Designing (for) Experiences

29 Mar 2009 - 6:17pm
5 years ago
8 replies
1148 reads
Christopher Fahey
2005

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
"designed for".]

Cheers
-Cf

Christopher Fahey
____________________________
Behavior
biz: http://www.behaviordesign.com
me: http://www.graphpaper.com

Comments

29 Mar 2009 - 6:53pm
jkolko
2010

Christopher,

Very nice, thoughtful response. Thanks for taking the time.

I completely agree with this:

==

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.

==

I descibe what I do to clients as designing "experience frameworks" or
designing "experience scafolds", and I make the above point over and over
again.

JK
--
http://interactions.acm.org
http://www.thoughtsoninteraction.com

-----Original Message-----
From: Christopher Fahey [mailto:chris.fahey at behaviordesign.com]
Sent: Sunday, March 29, 2009 6:17 PM
To: list IXDA
Cc: Jon Kolko
Subject: Designing (for) Experiences

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
"designed for".]

Cheers
-Cf

Christopher Fahey
____________________________
Behavior
biz: http://www.behaviordesign.com
me: http://www.graphpaper.com

29 Mar 2009 - 9:44pm
Peter Merholz
2004

On Mar 29, 2009, at 4:53 PM, Jon Kolko wrote:

> ==
>
> 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.
>
> ==
>
> I descibe what I do to clients as designing "experience frameworks" or
> designing "experience scafolds", and I make the above point over and
> over
> again.

So we should call ourselves "experience framework designers"?

It begs the question, What does it mean to design interactions?

Or, look at the field of "industrial design". Does that mean those
people design industries?

I find the idea that "experience design" is somehow not valid because
"you can't design experiences" to be a red herring at best, and a
canard at worst. Our community has no other accepted term to address
the breadth that experience design discovers, with the possible
exception of "design," but that word has been so abused and pejorated
over the last, I don't know, at least 50 years, that we can't hang our
collective hat there.

--peter

29 Mar 2009 - 10:18pm
Jarod Tang
2007

>
> I find the idea that "experience design" is somehow not valid because "you
> can't design experiences" to be a red herring at best, and a canard at
> worst. Our community has no other accepted term to address the breadth that
> experience design discovers, with the possible exception of "design," but
> that word has been so abused and pejorated over the last, I don't know, at
> least 50 years, that we can't hang our collective hat there

Interaction design, and aesthetic interaction (it's more looks like a mirror
of user experience from interaction side) looks proper for now.
Cheers,
-- Jarod

--
http://designforuse.blogspot.com/

29 Mar 2009 - 10:55pm
Dave Malouf
2005

actually in ID circles, Product Design has been widely accepted as a
synonym.

but is your point, Peter, that we just gotta hang our hat somewhere
and any label will do? a rose by any other name ...

And being semantically correct isn't important now?

Just asking for clarification.
-- dave

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=40695

30 Mar 2009 - 2:26am
Andy Polaine
2008

I, too, agree with Christopher's great example there. You can design
experiences - anyone who has set up a romantic evening or gesture has
done this. The fact that this is sometime fodder for things to go
terribly wrong (choose your sitcom) shows that it's not always
perfect, but often the designer's projected, imagined experience
aligns 'enough' with the recipient's experience. The skill of an
interaction/experience designer is making that match as close as
possible surely?

The art and design differences aren't helpful to bring in here with
regards to interaction design. Artists working with interactivity are
designing, whether they don't like to use the term on not. Not
understanding this aspect has led to a lot of awful interactive
artworks. The artists that do understand it have created some
brilliant works. They design and prototype and test and modify their
work until the elicit the experiences they want - it's no different
from what a designer sets out to do. The desired responses are
somewhat different though (for example, confusion might be what the
artists wants rather than it being accidental).

It's important to separate out the psychological interaction that we
have with anything we encounter on a semiotic level from interaction
design. Otherwise you end up with a definition that "everything is
interactive", which is a self-referential black hole. It is clear
that something else is going on when you physically interact with
something and that this is different from, say, just viewing a
painting on the wall.

That physical interaction - which might be just a mouse movement or
click, but might be a full body gesture - is the defining component
to interactive media and interaction design. It plugs into the way
with think about the world in terms of physical metaphors - c.f.
Lakoff and Johnson.

(I have whole chapters on this in my PhD (nearly finished) that I
hope to put online soon where I go into it in more detail.)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=40695

30 Mar 2009 - 7:01am
Todd Warfel
2003

On Mar 29, 2009, at 10:44 PM, Peter Merholz wrote:

> Or, look at the field of "industrial design". Does that mean those
> people design industries?

Ah, but isn't this a great example of a title that could be
misinterpreted, but a great many understand what it "means"? If people
understand that industrial designers don't design industries, but
rather work on designing physical devices, then why do we think they
won't bridge the gap with a descriptive title like Designer or UX
Designer?

I'm only aware of two distinct architectural titles: Architect and
Landscape Architect. They don't bother distinguishing between an
Architect who designs train stations vs. small houses. Only between
those who design physical buildings and spaces and those who design
landscapes.

My point? A title only has to be good enough to start the
conversation. Look, we all have to describe what we do no matter what
out title is or what the field is called. We're going to have to
continue to do so. So, can you people just pick something good enough
and be done with it already?

Still calling my self simply Designer.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
Principal Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
Twitter: zakiwarfel
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

30 Mar 2009 - 7:47am
jet
2008

Todd Zaki Warfel wrote:
> I'm only aware of two distinct architectural titles: Architect and
> Landscape Architect. They don't bother distinguishing between an
> Architect who designs train stations vs. small houses.

Oh, they have other titles, they just save them for people who aren't
architects. For example, I've heard archis use the title "interior
design" when talking down about someone else's work or dismissing
concerns about textiles or furnishings.

The lines are drawn to exclude just as much as they are to include.

--
J. Eric "jet" Townsend, CMU Master of Tangible Interaction Design '09

design: www.allartburns.org; hacking: www.flatline.net; HF: KG6ZVQ
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30 Mar 2009 - 7:50am
Todd Warfel
2003

On Mar 30, 2009, at 8:47 AM, j. eric townsend wrote:

> For example, I've heard archis use the title "interior design" when
> talking down about someone else's work or dismissing concerns about
> textiles or furnishings.

But you won't find an architect who uses the title interior designer.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
Principal Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
Twitter: zakiwarfel
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

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