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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Experience Design


These two words capture the philosophy of design that I have started to formulate. The words together have two meanings.

The first is the design of an experience. There is an article at Business Week about creating loving designs by Gianfranco Zaccai of Design Continuum. What I got out of the article is that designers are discovering a need to create products that have a stronger relationship with their users. In essence, there is an experience surrounding the mere physical dimensions of a given product. For fans of Apple, Harley Davidson, Sony, and other companies with iconic products, you don't just buy the device, buy you buy into the culture, the hype, and the whole society around those products. I don't think you can show any more brand loyalty than to tattoo Harley Davidson onto your own body. That is the power of designing an experience.

The second is the verb "to experience design." This is far more complex, but just as powerful. To be a designer is becoming more and more competitive, and designers are becoming more and more of a commodity. Shows on television and partnerships of media giants and design powerhouses are creating a good campaign to promote industrial design. Nevertheless, what is actually happening is a coming of age. Design is experiencing a growth spurt and will soon have to deal with all the growing pains that go with it. How will the West deal with the East? How can employers distinguish all designers with skill sets and proper education from the fast-food grade designers that are popping up all over? "Experiencing design" needs to take a mature leap forward. Experiencing design needs to be a more responsible and measured experience. This will have two benefits: a more structured career path that will better market designers to employers and a more solid definition of design will better market design to the masses.

Industrial designers started out as mere stylists for products. From there, they have developed a design process that involves meeting end-user needs with corporate production restraints. We are now in the age where design is a full service. It is integrated in various aspects of not only product design, but strategy, management, organizational behavior, manufacturing coordination, and the works. The next step is this idea of Experience Design. Designers will do all that they have done in the past, but now they will be creating cultures surrounding the next big products. They will answer questions like "Why do Volkswagen Owners wave to each other on the highway?" or "Why do gamers spend top dollar to by an Alienware system?" Designers will become more agents and brokers to link consumers who have a dream of forming a long-lasting and intimate relationship with a product or service.
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