Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Experience-Based Design: Designing Experiences

Experience-based design is, essentially, design focused on looking at the way the enduser engages or interacts with the design in question. Huh? Some may see it as simply "putting people first". I think that is a good way of seeing experience-based design - the human element. The UK's NHS (National Health Service), for instance, has instituted experience-based design, or service design, as its basis for innovation going forward. In doing so, the NHS can bring its focus in line with patients and the way they interact and experience the services they receive.

This design concept certainly has other applications, and if we look at the environments we each create for ourselves, hopefully we have employed the principle liberally. For example, think of the objects in your home that, no matter what, you would never part with (aside from the ones that cost a blooming fortune, but maybe that's just the way you roll). Why won't you part with them? They have sentimental value, perhaps. I know that the items I am most emotionally attached to have definite, recallable experiences that accompany them.

A friend and I were having drinks the other day when, in the context of a conversation about this very subject, he recalled the story of how he came about obtaining his and his partner's dining table. Said partner was shopping for a new dining table and found a fine one by Ralph Lauren, at an amazing price. It occurred to him that the table would be perfect in his parent's dining room, and they needed a new one. So he got the table for his parents, and decided to take theirs for his and his partner's (my friend) dining room. Well, it turns out that this table is the one his father, a very good artist of abstract painting, used as a work table. It's not a particularly gorgeous table, and it has intermittent splatters of paint all over it. Yet, as my friend pointed out, they love this table. Said partner's mother always finds it fascinating that they never cover it with a table cloth, and having dined at this very table myself, I can attest that to do so would be just wrong.

Bringing it back to experience-based design, my friend's table is the factor around which any attempt to redesign his dining room has to revolve. In the same fashion, that memorable Kholer commercial where the woman tells the designer, after he has established his very impressive bona fides as a designer, to design her new house around a faucet, plays on this principle.There is something about her experience with the design of that faucet that practically makes it a prototype. Based on the experience she has derived from that piece of design, the designer receives his directive.

A designer who intends to utilize experience-based design methodology must take into consideration: 1. The emotional value that the design will have for his client, very important in the area of healthcare, and 2. How will the design enhance their client's experience in living with it.

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