Patricia told me about TWC's plans to cut response time on the phone and online, explain how the new system works, and even implement a new service that will replace the now-missing navigational assists that Moxi boxes formerly provided for cable TV viewers. Once having done that, it was time to engage technical staff in creating the necessary CRM.

    Patricia was even open to discussing an idea I've had for a long time, since my days as a telecom analyst for the California Legislature: to use the company's cable TV and Internet assets to alert consumers of each when one or the other service was going down. An email to cable TV customers or a visual state-of-the-system on a cable TV channel and the TWC website, informing us of planned maintenance and outages, would go a long way toward dampening dischord among customers (now, almost all of us) who rely on their cable TV for entertainment and information, and their Internet service for conducting business. Patricia further referred a specific problem we were having to a task force empowered to deal with problems, all part of TWC's customer-experience learning process.

    Everything's not fixed yet, but it's getting better. I suspect that most customers who now know the score, like me, will cut TWC some slack, even look forward to coming service improvements. Thanks, TWC and Patricia.

    If you'd like to stay informed of developments in the customer experience arena, check out Karl Long's avant-garde blog on the subject, Experience Curve, and Mark Hurst's always thoughtful Good Experience.

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings | The Practice of Experience Design

    November 30, 2006

    “The Systematic Inefficiencies of Grocery Paths”: Wayfinding amidst the aisles

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Inside-Supermarkets-LargeSomewhere between the bananas and the potato chips, I stop to reflect on my meander through the supermarket. My path seems to alternate between the purposeful and recreational. Sometimes I intensely pursue items on my grocery list, like Frank Buck, the celebrated hunter, “bringing 'em back alive!' Other times, I leisurely cruise the aisles. Often I dawdle among the imported delicacies, like the $120 bottles of Croatian balsamic vinegar, to see how the other half eats. Why such a dichotomy of behaviors?

    An article in the current Knowledge@Wharton summarizes a paper recently published by professors Peter Fader and Eric Breslow, and doctoral student Sam Hui, who set out to answer this question (”The Traveling Salesman Goes Grocery Shopping: The Systematic Inefficiencies of Grocery Paths“). The researchers visited stores and calculated the ”optimal paths“ among products, the most efficient routes necessary to acquire these items and then leave the store. They then studied how 1,000 shoppers adhered to these routes.

    Even allowing for customers' lack of knowledge about the exact location of specific products, shoppers tended to spend more time in stores than efficient shopping required. And we're not just talking about small amounts: almost 70 percent of grocery shoppers' time was spent not buying things.

    Ultimately, the research exposed shopper inefficiency, but it didn't explain it. Is it for fun? To acquire new knowledge? To sample the supermarket's ambience -- which, in the better stores like Whole Foods, is modeled on the country store? Nor is it not clear, for example, which type of shopper is more ”profitable.“

    The Wharton research provides useful empirical descriptions of shoppers' behavior. For example, most shoppers hover on the perimeter of a store, darting into the aisles to make purchases, rather than cruising up and down the aisles, as is commonly the case portrayed in the media and advertisements. (Forget meeting Mr. or Ms. Right in front of the spice rack in back. Try the fried chicken on the hot table up front.) This is prime display space and a good place to sell convenience foods. Common sense, maybe, but now it has scientific validation. John Sherry's ServiceScapes, reviewed on this blog, is another good source of empirical observations, with theory, pertaining to the shopping experience.

    The rewards will be high for those who can explain not just how shoppers act as they do, but why, and how they can be directed. Herb Sorensen, whose shopping-research company provides the RFID-based PathTracker technology used in the Wharton research (watch out, Paco Underhill!), observes, ”There will be a huge growth in the use of in-store media to try to influence the way shoppers navigate a store and what they buy: $300 billion of advertising money will move into the retail space in the next five years.“

    Path analysis as used by the Wharton researchers is a commercial subset of wayfinding an evolving methodology with roots in sailing, architecture, landscape architecture, and environmental design. Wayfinding is a comprehensive means for understanding and aiding human navigation in complex environments, and not just in the material world. In future entries, I'll get more deeply into the practice of wayfinding with help from experts (like Romedi Passini, co-author with the late Paul Arthur of the classic Wayfinding). Feel free to write with inquiries in the meantime.

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

    November 16, 2006

    November 9, 2006

    Finding experience in a tube of toothpaste

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

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

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

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

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

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

    November 8, 2006

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

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

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

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

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

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

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

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

    November 6, 2006

    Core 77's Design 2.0 event, November 15 in Boston, asks, “What should we make?”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Core 77 Design2.0 BosNext week, Core 77, the “industrial design supersite”-plus-online community that's become central to the design profession, is holding its third Design 2.0 event, in Boston on Wednesday, November 15, at Vessel.

    The theme of the event is “Design, Technology, and the Future.” Panelists include John Maeda from MIT Media Lab, Natalie Jeremijenko from UCSD and ITP, Bill Cockayne from Change Research, and Jason Pearson from GreenBlue. Allan Chochinov, Editor of Core77, will be moderating.

    Here's your invitation, by way of a challenge:

    As products and systems become smarter and more technologically imbued, the mandate of the designer is thrown into question. If we can make anything, what should we make? And if all of our activities have consequences -- environmental, economic and social -- what are the opportunities for moving positively into the future? How can we balance serving interests with setting agendas? Join us for a panel discussion on the front lines.

    Design 2.0 will run from 1 PM to 6 PM, with check-in and snacks, presentations, panel discussion, Q&A, networking, and a cocktail reception.
    Click here for more information.

    Pics and podcasts from Core 77's New York and San Francisco Design 2.0 events can be found here.

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

    November 2, 2006

    Women make 80 percent of buying decisions: what's it mean for experience designers?

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    American Gothic“The Buying Power of the 80 Percent Minority,” on today's Talk of the Nation, discusses a central fact of contemporary marketing: women make most of the decisions to buy high-ticket items:

    Women make the household purchases in 80 percent of homes. Now, more and more businesses realize that what women want are power tools, dishwashers, digital cameras, automobiles and houses. Guests discuss how retailers are catering to the way women shop, and changing marketing strategies to appeal to the major purchasing power of women.

    This has been known for a long time, actually. A decade ago, when my VR company was preparing a living-room-sized 3D showroom for a regional hardware chain, the company's executives made sure we understood that women would be making most of the decisions -- no, if I recall, they said “all of the decisions” -- regarding interior design, including purchasing hard goods (like lighting and ventilation) as well as softer items (furniture and draperies).

    One of the TOTN callers-in, a young retail electronics salesman, observed that even in dealing with “Engadget” types of buys, women were better informed, more inquisitive, and ultimately the people who made the buying decision. Males in couples often stood on the sidelines while their female partners did the bargaining -- hard. The show host speculated that men don't want to be one-upped by salespeople, which is how they feel if they have to ask for advice. The same is true, it might be observed, for couples on the road or traveling overseas: who wanders endlessly, and who asks the questions that gets the couple where they're going? You got it: the gal.

