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


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

    (Courtesy of Mark Vanderbeeken, Experientia SpA, Torino)

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

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

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

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

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

    Total Experience on Technorati
    Technorati Profile

    Get Camino!

    Total Experience

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    May 28, 2007

    Read Archinect and add it to your RSS feeds

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

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

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

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

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

    May 23, 2007

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

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

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

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

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

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

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

    (Images: Design News and Archaeography Photo Collective)

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

    May 4, 2007

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

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Jane McGonigal
    Resident Game Designer, Institute for the Future

    This press release explains the game:

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

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

    “Play it – before you live it!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    About the Game Creators

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

    Electric Shadows and Independent Lens Web-Exclusives

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

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

    April 22, 2007

    At one popular Web portal, customer-centricity trumps CRM

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

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

    According to portal founder and CEO Bob Thompson,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    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 19, 2007


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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    wikinomicsglobetop.jpgLeveraging the common model to combine a book with a discussion, Wikinomics claims to focus on how mass collaboration changes everything.

    The thoughts framed by this concept were central to the discussions that went on at the recent FASTforward 07 event (which I'm already planning to attend next year). Conversations around the event and the thinking that went on, continue with high energy. Aside from the uniqueness of the event in the pre/post use of the blog which was seeded with some high-energy thinkers in the intranet / Enterprise 2.0 space, the event was unique in that although hosted by a vendor (and sponsored by several others), it was clearly an event to bring together bright minds and allow for deep conversations to go on around the topics and possibilities for this space -- such that the vendor(s) themselves can learn from the discussions as equal participants.

    What was refreshing is that principles of Experience Design were front and center in the conversations. It was clearly a 'design thinking' sort of event.

    One concept that came out of the discussions, which is reinforced by the Wikinomics artifacts, is that we need to embrace the power of the 'individual as a channel'. Major companies are thinking through new business models to both embrace and capitalize on this reality. Related discussions were quite heady.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Experience Design & Technology | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    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 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 24, 2006

    Digital Hollywood LA, Report No. 1 -- “Two Internets, Coexisting”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Digital Hollywood LA on its Preview Day has already proven a very interesting conference. Beyond it's “Hollywood” theme and flavor -- lots of beautiful, politely aggressive people pushing product -- unique among the Internet conferences, DH features a striking subtext. Here more than ever, the Internet Dichotomy separating those who see the Internet as a service from those who see it as a product, has become a yawning chasm. Having worked on both sides of the gap, and intending to again, I make no value judgments. I merely observe: two Internets coexist on the same global network, and which (if either) will be dominant remains to be seen.

    This was revealed most starkly on Preview Day, when I attended two panels that couldn't be more different.

    The first panel, “Citizen Media -- Blogs, PODs, Activist Media & Personalized News,” was one of four dealing with user-generated media. It was a contentious free-for-all on social and personal media, during which eight very sincere people (like AOL Weblogs Jason McCabe Calacanis, Reuters SVP Dean Wright, social media theorist and critic JD Lasica, and moderator and venture capitalist Shelly Palmer -- who did a great job adding fuel to the fire) debated such weighty topics as the pros and cons of the “wisdom of crowds,” collaborative journalism; the role of the professional editor in filtering scurrilous reporting; and those Siamese Twins, truth and opinion. It was taken for granted by most of the panelists that Google's AdSense advertising model is the most efficient way to fund citizen media, and perhaps the best indicator of media quality. As Palmer put it, there are three ways to fund anything: “with your money, with my money, or with someone else's money.” Advertising seems the best bet to conserve the first two.

    Calacanis repeatedly had the most trenchant comments, including two that will remain with me. First, he said, studies have repeatedly shown that bloggers practicing their often lonely craft are motivated by three things: “recognition, affiliation, and a distant third, compensation.” He also noted that “the key ingredient to successful expression on the Web is authenticity.”

    Perhaps, but authenticity had nothing to do with success for the panelists of the second event I attended, a lengthier show-and-tell, “Mobile Video & TV -- The Who's Who of Content.” The secret for these panelists was monetization, turning packaged media, sometimes user-authored, more often professionally produced, into revenue streams. The speakers were representatives at the top of the current mobile-media production and distribution pyramid: Sling Media, HELIO, Sony Pictures TV, Sprint, MobiTV, and a half-dozen others. One by one they promo'ed their fare, short videos intended to be seen on the tiny screens of a cellphone, iPod, or portable computer, presumably while wearing a headset. Some were lyrical, a couple poignant, but most were blaring, edgy, and trivial: try-to-hard humor, sports, rap, and all the other genres that appeal to pre-teens. The future of this panel's Internet will be very different from the first panels, in scale and direction.

    The most memorable comment was an observation by moderator Frank Chindamo of Fun Little Movies, an accomplished teller of five-years-too-soon, arrow-in-the-back pioneer stories, of which he has a admirable collection. (Thank goodness FLM has become successful in his lifetime!) He reported that studies have shown that the length of time a viewer spends with a production is directly proportional to the size of the screen on which its presented. This means, until Bluetooth and its descendants make it possible to point your cellphone at a big wallscreen and gain dimension, we are blessed that most future mobile productions will be short. Hallelujah.

    Pretty much for the entirety of the rest of DH, it's the monetization crowd that will rule the roost, in keeping with the conference's Hollywood half of its moniker. “Monitor, syndicate, and monetize” is a mantra I heard reported frequently.

    After the first panel, a senior participant with years of experience in media, online and offline, turned to me and asked, “So what's it all about?” I could almost hear him add, “Alfie?” “No one really knows,” I replied. “If you took 100 people from the four conferences on the Internet and communications that are taking place simulatenously right now, maybe we could assemble a mosaic. But this is Digital Hollywood, and this is what it's about, now.”

