Thursday, 7 July 2011

Dissecting Discipline of Designing Experiences

Often I come across different viewpoints on Experience Design discipline about what it is and what exactly experience designers do. The executioner’s (in software business) school of thought is that experience design is the practice of designing technology products and services (each of which is a human experience) based on the consideration of an individual's or a group's needs, tasks, desires, beliefs, knowledge, skills, experiences, and perceptions. Thus, it results into achieving certain user goals and leads to a successful system acceptance by users.

The other school of thought is more at an abstract level that defines experience design as a discipline of designing mental journeys that leaves the customer with memories of having performed something special, meaningful, engaging, with sense of achievement or just fun and entertainment.

Like any other discipline, I think experience design can also be understood as an organized production system that is about creating output in the form of desired experiences using available inputs such as knowledge and ideas, and finally using resources in the form of design processes and skills.

Let’s take an example of thematic restaurants. Today, food is more of an experience rather than a necessity, as only a minor part of the average income (approximately 10 per cent) is spent on food.

Dining is a combined body and mind (sensory) experience and has aspects of culture and society. The body tastes, smells, sees, hears, feels and digests the food. The mind reads the food consciously and unconsciously in the form of activated emotions and memories.

Theme restaurants are cautiously designed to deliver customer experiences by influencing customer’s state of mind with the right ambiance, environment, lighting, music/live performance, and personal service on top of the food served to stimulate emotions like happiness and so on. A great deal of skills and processes are required to accomplish delivery of such desired experiences in the restaurant business.

Another example could be watching theater, which is another form of immersive experience thoughtfully crafted for audience. The stage performances are scripted around a theme to entertain and educate audience (selective sometimes) by stimulating emotions such as anger, happiness, surprise, confusion, and more.

The two examples mentioned above can help us dissect different aspects of organized experience delivery system.

Core Activity
The core activity is what a customer wants to accomplish as a task or an activity. For example, watching a play in a theater or eating in a restaurant.

The Concept (or the ‘Feel’)
The core concept is the theme that the customer admires and what the product stands for. For example, a concept “Happiness is in small moments of life and must be shared” is the theme of Unilever ice cream brand and is well translated into the design of ice cream packaging and ice cream vending machine designs where in a customer is delivered ice cream when he/she smiles into the face recognition system. See demo

Peripheral Experience
Peripherals are supporting experiences (part of the overall customer experience) to which a customer initially pays extra emphasis. For example, the way seating is arranged, welcoming gesture at the entry, cleanliness, and so on.

Core Experience
Core experiences are activities in which a customer gets involved physically and mentally. For example, taste of the food, dialog delivery of an actor, sound and music and so on. Developing core experience is a skilled job and the output is actively consumed by customers. However, core experience cannot be appreciated without a good theme.

Support Services
Support services are materials such as cutlery, menu, and order delivery that are used to accomplish the core activity.

Such a dissection would help in understanding design and delivery of experiences. In my next blog I will make an attempt to explore how a similar approach can be applied in design for software applications.


Anonymous said...

what is the point that you are trying to make...lots of words and sentences...but after reading all of confused!!!

Madheswaran said...

I could relate this with what i read in the book "Elements of design" by Rowena Reed Kostellow.

She defines that Compositions are based on organizing 3 relationships between the DOMINANT, SUBDOMINANT, and SUBORDINATE parts.

If you take any experience

• The Dominant is the core experience which you get out doing a core activity.
• The Sub Dominant is the experience which might not be the core but it add value to the ore experience like the environment, ambience etc
• Finally the Sub ordinate is the experience which might not be the most important one but without this the complete experience will not be fulfilled like Menu card, Utensils, cutlery etc..

Vinay said...

Hi Madhes

i found similar thoughts in another research paper compilation called Creating Experiences in Experience Economy. The work is an extension to Pine and Gilmore’s book Experience Economy

Vinay said...

Hi Anonymous - Sorry if have confused you. The attempt is to see if process of delivering experiences can be understood using an abstract framework. Also, if the same framework can help us developing experience little more systematically and assess their quality across various mediums. These mediums could be Theaters, Art Performances, software, video games, business processes and so on. said...

Hi Madhes

i found similar thoughts in another research paper compilation called Creating Experiences in Experience Economy. The work is an extension to Pine and Gilmore’s book Experience Economy