    Brand managers lust after the 18-35 male target market . What if they're wrong? What if the 18-35 male cohort is highly visible merely because it watches media -- but it doesn't actually buy the goods advertised thereon? Who's pitching to the women? For that matter, who's pitching to the 35-plus women, especially the Boomer women, who control so much of the society's wealth? Most marketing professionals still talk about target markets in disturbingly vague terms that suggest they don't really know the outcomes of their investments.

    All of this may be critical to marketers, but what does it say for experience designers? Three things:

    • Experiences are almost certainly different for men and women, categorically, outweighing individual differences. Designed experiences must be tested for these differences.

    • Any experience design for a mixed audience must be designed with the assumption that the women's experiences will be decisive, if the point of the experience is a subsequent action on the part of the “experiencers.”

    • Teams of experience designers will benefit by including women who see things in a context that men may not share -- and by taking their advice.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Practice of Experience Design | Theories of Experience

    November 1, 2006

    IDEA 2006 Presentations now available on IDEA conference blog

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Idea-2006-1Proceedings and presentations from IDEA 2006, recently concluded in Seattle, are available for streaming and download on the IDEA conference blog. Featuring a stellar cast of speakers in an appropriately open setting (the Seattle Public Library), the conference proceedings provide an excellent cross-section of theories, design approaches, and practical applications that might constitute an ideal experience-design practice.

    Organizer Peter Merholz offers a thoughtful epilogue -- and a challenge for the future -- on his blog, PeterMe. Peter's blog also features a rousing closing keynote by always-in-the-forefront science-fiction writer Bruce Sterling.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | The Practice of Experience Design | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    October 9, 2006

    Advertising rediscovers experience design: more of the same, or a sea change?

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    As a former advertising creative director (as you may read in my prior entries), I've been giving a lot of thought to the advertising industry, wondering why it hasn't embraced experience design in the same way that the avant-garde design community has -- or at all. But change is in the air.

    Experience design, actually promoted as such, is practiced mainly by individuals and boutique consultancies. As a result, most experience design projects that have been undertaken so far, except for those sponsored by governments or an enlightened corporation, are usually one-offs, invisible to the business world.

    Of course, if you know how to look for it, experience design is taking place all of the time, in virtually every profession. This blog, for example, has featured articles about designed experiences in architecture, product development, exhibitions, customer services, traditional and online communications, landscape architecture and urban design, interior design, and many other fields. But when an experience design project is conducted by industrial designers, it becomes industrial design. When conducted by architects, it becomes architecture. Experience design is cloaked in its practitioners' disciplinary costumes. This has prevented the formation of a formal experience design community large enough to command potential clients' attention or scale practices that can win and execute large projects consistently.

    Because we who style ourselves “experience designers” consider ourselves pioneers, we're prone to look for new developments on the edge of business, not in its mainstream. Though some experience design firms are relatively large -- LRA Worldwide, a customer experience company in Pennsylvania; IDEO, headquartered in the SF Bay Area; and the Design Council's RED, in London, are known to readers of this blog -- but although their projects are emcompassing, even these organizations feel unique, particular, and narrowly focused in terms of their clientele or practice.

    Now the advertising industry is getting into experience design -- baby steps, to be sure, but it's making progress nonetheless, possibly moving experience design into the mainstream.

    Advertising agencies are definitely in the mainstream. They've been designing experiences for large audiences since the birth of the modern advertising profession, 150 years ago. Their media and methods have been limited, however, grown stale over the years. Except for the fact that market research, media, and messages today are more often digital than analog, the business of advertising has remained almost the same since its inception. The modern parade of Edgy, Ironic, and Cute advertising is more impressive for its quantity than for its quality. And people are turning off. Media consumption is at a record high, but attention to commercial messages is low. Advertisers must resort to crude devices like product placements in films and TV shows, information planted on Internet blogs and forums (“buzz”), and guys waving arrows at intersections to compete for the small proportion of their attention that consumers are still willing to share.

    Responding equally to this crisis and to the opportunities brought on by technological and social change, the advertising profession has opened to the possibility of a more systematic approach to experience design. Three new initiatives illustrate the variety of these approaches: Interpublic Group's (IPG) Consumer Experience Practice, Publicis Groupe's Denuo, and the independent Brand Experience Lab. (IPG and Publicis are two of the world's largest advertising combines.)

    Interpublic Logo-1You'd think it almost stealth, so unremarked upon is IPG's Customer Experience Practice (CEP) by IPG itself. CEP, founded in February 2006, is led by IPG senior executive Stacey Lynn Koerner, now president of CEP. It's staffed with a handful of “consumer-centric” experts drawn from within IPG but mainly outside hires including vice president Lydia Loizides, whose Techie and the Media blog provides insights to the unit's interests. Currently, the CEP, among other things, gathers “buzz” about forthcoming media happenings (like new TV shows) and shares that information with its clients (who may include other IPG units, it's not clear) regarding new trends. Located in IPG's Media group, CEP is complemented (I think) by the also new Emerging Media Lab (EML), with a broad mandate to explore the future of media -- but which seems at least temporarily stuck in the online world. Studying popular and online media by no means constitutes a fleshed-out experience-design practice, but it's a start. I think Lydia Loizides' recent blog entry, “Extension Versus Creation: What Does Technology Actually Do?”), sets a direction. Now if only all the oars will pull in the same direction....

    Denuo Logo-1At about the same time that CEP was formed, Publicis was rolling out Denuo, a “futures practice.” Denuo is led by Rishad Tobaccowalla, Denuo's CEO and Publicis Groupe Media's chief innovation officer; and president Nick Pahade, who directs the unit. It has about 15 staff members, approximately equal to the size of IPG's CEP and EML, recruited from the wireless, Web, and videogaming industries. Despite an exuberant (though overly “ad-ish”) mission statement on its homepage (“Denuo gets to the future first, making tomorrow tangible today”), Denuo displays the same fixation on “new media” that characterizes many large communications firms now getting into the futures game. Digital developments rightfully command everyone's attention, as a new phenomenon of unknown dimensions. But it's a strangely asymmetrical fascination for advertisers, because (as experience designers constantly, but obviously so far ineffectually, point out), most people's experience is not digitally mediated, not even as consumers. Nevertheless, dealing with social issues raised by the digital onslaught inevitably will drag Denuo and the others into the larger realm of experience. Expect its team to grow and mutate in an experience design shop when it encounters this irresistible force.

    Brand Experience Lab Logo-1The third model, and the one I find most appealing for its holism, is the Brand Experience Lab (BEL) founded by virtual-worlds pioneer David Polinchock, BEL's founder, chairman, and chief experience officer; and CEO Barry Grieff, an entertainment marketing entrepreneur. It's an unabashedly experience-design firm with some seriously exciting projects underway, like this one described in AdWeek (quoted on the BEL blog, Experience Manifesto (aka The Experience Economist):

    In shopping centers, Mindshare sibling The Wow Factory, a nontraditional ad specialist, teamed with high-tech brand firm Brand Experience Lab to create displays for malls that transmit “sonic blankets” of broadcast-quality audio. Wow president Connie Garrido said that laser-activated motion-detector technology triggers the audio when shoppers pass by the display, but the sound is contained to just within that “blanket” of space, so it doesn't echo throughout the mall.