    * * *

    Regrettably, a personal project kept me away from the official Day One, but I'll be back for Days Two and Three. These promise actual insights as to what it may be all about in our multiple futures, online and off.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings | Experience Design & Technology | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    October 9, 2006

    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 6, 2006

    The Graying Of MySpace: time for adult supervision

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Myspace LogoIn The Graying Of MySpace, Online Media Daily today reports that more than half of MySpace'smembership is now over 35, up 40 percent from last year, while 18-24 year-old membership has declined 50 percent, from 44 to 30 percent. Writer Mark Walsh, summarizing a recent comScore press release, observes:

    While MySpace and Friendster skew older--with people 25 and older accounting for roughly 70 percent of their user bases--more than one-third of Facebook visitors are 18 to 24, as expected for a college-oriented site. Xanga was the most popular with teens, drawing 20 percent of its audience from that age group. The comScore figures encompass all visitors to the sites, not just registered members.

    “While the top social networking sites are typically viewed as directly competing with one another, our analysis demonstrates that each site occupies a slightly different niche,” said Jack Flanagan, executive vice president of comScore Media Metrix, in a prepared statement.

    The initial obvious implication:

    For marketers, the research suggests that MySpace is increasingly becoming a mainstream Internet portal. “The type of advertising it has today is for the youth market,” said Sarah Fay, president of Aegis' interactive ad agency network, Isobar, U.S. “But as we move forward, I'm sure that brands are going to start to speak to other types of audiences on MySpace.”

    For now, however, the middle-aged MySpace users I've spoken with -- those who'll admit to using MySpace -- tell me they turn off the MP3 intros and hold their noses when they log-in. Most use MySpace only for the free profile, which doubles as a website (albeit one that's ruggedly misdesigned), email, and file-sharing. They'd like to use it for other purposes, too, but can't. Amid the promotions from aggressive bands, amateur video producers, and aspiring pornstars, there's not much about MySpace that respects their lifestyles or serves their needs.

    The obvious follow-on implication:

    MySpace (and MySpace wannabees), and the advertisers and the ad agencies who use them, need to integrate their teams with people who share demographics with the majority of MySpace's users: people who are middle-aged or older, with jobs and families, interests more diverse than pop music and social bling, and loads of disposable income. Until they do, they'll fail to create an environment that produces trust and transactions among this mature (but please, not "old") majority. MySpace gets killed by Google and Yahoo in terms of people buying and selling things; and of course, in terms of ecommerce. Now we know why.

    What would a better-aligned MySpace look like, and how would it work? Not like today's MySpace.

    Rupert, perhaps it's time to bring in some gray hairs and incorporate in your team who are more seasoned and experienced, with relevant cultural perspectives. You can then create a product that the majority of your users enjoy: one that respects who they are, provides what they need, and gets them to do more for your pocketbook than click on links.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    October 1, 2006

    Niche social networks powered by members' real-world passions are gaining advertising traction

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    After taking a dig at the huge, undifferentiated, and messy “social networks” like MySpace and Facebook, which are the press' and investors current darlings, I was gratified to read two recent articles about smaller, “niche” social networks and their new appeal to advertisers targeting specific audiences. These social networks complement their members' real world activities, things they feel passionately about; many of these networks came together organically, out of need to share knowledge and experiences. You read it here first.

    Librarything“Can Social Networks Sway Shoppers?”in Internet Retailer's most recent issue, describes several strategies for creating and advertising to niche social networks. The research isn't all in yet, but on first blush, the answer is: yes. And more efficiently than by running links indiscriminately on their giant counterparts. IR describes the experience of Abebooks, a seller of new, used, rare, and out-of-print books, which became a part-owner in LibraryThing, an organically grown website that helps book collectors to catalog and share their collections. According to Abebooks COO Boris Weitz,

    We did not first sit down and make a strategic decision to invest in social networking. Like many others we simply were watching this whole new space. But then LibraryThing came to our attention. We asked the network’s president to make a presentation to our senior management team, and that led to our investment.

    DogsterRed Herring, the popular investor-oriented technology magazine, in its October 2 print edition, features an article, “Niche Marketing,” which describes the growing profitability of sites such as Dogster and Catster (dog and cat owners), Boompa (car enthusiasts), Famster (family-oriented fare), Traineo (fitness and weight loss), Tot Jot (parenting), and YouthNoise (teen activists). Each has advertisers (direct and affiliate) or is in talks with advertisers. The article focuses on Dogster, with 250,000 members, which is gathering a portfolio of large, influential advertisers like Disney Entertainment. Says John Squire, analytical software firm Coremetrics' vice president of product strategy:

    Advertisers are beginning to see they can spend very little and still get a big return using niche networks. Last year, people wondered, 'Is [targeted advertising] a wave that is really going to come in? And now they see that it is, and the wave is getting bigger and bigger.

    (An online version of the article isn't available, but you can buy the entire archived edition of Red Herring, in digital format, for $3.99 from Zinio.)

    The niche social networks' individual advertising revenues are small, and they generally require advertisers to carefully integrate their ads with the niche networks' content, lest the ads drive off ardent members who don't see value in them. In the long term, however, the niche social networks probably will exceed the horizontal networks in their lasting appeal, member activity (including recommending and purchasing relevant goods and services), and their revenues.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    September 18, 2006

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

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

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

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

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

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

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

    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

    July 21, 2006

    June 18, 2006

    June 14, 2006

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

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Laura Marshall
    Director of Business Initiatives
    ASM International

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    April 22, 2006

    David Armano's “Experience Map”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

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

    Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ED Projects of Note | Theories of Experience | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    March 11, 2006

    February 18, 2006

    Mark Hurst: “What Makes a Good Experience”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

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

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

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

    February 5, 2006

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    January 22, 2006