Our Thoughts on Experience Design

Design thinking unlocked a new world of product intentionality and customization on the back of socially driven concepts, such as user-centricity and empathy. These concepts were backed up by classical science to provide a methodology for reliably creating products that people want to use in a more efficient fashion.

The paradigm of customization and user driven creation has been strengthened by the wellness and mindfulness movements that have driven people to further explore what makes them tick. Social movements are pushing individuals, communities and governments to consider the identities that make up societies fabric. Far-right, socialist, trans, Muslim, entrepreneur, physically handicapped plus many more identities and their intersections make up who we are; we are seeing more and more that these identities define the solutions we desire.

What's truly fascinating is that research and technology present us with a future in which this level of customization is inevitable. The democratization of access to tools for creating-at-scale means that anyone will be able to design solutions that fit the needs of themselves or the groups they represent. Why wait for a renowned company to come out with the headphones I want when I can design my own, or search for one on a marketplace, and 3D print them at home? Why pay for school when I can access lectures or projects from all over world and collaborate within a distributed community of like-minded peers?

What people, society even, are ostensibly searching for is to spend their time in an optimally fulfilling way. Self-expression in the form of creativity, sharing, learning, exploring and enjoying the wonders of life. To provide these experiences requires something beyond what Design Thinking and previous creative methodologies have to offer because we need to see humans less as users or actors and more as ecosystems. Experience design seeks to understand and leverage the impact that sensory stimuli and culture have on the internal ecosystem that lives within human beings and, thus, drives behavior and interactions.

How many times have you been to a venue, used a product or been given information but felt like something didn't quite fit? Maybe it was the lighting, that feeling of settling for good enough or the lecture wasn't engaging in a way that really made the content stick. We all can remember times when an experience really clicked. That little bite of something providing a brief escape from a long day, that workshop where time just flew or the place that transported you to a world where your imagination and creativity ran wild. Experiences like these don't have to be random or deeply buried gems waiting to be found. They can be intentionally designed.

So what does all of this mean more in detail?

Experience design is built upon a combination of human, structural and environmental fields and disciplines, a sample of which are various psychological studies, linguistics, architecture, interior design, user interaction, sociology, history, biology, neuroscience, urban planning, marketing, data science and design thinking.

The five senses, to varying degrees, are the primary tools we have to understand the world we live in. So it makes sense that sight, taste, touch, smell and sound would be fundamental to designing an experience. The restaurant with terrible acoustics, the office that’s never the right temperature and the catering of beef and pasta for lunch that’s guaranteed to put you in a food coma are all examples of poor or non existent experience design. The chair you don’t remember that you’re sitting in, the room that inexplicably feels warm and inviting and the catering that hit the spot and made you feel great about the next few hours are all examples of good experience design.

So here are a few things to keep in mind when designing an experience.

Sight: color, lighting, furniture, decoration, number of people, dress code, presentation

Taste: food, drink, fragrance in the air

Touch: materials provided, utensils, furniture, soap in the bathroom,

Smell: room fragrance, the smell of others, smell of food, smell of materials (new paper smell), drinks

Sound: volume of room, volume of presenter, acoustics, pitch,

Cultural and social currents: culture is the fabric of our many social communities and define the way we interact with one another. Current events and trends overlay this fabric and create another layer that influences our perceptions and behaviors.

Internal human ecosystem: our past, our beliefs all the way down to our biology make up our internal ecosystem. This ecosystem is what interprets the information we receive and helps us make a decision about how we want to respond to a question, how we feel about the temperature in a room or what makes us passionate.

Experience Design exists to leverage this wealth of knowledge pertaining to humans, the systems we work in, and our built environments to create optimal spaces for any desired outcome.

Venture Playground is made up of entrepreneurs and designers who have spent a decade or more crafting such experiences for customers and users from all walks of life. From a young age, each of us "saw" or "felt" that the fabric of our daily lives could be more, whether it was in our schools, work places or communities. Through our collective journey's, we have built frameworks and tools to better describe and utilize these dynamics to create impactful products.

Today, we are a collective with the goal of designing better ecosystems for learning, creating and building solutions. We invite you to discover the many ways we are engaging corporations, startups and the greater creative community to both share and show what Experience Design can do to bring us closer to a more fulfilling and productive world.