    It's the first time the technology has been used for advertising, and Sunsilk has an option to retain the technique exclusively through 2007, she said. Some mall operators were concerned it would be disruptive to shoppers, but the feedback so far has been positive, said Garrido. The transmitted voiceovers address hair issues (e.g., “My hair is poofier than my bridesmaid dress”) that reflect the visual message.

    Sex and the City co-star Mario Cantone, who played the sassy, raspy-voiced “gay friend” Anthony, is the voice of the effort. “The audio and the tone of the campaign is very distinctive, and we looked for a way to incorporate that audio into the media in ways that had never been done before,” Noble said.

    Calling BEL a “high-tech brand firm” confuses metaphors and misses BEL's point, which is to deeply understand culture and think creatively about how people use technology in this context. David is a regular contributor to Paula Thornton's Experience Design newsgroup, and based on his posts there and a history in the design of virtual worlds (which he and I share), BEL is squarely among the ranks of experience designers.

    Alas, BEL is yet only a boutique, but it's crossing a chasm to educate and inspire the larger advertising community. This move is not without risk, given the insularity of the advertising profession. In today's posting to Experience Manifesto, Polinchock quotes an editorial that appeared in today's Advertising Age (not available without a subscription). The editors had just attended Advertising Week 2006, a major industry blow-out in Philadelphia:

    Talk about a squandered opportunity: Titans of the media industry turned out to speak at Advertising Week - and had nothing to say.

    There was an all-star lineup for many sessions that offered many worthwhile lessons and tidbits; Tom Schumacher even got the famously private John Wren to open up. But when push came to shove, about the most provocative comment made during the industry's recent confab was Martha Stewart's remark that her lawyer wanted her to waffle.

    It's a regrettable commentary on an industry supposedly on the bleeding edge of popular culture, one that gives a lot of lip service to calls for action and motivating the consumer. And it is by no means limited to Advertising Week; far too many of the usual conferences have served up smart speakers who stick to safe topics and warmed-over case studies.

    Whatever happened to the industry's paradigm-shifters? The advertising world is in the throes of the biggest upheaval since the advent of TV, and the revolutionaries are nowhere to be found. Instead, there are predictable arguments from predictable sources: The old-media mavens espouse the importance of integrated solutions with new media, and new-media moguls chatter politely about spreading the wealth with network TV. Just once we'd like to hear a broadcast-booster bash the whole concept of broadband marketing or the other way around. At least it would get a decent debate going.

    Of course, it takes courage to be an agitator. And that's exactly what's needed to stimulate an industry on the brink of an entirely new, if you'll forgive us, advertising age.

    At this writing, the Association of National Advertisers' meeting hasn't convened yet in Orlando. (It will be wrapped up by the time you're reading this.) Without benefit of hindsight, we are hoping that the reinvention and innovation theme -- and a roster including keynoter A.G. Lafley and big-thinking creative minds such as Russ Klein and James McDowell -- will generate a much-needed provocative spark.

    The industry most certainly needs one.

    Ah, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Or do they? One of my favorite Taoist sayings is, “You never step into the same river twice.” Here's to advertising's rediscovery of experience design -- this time around, “consumer-centric” experience design -- with, one hopes, attention paid to the full range of human potential and experience.

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

    Advertising spending moves back to the real world

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Erik Sass, in Online Media Post, summarizes a new Blackfriars report that claims companies are “slashing” their Web marketing budgets by a third this year. In the same article, it's revealed that offline marketing budgets have increased by more than 100 percent.

    This change may be a recognition that only so much can be accomplished online: most people still live most of their lives offline, and that's where the action is. It may also signal a shift to advertising directed more to niche-market websites and social networks based on real-world interests, away from large horizontal portals and social networks. The “niches” generally offer access to their more active members (more active commercially as well as socially) at lower prices -- an irresistible bargain.

    Was it a coincidence that I saw a decline in my member network on MySpace today, maybe by a million fewer members?

    Naw, I must be mistaken, MySpace's member network never declines. (Why not?)

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

    October 3, 2006

    Service as a journey: Doors of Perception weblog

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    I'm compelled to share this from European experience-design sage John Thackara's Doors of Perception. John writes about service design for public entities, primarily in the UK, but much of his commentary applies to commercial service design, also; and in places other than Europe:

    Thackara Portraithome-2SERVICE AS A JOURNEY

    (John reviews The journey to the interface: how public service design can connect users to reform. By Sophia Parker and Joe Heapy. Demos, London, 2006.)

    Is service design the next big thing after e-everything? If the recent surge in books and conferences is a guide, service design is at least a meme – if not yet a mania.

    The trouble is, it can’t possibly be new. Seventy percent of the UK economy is ‘services’, for goodness sake, so someone must have designed them. Service designers look foolish when they claim to be inventing a new profession.

    What’s new is an interest in existing public services as potential subjects of re-design. “All service organisations need to find new ways of connecting intimately with their users and customers” say Sophia Parker and Joe Heapy, in a new booklet. They’ve written down a set of service design principles that offer “fresh approaches to organisations seeking to close the gap what they do, and what people want and need”.

    Do such virtuous organisations exist? The Italians have a great word – “managerialita” – for the obsession with process and targets that so mesmerise politicians and officials. I recently started working with the UK public sector for the first time in thirteen years. The application to what is basically a cultural project (Dott 07) of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), evaluation protocols, and risk assessment has been, to be frank, bizarre. The fact that everyone around me finds this stuff to be normal is almost as scary as the stuff itself.

    ...continue reading.

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    October 2, 2006

    Fashion Today: Less “Project Runway,” more “Corporate Strategy”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    1101060910 400Clothes make the person -- or rather, the persona. Time's Fall 2006 Style & Design Supplement: "Going for Gold, The Art of the Luxury Deal,“ explains why luxury fashion -- haute couture that's increasingly taken from the streets, refined, given elite prices, and then sent back down the social pyramid -- is no longer the exclusive province of fashion designers. Increasingly, corporations are determining what gets absorbed into the luxury fashion melange before being dispensed to the rest of us. In ”Who's Got the Power?“ Marion Hume observes:

    ONCE UPON A TIME, FASHION WAS A BUSINESS defined solely by creative talent. A bubble skirt, a padlocked handbag or any other commercial success was attributed to the ”artiste“ who sketched out his or her dreams and somehow, with just a hemline or a dangly tchotchke, was able to seize the zeitgeist and magically send millions of cash registers ringing. Every six months, newspapers and fashion journals would feature quaint headlines announcing the dictates of those creative types—PARIS SAYS PANTS! Nobody paid much attention to the anxious number crunchers in the back offices studiously poring over sales estimates and marketing budgets.

    That was then.

