Experience design is about trying to get the real drivers of our behaviors – our emotions, longings – to match the social, technological frames we live in.
Experience design is designing for emotional involvement in the world, in a way that upsets prior expectations. It is about giving someone something they didn’t expect, but that really fits into their lives, without them ever being aware of it lacking. Experiences are very basic to human nature. Experiences are what focus us in the moment, they make us aware of the instant that we are living.
Besides for the immediate gratification, we seek out experiences because of their autobiographical ability to reinforce our own identity. The way we function in our everyday lives is partly based on our habits, partly on our drive to have meaningful experiences. Experience design is nothing new, but it is new that you can have a practice of designing, based on the universal qualities of what makes us human.
What is the potential of experience design?
The focus on the experience economy and experience design is much too narrow. In Denmark, there is a tendency to focus on tourism, but the potential for the field is much bigger. Here are some areas where I see a lot of potential:
Driving engagement through building relations
Experience design has potential to help build meaningful relations that drive engagement. Driving participation is something that is a goal of educational institutions, governments, and businesses. Experience design can help to crack the code to driving engagement through asking: How can we invite people to participate? How do people relate to each other? How to they relate to their work? What engages people to participate in these relations? How can the process of education be gratifying, involving and something that produces enthusiasm?
Designing the experience of the workplace
I also see a big potential of using experience design in the workplace. I think people working in management, especially human resources are very aware of the challenges in both attracting and recruiting new employees, in motivating them and getting them to stay in the company. Designing an emotionally rewarding work environment is already a topic, but one that experience designers could add a lot to.
What are the top 5 skills experience designers need to have today and in the future?
1. Design Skills – Experience designers need to have basic design skills. They need to know the process you use to go about designing things.
2. Understand the Psychology of Experience – To give someone something that they really want, but didn’t expect requires insight into what people really desire. This requires insight into what really motivates people, what and triggers them. Experience designers need to understand: What are emotions? What triggers emotions? Cognition, how does our memory function? How are expectations created? The basics of perception, sensing and physiology.
3. The Structure of Beauty – Attraction and pleasure is really at the core of how you upset expectations without provoking anxiety or grief. Experience designers need to know how something interesting, beautiful, pleasurable, or something that gives tremendous satisfaction is constructed.
4. Management Skills – They need to know how to work in an innovative team. They need to know about innovation processes. How do you get people involved in innovation processes together?
5. Basic Empathy – Book knowledge is important, but it is not enough. To be able to understand the perspective of the users is called ‘sociological imagination’. Experience design is very much about imagining how users would solve or address a certain issue.
Top Fields Experience Design can disrupt:
The reason that these fields are ripe for disruption from the experience design field is that they are fields where the primary value delivered is experiential.
Here is how it is being done in education in Brazil:
Perestroika – An education company rapidly disrupting the creative industries education market. Their secret to success – a tool for mapping the experience of each course they deliver: http://www.perestroika.cc/
Christian Jantzen is a professor of Experience Design, at Aalborg University, Denmark. He has deep knowledge about the psychology of the human experience, and using experience design to drive engagement.
His research profile can be found here: http://personprofil.aau.dk/101459?lang=en