Carola Verschoor

Carola Verschoor, Author of Change Ahead: How Research and Design are Transforming Business Strategy and Founder of:, Netherlands

Interview by Andy Sontag, Kaos Pilots, Denmark

What is Experience Design?

The key value that experience design brings is its integrative synthesis, through bringing together the pieces of an organization’s value proposition into a coherent narrative. Many aspects of businesses today are siloed, and thus the customer experience becomes siloed as well. Experience designers help organizations put their customer’s experience first, and organize around that, not the other way around. Once the customer experience is put at the center, we are putting the pieces of the business in the right relationship to each other.

The experience design lens enables businesses to break through the industrial model, to create a backend (the processes needed to deliver a product or service) that is in line with what the customer wants. Experience design helps businesses to concentrate their effort on the areas that matter most to their customers.

From an efficiency perspective, experience design holds a lot of potential, because it helps organizations understand the specific aspects of their product or service that create the most value for the customer. This ability to be in sync with the end users, helps them feel confirmed in their choices at every turn of the experience – that is a very exciting thing for the user.

What are the top 5 skills experience designers need to have today and in the future?

1. Empathy

Empathy entails understanding that other people are different from you. The Dutch designer, Marshall Wanders breakthrough in his interior design career was when he realized that other people had to use the objects he designed. He realized that when he was finished making the object he was no longer relevant. Empathy is realizing that you are not other people, and taking others seriously. Also, empathy must be applied to both the inside and outside of the organization.

2. Design Generalist

The experience designer is a generalist, within the design context. Its enough if you barely understand the use of the Creative Suite (Photoshop, Indesign…). Experience designers don’t need to have a degree as a graphic or industrial designer. But they do have to be able to see the whole system, and understand how things connect and interconnect.

3. Understand People

The experience designer has to know a little bit about people, their basic drivers, what engages them, and how we create our context together. I have recently become very interested in social constructivism (Social constructivism maintains that human development is socially situated and knowledge is constructed through interaction and cocreation with others) and believe experience designers need to understand individuals as co-shapers and co-creators in a wider context.

4. Business Savvy

Even if you are working for a charity, as an experience designer you have to be business savvy. This is not about making a profit, but about constructing an efficient system. The word we have now for that today is business. This is about being able to separate wheat from chaff, and focus on what is important.

5. Ability to be a ‘Producer’

The experience designer is the organization’s ‘producer’. They need to understand how to put a system to work effectively. In the gaming industry, you have the people who are making the code that are literally building the game, but the role of experience designer will always be the producer – the one who can take all the pieces of the game and make sure they are working coherently together.

What is the potential for experience design to do good in the world?

I think huge, but I also think that this question is the ‘Achilles heel’ of experience design, because it can easily be misused. One of the things that a lot of design schools miss is ethics. Experience design can be used to deceive people more powerfully than many other fields, this needs to be taken seriously. However it can also enhance the degree of comfort and happiness we feel, it can make the world feel much more natural, less pretentious and more fitting. Experience designers could create peace on earth!