    Global luxury has wrought billion-dollar businesses and dizzying amounts of dealmaking—which means that today's fashion stars aren't only those manufactured in schools like London's Central Saint Martins or New York City's Parsons. A whole new breed of fashion influencers are formed at hard-core business schools like Harvard, HEC, ESSEC and Bocconi where the syllabus doesn't include patternmaking but rather an altogether different kind of intangible skill set, namely the ability to manage intensely creative talent. Dior president Sidney Toledano, a graduate of the top French engineering school ECP, compares the structure of his company and his role within it to a nuclear power plant: the brand is the sun, the source of raw energy, the designer supplies the radium to set off fusion, and those highly skilled managers run the plant.

    It turns out the managers aren't just managing the talent; they're directing it. Those trendy dresses and rustic jeans we wear as publicly illustrative tokens of our fashion sense aren't necessarily a designer's dream. They could very well be the result of a textile plant manager in China, where much of the world's clothing is produced, recommending -- prior to the designs being drawn up for the luxury crowd -- that knockoffs will be more economically produced if the luxury design conforms to thus and so. What's so luxurious about haute-couture if it's the consuming hoi poloi that's calling the shots via its purchases at Wal-Mart? God Lord, it's fashion socialism, and the global corporations are waving the flag of revolution!

    The Supplement's two-dozen articles are available online, written and illustrated in the esteemed Time tradition but spunked up for a younger breed of readers. They got and kept my surprised attention. Hey, except for adoring Heidi Klum's Project Runway (which I appreciate even more after reading the Supplement), what does fashion mean to me? A lot, I learned. Or it should. Our clothing is the most intimate projection of our personalities that others experience, short of the bedroom. Knowing from whence fashion choices arise is real power. Being able to avoid the banal and achieve a truly authentic presentation of one's self is no mean feat.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Odds and Ends: Random Observations | The Practice of Experience Design

    “Human Directionals” enliven the drive-by environment

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Main LgYou know those guys who flap their arrows to get your attention at real estate developments and corner malls? NPR's Jennifer Sharpe has produced a fascinating audio documentary, “'Human Directionals' Twirling for Your Attention,” that sympathetically portrays this odd breed, the auto generation's equivalent of the street barker. On the same page is a link to the QuickTime movie, Street Moves, about “Active Advertiser” Steven Meyer. For Meyer, who was disabled, human directionalism turned his life around and made him a local celebrity with a sizable clientele.

    BTW, I've witnessed Phil Parks, the human directional captured by Sharpe in the thumbnail above, in action. I pulled over and just watched. He's an arrow with a bullet. I already patronize his client, an online rental exchange -- but if I didn't, I'd certainly motivate in its direction.

    Human directionals. Back to the basics. Designing experience one twirl at a time. (But notice their digital accoutrements!)

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

    September 25, 2006

    Mark Vanderbeeken of Experientia interviewed on the practice of experience design (IIT Institute of Design's engageID)

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Mark Experientia Colleague Mark Vanderbeeken of the Torino-based experience-design firm, Experientia, is interviewed by Enric Gili Fort on engageID, the student newsletter of the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The extensive interview covers many topics salient to practitioners of the emerging discipline, including the leading role of European governments in promoting experience design. At one point, Enric asks Mark about the challenges facing experience design firms (and design firms in general), to which Mark replies:

    Challenges are always opportunities. The question is how to make them work for you, how to define yourself within the context of these challenges. Let me describe a few we have come across.

    First of all, people still often think of design as an aesthetic activity that makes a good product look great. Italians for instance have a very important tradition in that and are known for it globally. The experience design approach is of course much more about a way of thinking a problem, doing research and then solving it, rather than about making something look good. The “design as a methodology” approach is still fairly new here, but also quite logical, once you explain it to it. But the leap is not so big either. Many product designers have architectural training, especially in Italy. Architects are trained in a methodological approach. Many younger firms are now actively engaged in participatory design.

    A second challenge we are facing with some companies, but definitely not all, is a short-term financial logic, where usability can be perceived as an added cost, rather than an investment into a strong product. This is changing though.

    A third challenge is the structure of European companies, who are not always used to combine their R&D work with their marketing activities. Experience design addresses both, or better transforms both. Unlike the typical R&D department, experience design is not technology driven, but people driven, and unlike the typical marketing department, it is based on what people actually do, rather than what they say they do. Sometimes we work with the top management.

    Fourth, technology is often seen as the territory of engineers, and this is not just the case in Europe. There are many excellent engineers but they do not always have a people-centered or design minded professional methodology. Companies and public institutions can sometimes spend much energy on technologically splendid projects that people for some reason do not want to use. The step to a more people-centered approach might seem obvious, but is not always straightforward. If we want to change that, we need to know how to best talk with engineers, we have to understand the 'engineer' way of thinking, but also not be afraid of setting out a human-centered vision.

    In fact, all these challenges are cultural challenges. Part of our role as experience designers is therefore helping to bring about a new culture of innovation, not just through our work but also through our public engagement in the social role of design. At Experientia we communicate a lot, run seminars, and organize lectures. We organized last year the first World Usability Day event in Italy (, which was very well attended, and we are doing it again this year. And we are editing an entire issue of UX Magazine (the members publication of the Usability Professionals' Association) on usability and governance.

    Our main challenge as experience designers is how to define our new role within the society we are part of. I think we should not shy away from the larger discourse on regional innovation. We are working within a social and economic context and we have to take on our responsibility of helping to change some of that context through a more human-centered approach.

    Well put. Of course, these challenges are not exclusive to experience design firms in Europe. Here in the U.S., where design is being called upon for everything from overall corporate strategy and accelerated innovation to solving issues of communication and brand management, the challenges Mark cites and their solutions are perhaps more profound due to creative turmoil in the field.

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

    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 14, 2006

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

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

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

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

    E-Democracy is aimed at public authorities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    September 11, 2006

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

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    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

    September 5, 2006

    “The Physical Attributes of A Well-Designed Workplace” (from the Future of Work Agenda Newsletter)

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Logo-2-1The September issue of Jim Ware and Charlie Firestone's Future of Work Agenda Newsletter features several articles, unusual for their content but not the passion that Ware and Firestone bring to their advocacy for better working conditions. There are articles on distributed work (why there should be more of it), on fear of the future (why there should be less of it), a bonus article by architectural strategists Barbara Armstrong and Mark Sekula, “The Physical Attributes of A Well-Designed Workplace” (an excerpt follows), and more. You can subscribe to the the Future of Work Agenda Newsletter at the Future of Work website.

    The Physical Attributes Of A Well-Designed Workplace

    by Barbara Armstrong and Mark Sekula

    Barbara Armstrong, Principal, and Mark Sekula, Associate Principal, are senior workplace strategists with Kahler Slater Architects of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

    The work of today is drastically different than the work processes that supported the industrial revolution. Today’s product – knowledge – requires a different environment in which it can be “produced,” nurtured, and shared.

    Based on our experience as workplace designers, along with our research and review of current literature regarding workplace design, productivity, and business trends, we established a list of physical attributes associated with a well-designed workplace. We focused on those issues that may have the most significant impact on knowledge workers.

