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Experience design (XD) is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events, omnichannel journeys, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience and culturally relevant solutions. An emerging discipline, experience design draws from many other disciplines including cognitive psychology and perceptual psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, architecture and environmental design, haptics, hazard analysis, product design, theatre, information design, information architecture, ethnography, brand strategy, interaction design, service design, storytelling, heuristics, technical communication, and design thinking.
In its commercial context, experience design is driven by consideration of the moments of engagement, or touchpoints, between people and brands, and the ideas, emotions, and memories that these moments create. Commercial experience design is also known as customer experience design. In the domain of marketing, it may be associated with experiential marketing. Experience designers are often employed to identify existing touchpoints and create new ones, and then to score the arrangement of these touchpoints so that they produce the desired outcome.
In the broader environmental context, there is far less formal attention given to the design of the experienced environment, physical and virtual—but though it's unnoticed, experience design is taking place. Ronald Jones, describes the practice as working across disciplines, often furthest from their own creating a relevant integration between concepts, methods and theories. Experience designers design experiences over time with real and measurable consequences; time is their medium. According to Jones, the mission of Experience Design is "to persuade, stimulate, inform, envision, entertain, and forecast events, influencing meaning and modifying human behavior."
Within companies, experience design can refer not just to the experience of customers, but to that of employees as well. Anyone who is exposed to the space either physically, digitally, or second hand (web, media, family member, friend) may be considered in the application of XD. This includes staff, vendors, patients, visiting professionals, families, media professionals and contractors.
There is a debate occurring in the experience design community regarding its focus, provoked in part by design scholar and practitioner, Don Norman. Norman claims that when designers describe people only as customers, consumers, and users, designers risk diminishing their ability to do good design. Given that experience is so totally an affective, subjective, and personal process—not an abstraction—it would be ironic, it's been argued, for experience designers, when designing experiences, to approach people merely as objects of commerce or cogs in a machine. Experience design, perhaps more than other forms of design, is transactive and transformative: every experience designer is an experiencer; and every experiencer, via his or her reactions, a designer of experience in turn. While commercial contexts often describe people as "customers, consumers, or users", this and non-commercial contexts might use the words "audience, people, and participants". In either case, for conscientious experience designers, this is merely a semantic difference.
A great design experience must be self-explanatory and emphasizes on a user journey from step to step in minimalistic manner. In a broader term, it is a branch of inclusive design and universal design. The purpose of inclusion in the context of experience architecture is to create technology and user interfaces accessible for wider audiences inclusive of full range of human diversity with respect to ability, gender, age and other forms of human difference.
This methodology is to achieve independent experience and accessibility for users who are aging, abled or disabled or impaired either by birth, natural or incurred through natural events. It requires exercising and creating interfaces or prototyping a lo-fidelity design for the physical world that makes actions and steps more self-explanatory, thereby removing layers of prerequisite requirements to access any digital system. Inclusive experience is an emerging and developing skill sets and standard elements in applications that are mass-produced for consumers, government and in other public domains.
Experience design is not driven by a single design discipline. Instead, it requires a cross-discipline perspective that considers multiple aspects of the brand/business/environment/experience from product, packaging and retail environment to the clothing and attitude of employees. Experience design seeks to develop the experience of a product, service, or event along any or all of the following dimensions:
- Duration (Initiation, Immersion, Conclusion, and Continuation)
- Intensity (Reflex, Habit, Engagement)
- Breadth (Products, Services, Brands, Nomenclatures, Channels/Environment/Promotion, and Price)
- Interaction (Passive < > Active < > Interactive)
- Triggers (All Human Senses, Concepts, and Symbols)
- Significance (Meaning, Status, Emotion, Price, and Function)
While it is unnecessary (or even inappropriate) for all experiences to be developed highly across all of these dimensions, the more in-depth and consistently a product or service is developed across them—the more responsive an offering is to a group's or individual's needs and desires (e.g., a customer) it is likely to be. Enhancing the affordance of a product or service, its interface with people, is key to commercial experience design.
- Aarts, Emile H. L.; Stefano Marzano (2003). The New Everyday: Views on Ambient Intelligence. 010 Publishers. p. 46. ISBN 978-90-6450-502-7.
- "Ronald Jones". Konstfack Vårutställning 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
- "Words Matter. Talk About People: Not Customers, Not Consumers, Not Users". Don Norman's jnd website. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
- Steve Diller, Nathan Shedroff, Darrel Rhea (2005): Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences. New Riders Press ISBN 0-321-37409-6