Re: the debate over whether experience can be designed:
Jon Kolko wrote:
> If I claim to "design a rollercoaster", I intend for it to be > duplicated - > exactly as I created - over and over. > > If I claim to "design the experience of using the rollercoaster", it > follows > that I intend for that use to be duplicated - exactly as I created - > over > and over. > > If I claim to "design the experience framework in which the > rollercoaster is > used", it leaves room for people to experience it in their own way.
I've always thought that the term "experience design" can also be a
shorthand for "designing *for* experiences". That is, that we design
systems that invite interaction. We create contexts that include
opportunities for certain designer-selected activities.
I can agree that an "experience" is a personal thing that can no more
be designed than love can be architected or happiness blueprinted. But
we *can* create the affordances that suggest, coax, and guide users
towards experiences we designers can reasonably *hope* or even
*expect* to occur, experiences that our own experience tells us are
*likely* to occur.
So yes, we can absolutely design the "framework" as Jon says.
But if we do the job right we will also create the experience itself
-- we can permit and even direct users to have almost precisely the
experience we intend.
In the rollercoaster example, every user's experience will surely be a
little different, but not so very different that the designer can't be
said to be designing those experiences. Most users will experience
damn near the same feelings of fear, excitement, and fun the designer
intended them to feel. If a rollercoaster passenger feels melancholy
or sleepy, they are likely a rare exception.
I hate to make distinctions between art and design, but in expressive
art forms it's generally more acceptable to allow 'users' to have a
broad range of potential experience than we are willing to accept from
artifacts of design. To that extent, then, how can we say that
designers aren't creating experiences when even artists can?
Is communication not, at its core, the creation of shared experience?
As designers, are we not communicating when we design for experience?
We have to have the confidence as designers that we *can*, in fact,
create designs that directly affect the psyches of our users in
approximately predictable ways.
[On a philosophical level, of course, there may exist an unknowable
quality to human experience. Two rollercoaster riders may describe
their experiences in exactly the same words, and MRI scans may show
identical heat maps during their voyages, and yet the essential
metaphysical *experience* for each rider may be entirely different. I
accept this possibility. But because this sort of understanding of
experience is, as I said, unknowable, I suggest we should only discuss
that aspect of experience that we can actually describe or measure.
And those aspects of experience can, I think, be designed, or at least