    We believe that the fourteen attributes described below are those that have the biggest positive impact on the physical workplace, and that individually and collectively contribute to productivity measurements and bottom-line performance. Understanding these attributes and their impact also can help to create a compelling business case to seek improvements in your own work environment.

    In research by BOSTI (Buffalo Organization for Social and Technological Innovation), as reported in “Dispersing Widespread Myths about Workplace Design,” the following three qualities were considered to have the strongest effect on job satisfaction. We believe they stand out as key attributes to measure:

    * The ability to perform distraction free work as an individual;
    * The ability to perform undistracted group/team work; and
    * Having environments that support collaboration and impromptu interaction

    An individual’s ability to perform his or her job efficiently and effectively is substantially influenced by a number of physical environment factors that can be affected by good design and planning. These attributes include:

    * Attention to thermal comfort;
    * Direct visual access to daylight;
    * Attention to glare factors;
    * Proactive attention to ergonomics; and
    * Workspace size allocations by functional needs, not hierarchy.

    We believe that several attributes can either enhance or create challenges to productivity:

    * Appropriate adjacencies to support workflow;
    * Simple and clear way finding, i.e., understandable spatial organization; and
    * Ease of accommodations to adapt to changing technology

    While overall well-being and health can be influenced by simple attributes such as;

    * Flexibility of workspace to accommodate personal work styles; and
    * The inclusion of a professionally maintained live green plant program.

    In our recent research of companies designated as Best Places to Work, we found that an important attribute in achieving a well-designed workplace is:

    * The expression and manifestation of the organization’s culture

    We believe that the benefits to achieving a well-designed workplace can be measured in many non-physical ways. With the changing workforce demographics, it is wise to use every available means to attract and retain top talent to your organization and to leverage that diverse talent to be creative and innovative. Using your workplace as an asset to achieve these goals makes good business sense.

    The physical workplace can be a critical factor in the success of an organization. It is an important factor in supporting an organization’s business initiatives and it can be proven to be an effective tool to improve performance, rather than being seen only as a cost of doing business. The physical workplace is often the second-largest asset of an organization; this asset can be used to effectively attract and retain talent, typically the first major asset of any organization.

    In today’s world, the role of the workplace is about:

    * Enabling new ways for people to work within an organization;
    * Valuing the individual;
    * Implementing new technology;
    * Shifting or reinforcing culture and change;
    * Leveraging facilities as assets;
    * Facilitating faster and more simple change; and
    * Achieving financial objectives - tracking how workplace changes help achieve the organization’s goals.

    The complete report on Armstrong and Sekula's research, “What Makes A Great Workplace,” is available by e-mailing your request to Mark Slater.

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    September 2, 2006

    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

    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 9, 2006

    July 27, 2006

    “Turning the Future”: A welcome new book on futuristics

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Wwbigsmile Copy-2Futurist and long-time friend Glen Hiemstra (who actually owns the URL!) has announced the publication of his new book, Turning the Future Into Revenue. (I'm pretty sure that the title didn't originate with Glen, but rather some Wiley marketing geek.) Turning the Future is actually a deep investigation of futuristics: how we think about the future; how the future shapes our current behavior; and what we can do to benefit by a more thoughtful approach to the future, as a concept and as an inevitable but never completely knowable reality. Glen, a Strategic Partner of the Club of Amsterdam, lives in the Pacific Northwest but has become a global opinion leader. His book is an important new statement of the futurists' creed.

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    July 25, 2006

    This new design jobsite rocks! Coroflot, by the folks who brought you Core 77.

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Want a job in design, and specifically, experience design? Check out the new Coroflot, launched by Core77's Allan Chochinov and his colleagues. (That's Allan at the podium in this pic from Design 2.0.)

    111941311 226857D43E MPost a profile (with your portfolio, if you have graphic or audio samples of your work), enjoy the great features -- as befits a class design website -- and see who's looking for someone with your talents. This jobsite rocks!

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

    John Thackara's Power Laws Of Innovation

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    In Power Laws Of Innovation, Doors of Perception's John Thackara offers his thoughts on successful collaborative innovation.

    Thackara Portraithome-1I'm at a Cursos De Verano (summer school) near Madrid. Just down the corridor, a bunch of senior generals are discussing “the Army of the 21st Century”. Next to them, some egg-head priests are discussing “the Church of the 21st Century”. Our lot is doing “Innovation of the 21st Century” and I promised to post the following Power Laws before the Church and State guys leave town.

    Power Law 1: Don’t think “new product” - think social value.

    Power Law 2: Think social value before “tech.”

    Power Law 3: Enable human agency. Design people into situations, not out of them.

    Power Law 4: Use, not own. Possession is old paradigm.

    Power Law 5: Think P2P, not point-to-mass.

    Power Law 6: Don’t think faster, think closer.

    Power Law 7: Don’t start from zero. Re-mix what's already out there.

    Power Law 8: Connect the big and the small.

    Power Law 9: Think whole systems (and new business models, too).

    Power Law 10: Think open systems, not closed ones.

    John is one of my heroes of experience design and collaborative innovation. John's “business website” is just as interesting and in many ways, more personally revealing, than his Doors website. Be sure to visit.

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    July 21, 2006

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

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

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

    Puolakka offers this observation regarding the deployment of experience design:

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

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

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

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

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

    July 14, 2006

    LRA Worldwide, a customer experience firm “that gets it”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Lra Logo Top MenuRob Rush is the CEO of LRA Worldwide, Inc., located in a suburb of Philadelphia, PA. Until Rob contacted me -- with nice words to say about Total Experience -- I didn't know about LRA or that it was in the “customer experience management” business, with an impressive array of clients and a long list of projects completed in their behalf. I'm glad that Rob got in touch. LRA is every experience designer's dream: a thriving company that validates the vision shared by many in the experience design community, but heretofore largely unrealized.

    What's LRA about? Here's how it describes its primary activity, Customer Experience Management, or CEM:

    Customer Experience Management is a relatively new term with a number with a number of different interpretations in the marketplace. Our view of Customer Experience Management, however, is quite simple. Every time a company and a customer interact, the customer learns something about the company that will either strengthen or weaken the future relationship and that customer’s desire to return, spend more and recommend. LRA's customer experience management consultants identify each of these “moments of truth,” ensuring that the company and its people, products, processes and culture are aligned across all of these “touch points” to best serve the customer... based on what is most important to that customer.

    I like that. Simple, concise, and easy to understand. But then, that's what these guys are all about: understanding.

    Karl Long, on his ever insightful Experience Curve blog, seconds my impression that LRA is an experience design firm of a type we haven't seen before. In an exchange with me on Paula Thornton's Experience Design newsgroup, in which I compared LRA with better-known “experience design” companies like IDEO and BRC Imagination Arts, Karl had this to say:

    What [LRA does] is engage at the right level in companies to help change happen across departments and organizations. IMHO, the IDEO's and BlastRadius-type companies can create staged experiences, but they don't have the influence at the right level across all departments.

    LRA is truly in the “customer experience management” space.

