The art and craft of enlivening the senses!
Abbreviated as ExD, Experience Design is often used interchangeably to describe User Experience Design, Service Design, and even Hospitality Design. However, the misappropriation comes at a cost.
Beyond simple misuse, I’ve noticed some professionals be taken aback, dismissing this oversight as indifference or confusion on the part of the speakers. So it is with great fervor that I’ll try to bring much-needed clarity to the operational landscape and vocation of Experience Designers.
As some old adage likely states, context and knowledge engender authority, respect, and appreciation; — so let’s sort this thing out!
The umbrella ☂️ term “Experience Design” refers to a holistically applied practice anchored in human-centered design, behavioural psychology, and the art of storytelling …and articulated through a collaboration of vocations aimed at affecting sensory perception.
Let’s breifly explore why the term Experience Design is so often confused with more specialized areas like User Experience (UX) and Event Design, by looking at what competencies those disciplines require:
User Experience (UX) can be digital and/or analog, although the term is predominantly used to describe the development of a digital interface. An app on your phone or a website are the clearest products of UX design, yet using ExD to describe the development process is misleading due to the lacking influence over the physical devce the user is interacting with.
Concurrently, UX for a driver focuses on that driver’s engagement with the vehicle’s immediate interface: the dashboard and nav system. Here, ExDintegrates the digital UX with an interactive and physical UX comprise of a steering wheel, pedals, and buttons (for now).
Inherent in the name, UX implies a focus on ‘Users’. Surely we can expand from there to consider the broader human engagement spectrum that includes Passengers, Guests or Audiences; and more intimate scenarios that cater to Staff, Personnel and Patients. We should take note that a broader occupation focused on Customers and Consumers also exists, and is aptly abbreviated as CX. — This brings us to the following:
Event Design caters to a fundamental truth, that experiences are more memorable than products. The packaged service focuses on spatial and temporal planning, human flow, an almost theatrical cadence, as well as moments of engagement within a crafted space, usually with a brand, catering to marketing metrics… and attempts to connect participants with another in the best scenarios. Marketing industry peeps trying to differentiate themselves (or obfuscate their offering) have started calling Event Design — ‘Experiential’ because the ‘ je ne sais quoi’ smoke & mirrors of the term lends them a certain artistic license.
Alas, let’s also touch on Service Design, which interfaces with all of these and several other disciplines. As a social and strategic practice, it permeates everything a business does to relevantly, efficiently and sustainably serve and benefit business and customer needs. Rooted in psychology, ethnography, and planning, Service Design takes a human-centered lens to a customer’s interaction with a brand, particularly the quality of services across every point of interaction.
If you work in any fields mentioned so far, let’s agree to not assume that everyone knows what any of these monikers mean. Take a moment to clarify and help a fellow human learn more than they already know.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, designers of any kind fall somewhere within the realm of experience design. On a fundamental level, we could argue that ‘Design’ itself is synonymous with Experience Design, but that’s for another etymological rabbit hole. Right now, let’s focus on Experience Design: the umbrella ☂️ term describing the intersection of modern disciplines like brand strategy, interaction design, environmental and service design, UX and CX ...supported by the crucial planning and orchestration thereof.
There should be no mystery to why ‘Experience Design’s’ popularity has exploded recently: it’s universal applicability. Language is ever evolving and we are all responsible for its clarity and trajectory.
In a world of holocratic organizations and freelance ninja polymaths, the term ExD lends a sense of unity to broad and deep practices that employ several tangential skillsets. Anyone who has chosen this designation has done so to facilitate a simpler communication — blanketing the melange of specific skills and methods of working that are far to complex to articulate in one go.
So what is Experience Design?
Experience Design is a broad and holistic practice focused on improving how humans interact with their immediate world and each other.
As a practice it is anchored in human centered design, psychology, and the art of storytelling — cumulatively articulated through a collaboration of various vocations aimed at affecting sensory perception.
In a nutshell:
Experience Design aims to bridge psychological, social and business goals through empathy and design thinking!
In a poetic tweet:
Experience Design is the art and craft of enlivening the senses!