Design & Emotion Blog

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Experiencing Experience: Tom Guarriello’s view on experience design.

I found this wonderful article at UX Magazine by Tom Guarriello via Convivio.

Tom starts by saying that “no matter what else you think about human experience, it can only be described, never measured.”
And: “It’s exciting to see so much energetic interest in understanding users’ experiences, and designing environments that lead to desired user and customer experiences. Phenomenological psychology’s insights can be very useful in helping businesses gain a sharper focus on their users and customers.”

Experiences are personal

“Every time I hear people talk about “designingâ€? experiences. Because, the truth is, it can’t be done. Designers design occasions for experiences; experiences themselves are personal.

That’s why different people having different experiences in (what are supposed to be) the same situations.

Ah, but there’s the clue: the situation isn’t the same for all participants because each of us brings a unique set of perceptions – perceptions rooted in unique personal histories – to everything we experience.”

I think Tom has a point here and when I talk to people about experience design, this is something I always refer to: you can NOT design the experience itself, you can only design FOR that experience. In my opinion, the same goes for designing FOR emotion. I think we will never be able to evoke a specific targeted emotion, but what we can do is to design such elements into a product or service that will help to evoke certain emotions. Especially because just as that experience is personal, emotional responses are also personal. They are a result of an appraisal process that is influenced by both the stimulus as a person’s personal context.

Tom again:
“Technically, most designers are attempting to design meaning, not experience. The experience of eating a cookie, for instance, can be described in very clear terms. But, capturing the unique meaning which that cookie had for one individual was what made Proust’s madeleine the stuff of great literature. A simple cookie for one person is a trigger for emotion-laden memories for another. But, most often, designers must create experiences for people they don’t know. So, how can designers create opportunities for meaningful experiences for people they don’t know? By paying close attentions to patterns.”

So, it all comes down to meaning, according to Tom experience designers won’t be able to create any really pleasurable experience when they do not dig deep enough in the people who will use or experience it in the end. The more you have an understanding of who your users really are, the better you can understand their personal context and try to capture the unique meaning the product/ service/ etc. can have for them.

“What makes it more or less likely for an individual to experience the experience the kinds of things you’re aiming at? The key to design is developing this kind of understanding. And, the key to understanding is immersion in other people’s life-worlds.”

Read the complete article at UX Magazine >>>

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