    To which he added,

    Don't you think if they wanted to move into “experience creation,” they would need some distinct skills that they probably don't have now, a kind of imagineering division?

    Well, yes, Karl, I do.

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

    July 9, 2006

    June 25, 2006

    June 16, 2006

    The Experience of Work

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Alarm ClockAnyone who's been self-employed knows the terror of time. For the self-employed, there is no time clock, but there are no vacations, either. Because time is endless, it's tempting to put off necessary tasks and do something more enjoyable. There's always time to get the job done, later on. It's even more difficult for those of us engaged in professions with a large social component. A writer I heard on the Marketplace radio program, a self-proclaimed workaholic, tackled the issue after his son moved back home and just sat in front of the TV, not working. Not working? Not working! Then he realized that as a writer about culture, he himself always took time in the morning to read the New York Times. Then listen to the NPR news. Then take a brisk walk. Then check out CNN. After lunch and some modest writing, he listens to Fresh Air. Over dinner, NPR news again. And because he's writing about society, he watches the iconic The Sopranos. There's virtue in not working, he discovered. But little pay. (BTW, if any reader recognizes the book, which was published recently, please tell me the title and author's name.)

    Being self-employed results in spurts of productive activity that are heavily leavened with unaccountability and slackery. In my experience, the spurts result in dramatic creativity and innovation. But slackery is always an issue.

    ChildmillsThe genius of the Industrial Age was the invention of employers who organized people's work lives to gain maximum management control and, allegedly, higher productivity (income from sales/investment in labor, i.e., employees). Mumford believed that this practice had its origins in agrarian Europe, when large town clocks were installed that could be heard in the fields, signalling the serfs when to plow the sod. (For a wonderful iconography of the clock, see designer Christian Hubert's Clock.) Whenever it began, industrial organization results in a continuous stream of tasks being assigned and undertaken. When Henry Ford combined this process of rationalizing workers' time with the assembly line, he invented mass production (an invention that radical sociologist Antonio Gramsci lovingly named Fordism”). It was only a matter of time (there's that word again) until all employees became subject to its dictates.

    Hdr 760 Thurs 930Now almost all companies require continuous labor from their employees, allowing only for lunches, vacations, maternal and military leave (only because they're legislated), and occasional bouts of shopping online. The modest time that workers formerly used for personal purposes is now monitored, in the factory and in the office. The result in the office is a sensation like standing under a waterfall, with reports and phone calls and email cascading down -- and the flow seems eternal. You can step out at day's end, but you're going to get drenched again tomorrow. That sort of monotony ("single-tonedness") is one of the reasons why a show like The Office(in both the UK and American versions) is so successful: its portrayal of the workplace as a modern hell bathed in florescent tedium and spiced with lots of acting out, petty aggression, resignation, and despair, is too familiar. People watch it with a sense of resignation or, if they're still unbowed, ressentiment (the French suggesting a more anarchistic attitude).

    The result of this hyper-management isn't heightened productivity; it's antipathy. The experience of paid work today -- not necessarily the tasks themselves, but the social and material environment in which tasks are carried out -- is not usually a good one. Even the "creative elite" sweats it out on the job.

    LogoMy friends Charlie Grantham and Jim Ware head The Future of Work, a membership organization dedicated to improving the experience of work in America. No easy task. But Future of Work claims it reduces the cost of operations and workforce support -- the costs that employers absorb as a result of their employees' poor working experiences -- by more than 30 percent. Charlie and Jim aren't efficiency experts or union busters (in fact, both are progressives). They focus on the experience of work. Working with employees and employers, they engage in active learning based on dissecting the workplace and then redesigning work according to criteria different from those of industrialism's primitives. Often, this has to do with the physical environment, but the social environment is often more decisive. For more information on Charlie's and Jim's activities, visit their Future of Work Weblog. I suspect they're on to something, but their ambition isn't one shared widely in North America and except for labor oases like Northern Europe, almost unknown everywhere else. Here's to their essential campaign for redesign and reform.

    There's more to be said about work which is, next to sleep, our most frequently recurring experience. What's your experience of work?

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    Don Norman: “Words Matter. Talk About People: Not Customers, Not Consumers, Not Users”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Don Norman
    In “Words Matter. Talk About People: Not Customers, Not Consumers, Not Users,” Don Norman, the Dean of Experience Design, admonishes designers who degrade people by describing (and thinking of them) as repositories -- “customers, consumers, and users” -- who passively accept the riches that marketers, business development types, and too many designers bestow on them. It would be ironic for experience designers to speak of people in this way, for it is people who have experiences, not impersonalized business terminology. Though he doesn't say so explicitly, to extend Don's thinking, speaking of people as personas is another unfortunate and misleading shortcut. Here's an excerpt from Don's important declaration:

    Words matter. Psychologists depersonalize the people they study by calling them “subjects.” We depersonalize the people we study by calling them “users.” Both terms are derogatory. They take us away from our primary mission: to help people. Power to the people, I say, to repurpose an old phrase. People. Human Beings. That’s what our discipline is really about.

    If we are designing for people, why not call them that: people, a person, or perhaps humans. But no, we distance ourselves from the people for whom we design by giving them descriptive and somewhat degrading names, such as customer, consumer, or user. Customer – you know, someone who pays the bills. Consumer – one who consumes. User, or even worse, end user – the person who pushes the buttons, clicks the mouse, and keeps getting confused.

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    June 15, 2006

    June 14, 2006

    Service Innovation Through Design Thinking

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    The best 37 minutes you can spend — with the CEO of IDEO, Tim Brown, from a March 2006 presentation. But for those of you too busy to sit still for 37 minutes, here’s all the important stuff…

    …what’s resonating with business today is actually that design is a really valuable way of tackling a lot of different business and creative issues. And that it can be a way into tackling problems that organizations have struggled with, often for a long time.

    For many companies, design and design thinking is more of a way that they tackle thinking about their future. It’s a way that they move intentionally into their future in many different ways. We certainly are finding many organizations using design thinking as a way to embark on strategy — or a way to think about their future and where their future may lead them. Strategy is no longer the domain only of the management consultant, but today is also a space in which a designer plays an important role.
    Service organizations are about, ‘How do we relate to customers in ways such that we deliver value?’, and design is a great way of thinking about that.
    I think there’s a difference between design thinking and design. Designers use design thinking, but lots of other people use design thinking too. There are components of design thinking, there are pieces of design thinking which are highly applicable in many different places.
    In the work that I do it’s the relationship between design thinking and design & innovation that’s incredibly important. It’s been a really large piece of what’s brought design to business in new ways.
    We can’t, as designers, assume that we ‘own’ innovation. We’re not the only people that innovate.
    [see diagram below] Essentially that whole space is available for innovation.


    ...continue reading.

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    June 12, 2006

    Avenu makes for a really BAD customer experience at Albertsons Market

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Comments (39) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | ED Projects of Note | The Practice of Experience Design

    February 22, 2006

    Big Changes at experience-design Mecca, Disney Imagineering

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    The departure of Marty Sklar as head of Disney Imagineering, a Mecca of applied experience design, signals the end of an era, writes LA Times staff writer Richard Verrier. In “Disney Legend Steps Down,” Verrier notes that Sklar's exit was precipitated by Disney's acquisition of Pixar and the appointment of Pixar creative chief John Lasseter as chief creative officer of both studios and more importantly, head designer of Disney's theme parks.

    Disney Logo TcPixarlogo

    Sklar, widely regarded as one of Disney's old guard, “was the Jiminy Cricket for the organization,” according to former Disney executive James Cora. Sklar's credited with “Mickey's 10 Commandments” for creating great themed attractions like the new Mission Space.

    Sklar was a jack of all Disney trades: he managed Disney's forays into ship cruises, interactive TV, idealized residential communities, and the redesign of New York's Times Square. He even defended former Disney CEO Michael Eisner when Eisner was under attack by everyone. Sklar's now charged with recruiting new talent and maintaining Disney's institutional memory.

    “Disney CEO Bob Iger got it right,” said one of my friends at Pixar. “He sees where things are headed.” A cryptic comment, indeed.

    It'll be interesting to see how Lasseter and his Pixar team, with a sterling performance in the 2D world of animation, will translate their vision into the 3D world of theme parks where audiences aren't constrained by theater seats or couches, their eyes locked on a flat screen.

    I hope to offer an interview with Lasseter, to see where he's going with this in the future. What do you think?

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

    February 11, 2006

    January 22, 2006

    November 8, 2005

    Edification and Commutation: Canons for Experience Design

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    I observed last week that brand focus limits the effectiveness and to some extent denigrates the potential power of experience design. Experience design isn’t just about making things work better or more memorable, for the purpose of making sales. The design of “user experience” and “customer experience” may be the Next Big Things in marketing, but like the design of milk cartons or tennis shoes, they’re more about engineering than experience. I like the definitions of “experience” offered on

    1. The apprehension of an object, thought, or emotion through the senses or mind: a child's first experience of snow.

    2a. Active participation in events or activities, leading to the accumulation of knowledge or skill: a lesson taught by experience; a carpenter with experience in roof repair.

    2b. The knowledge or skill so derived.

    3a. An event or a series of events participated in or lived through.

    3b. The totality of such events in the past of an individual or group.

    Further, to be “experienced” is

    1. To participate in personally; undergo: experience a great adventure; experienced loneliness.

    Jim Hendrix had it right. We aren’t users or buyers of experience (though we can impose a price for the opportunity to have an experience, the exchange of cash being its own petty experience). We are, as puts it, “experiencers.” We personally participate in creating experience. To be human we must experience the world within collective and personal frameworks: our cultural traditions and our individual intellects, emotions, and spiritual selves.

    Canons are rules that define a profession's ethics and by extension, the practice of the profession itself. I propose two canons for experience designers, motivations more profound than moving goods, selling politicians, or hyping destination resorts: experience design must edify and it must commutate.

    These canons are not just “person-centric”; they are design-process-centric. Edification and commutation are outcomes of the experience design process. The experience designer, through self-experimentation and a conversation with the audience feedback, is affected and changed as much as the audience. In this light, embarking on an experience-design project is risky. You never know where you, the designer, might come out – or who you will be when you do.

    Edification is simply defined (again, from as:

    1. Intellectual, moral, or spiritual improvement; enlightenment.

    2. Uplifting enlightenment.

    Bruce Mau, Bob Rogers, Ralph Applebaum, and Paul Prejza and Deborah Sussman (among others) have offered eloquent descriptions of the edification canon, not as a formal rule, but as a desired outcome of their best work. The tacit outcome that accompanies this purpose, exemplified by Mau and Rogers, is that the designer is edified – improved upon, if you will – as much as the audience by the process and products of an experience design. Maybe their clients measure their success by some brand metric, but that’s not the ultimate reward for the design of experience, at least among the best of designers.

    Commutation is a little more difficult. The common definitions relate to the reduction of criminal sentences or in the engineering world, the transmission of energy within an electric motor. (There’s no easy way to reduce the ardors of experience designing, but there’s no denying that it’s a process that energizes everyone involved – and not just individually; but also collectively, mutually.) These contemporary definitions obscure the original power of the concept: that an exchange between designer and audience occurs as a successful experience design emerges.

    The term has a Latin root, in keeping with its initial use within the Catholic Church: commutation is the purifying process that occurs when a priest takes confession from a parishioner. Both emerge from the experience edified. Commutation also occurs when a religionist accepted the sacrament of bread and wine during Mass. This act of taking for the faithful transforms the food literally into the body of Christ.

    Not to be too holy about it, but there are few experience designers who don’t experience a boost, maybe even edification, on seeing audiences really get into their creations. In fact, as Disneyland has long demonstrated, the audience creates the experience as much as the designer.

    Experience design is a transactive process. Commutation leads to edification, and edification makes possible commutation.

    How interesting and different our emerging discipline will become if instead of professing loyalty to brands, we as experience designers profess loyalty to the audiences with whom they create experiences, with whom they transact meanings and emotions: for whom and with whom they pursue edification and commutation. These are fit canons for a truly innovative design profession. -- Bob Jacobson

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    June 7, 2005

    Science Meets Madison Avenue

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    One of the benefits of having some 'bench time' is being able to just do random things, like read a bunch of books and/or (sometimes simultaneously) flip through channels on TV (which is admittedly a bit limited when you can't afford cable or sattelite).

    Today my reading and watching crossed paths (not simultaneously). Visiting some friends recently, I was mentioning my 'list of foods' (from "Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type"), and they pulled a book off of the shelf to share: "The Antioxidant Miracle". Today I flipped to PBS and heard a lot of the 'lingo' from the latter book and thought perhaps I was listening to the author (I ran to find the book to check the author's name, "Lester Packer"). That wasn't the case. Instead, I learned that yet another individual, Nicholas Perricone, had similar perspectives all based on additional research (hmmm, two people with similar conclusions based on their own observations or drawing conclusions from even really old research, rethought). Unfortunately, I had tuned in for the last 10 minutes of the presentation, so I had to quickly uncover more details.

    Perricone_186x272.jpeg As I attempted to learn more (to update the supplement shopping list I was going to fill this evening), I uncovered the transcript of a Larry King interview with the doctor (a dermatologist by practice). Here's where the story bears relevance. Larry asked the doctor about the purpose of a storefront he has on Madison Avenue. Dr. Perricone replied: "The store is basically an information center. I believe that the health care industry and beauty industry is going to merge so what people need is good information so you come to the store, we have registered dietitians, we have skin specialists, there is a library there, there are video screens, you can sit and learn and think about what's happening, complete evaluation, medical history, what you should be eating, vitamins to be taken, what are your skin problems. The idea is that information is the key. If people have good information, they can take very good care of themselves."

    Experiential and educational shopping...something even I created a concept for just as an exercise for a destination 'village'. Any other good examples of 'immersive' commerce?

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    February 5, 2005

    The Big Duh and The Big High

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Big Duh.jpg Forbes Magazine has a current article that gets a 'big DUH' award from me: "Have It Your Way". Playing off of the old Burger King promotional tag, it's their inane claim "companies are tapping consumers as never before" that really caused great gall.

    Aside from the fact that the article is celebrating something that people would clearly EXPECT companies to do, they are making it sound as if this were a 'new' thing. Did they totally miss the cottage-industry era? Are we saying that the industrial revolution has finally come full circle?

    The article continues "they have concluded that instant feedback is one way to cope with the pressure for shorter product cycles and with the high failure rate of new products". Can we offer another big round of "DUH"s? Did they miss the memo on scientific models which have proven this theory has existed forEVER, we just weren't smart enough to see it? Or that feedback loops are the means by which, on a path of free energy, that we can increase momentum (see item #6)?

    ...continue reading.

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    January 16, 2005

    New Kid On the Block

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    top_logo_exhibitions.jpeg Late in September 2004 the last piece of open real estate on the National Mall was filled up with the new National Museum of the American Indian. Given that there were so many people in town for the pending inauguration festivities (I've never seen so many Portapoties in a row) visiting the new Museum required that we stand in line for a while to get through security (just purse/backback checks). That delay gave us time to appreciate the gorgeous lines and texture of both the architecture and the landscape.
    But that was only heightened by the visuals inside. I could have stared for hours at the detailed craftsmanship of the massive copper sculpture surrounding the ground floor tribal circle made to represent a wooden fence threaded with birch bark. Don't get me started on the design of the elevator doors, the matching theme inside the elevators and the stonework on the floors...

    We headed straight for the 4th floor. We were there for over 2 hours and I only saw half of the exhibits just on that floor alone.

    I wanted to publically thank all the designers involved in this fabulous celebration of history. I was particularly impressed with the multimodal design to be experienced in the Lelawi Theatre. An intimate circular setting (tiered bench seating in the round), at the center was a 4-sided logpole frame with a coarse cream woven blanket hung from each side. These served as projection screens...well, some of them. Under the frame was a large, lumpy rock-like piece that also served as a screen, and the domed ceiling overhead served as a screen as well. Literally, you would have to see the exhibit over and over again from different angles to take in all the visual projections. And it wasn't overdone.

    The last item that I got to take in, that I just kept staring at, was a document signed by George Washington. In such an informal/comfortable environment, it seemed like such an important piece of history to be randomly mixed in with all the other artifacts. For a girl not used to being steeped in the history of America, it inspired an awe or two.

    I guess maybe I should head to the National Mall more often on weekends. The price of admission (free) is certainly affordable.

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    December 13, 2004

    Revenge of the Mummy: "The World's First Psychological Thrill Ride"

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    mummybody.jpgDesign News features a nice article describing the new Universal Studios theme park experience, "Revenge of the Mummy":

    From the earliest planning meetings for the Revenge of the Mummy ride, Universal Studios was striving to create a "category buster." But there are limits on the absolute velocity, acceleration, and forces, as well as the number of axes of motion, one can safely subject the human body to. So the designers began to think about taking a completely different approach to creating an unprecedented ride experience: They began thinking about developing a dark ride that would blend elements of Hollywood special effects, animatronics, and advanced ride technology.

    The result: The "world's first psychological thrill ride," inspired by Universal Studios' hugely successful Mummy movies. Traveling back in time 4,000 years, it plunges unwitting riders into a harrowing journey through ancient Egypt and a confrontation with an animatronic version of the mummy Imhotep, notorious Keeper of the Dead. Along the way, guests are catapulted into darkness—first shooting 45 ft uphill in 1.5 sec then plunging down below ground level. In all, they will experience seven, near-0G moments, and whiz through several high-speed, 80-degree turns. "The goal of the ride was to make it as fun and thrilling as possible while still maintaining the target family demographic," says Mike Hightower, senior VP and the lead engineer on the project.

    The article offers a thorough romp, well illustrated, through the mechanics and electronics that went into the ride, as well as describing how the experience of the ride evolved from concept to actual implementation. "Mummy" is a reminder that no matter how good digital technology gets, analog -- here expressed as real objects that move, including the audience -- remains essential to conveying intense experience.

    Having read the reviews, I wonder about the wisdom and overall ROI of developing for 10 years a thrill ride that lasts for only four minutes. Hardly time to get your hair standing on end. But the reviews also reveal an affection for this ride. Here's the link to the Official Revenge of the Mummy Website. That's show biz circa 2004.

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    October 23, 2004

    Interactive Environments: FeedTank and David Rokeby

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    fbg_photo.jpgI'm happy about the work done by the digital artists collaborative, FeedTank, working in Brooklyn, recently noted in the ever fun-filled journal of design, Core77. (Core77 is one of my mainstays in staying informed. Co-author Steve Portigal posts there often.)

    FeedTank combines digital technology with a creative spark to develop interactive, responsive environments, like Dance Floor Moves (in which the dance floor does) and Full Body Games, based on haptic interaction. The combinations are completely multisensorial and tres cool.

    vnspots.jpegFeedTank's success is a fit occasion to honor the man who started it all: award-winning Canadian artist David Rokeby and his ingenious Very Nervous System installations begun in 1986 and culminating in the early 90s. David pioneered interactive environments, using technology at least three generations earlier than what's available today. Here's a great review of David's work in the beautifully presented Candian blog, Horizon-0, Digital Art + Culture in Canada, "Adventures in Middlespace" by Erkki Huhtamo. He's still at it, by the way. Visit David Rokeby's website for past and coming attractions.

    Images: FeedTank and David Rokeby

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    October 20, 2004

    Christopher Ireland: "Organizing Principles"

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    cireland.jpgAs you can guess, I'm reading back-ordered blog articles on things related to experience design. I found another good one, from the Cheskin weblog for May 2004: Cheskin CEO Christopher Ireland's "Organizing Principles of Design Research." Christopher lays down the fundamental principles that guide personal behavioral, cultural, and marketing research at Cheskin. Well worth a review, in case in the excitement of breaking new design ground, you've forgotten about the research that precedes any great solution.

    Image: Cheskin

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    Kim Goodwin: "Ten Ways to Kill Design"

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    kim.gifCooper Interactive's VP of Design and GM Kim Goodwin offers keen insights into what it takes to bring design into an organization and make it work, in "Ten Ways to Kill Design," featured in the most recent Cooper Newsletter. The same rules apply as in winning any internal corporate campaign, but because design is fragile until it's well-rooted, the stakes are higher.

    This goes twice for experience design, which is only now gaining executive awareness and approval.

    Image: Cooper Interactive

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    August 16, 2004

    Interaction Design Group Launches Web Site

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson


    (From an August 9 press release)

    The Interaction Design Group (IxDG) today launched its Web site at, to serve the needs of the international community of practitioners, teachers, and students of interaction design.

    The Interaction Design Group Web site will provide resources for both people and organizations who want to learn more about and advance the practice of interaction design. Steering Committee member Joshua Seiden said, "I'm thrilled to see the community that has come together around this idea. People are really eager to learn more about interaction design.

    ...continue reading.

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