Experience Design

Ryerson University Develops New Program In Digital Media: User Experience Design

On January 28, 2009, Ryerson University called on local digerati to come up with ideas for their upcoming program in Digital Media:User Experience Design. The workshop session was hosted by the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University and featured three leading experts in the areas of usability and experience design.

Tedde van Gelderen, President of Akendi, spoke about the importance of experience design and how companies should align all the components that touch the end user to come up with a more enjoyable and profitable customer experience. He encouraged companies to take a holistic approach to experience design, and explained why the intangible aspects of a customer experience (such as emotion) are just as important as more tangible aspects such as technology and strategy.

While most clients tend to jump right into the design stage, van Gelderen noted that it's best to consider strategy and research before entering the design phase.

Steve Mast, Vice President and Managing Director of Delvinia Interactive presented a case study involving the Canadian Opera Company. Entitled "The Digital Opera Customer", Mast explained how Delvinia was able to use the principles of digital media and interactivity to design an engaging website for opera fans. After researching opera customers, Delvinia found that less than 20 percent of them were using the site - in spite of the fact that most were highly media saavy. Delvinia used interactive stories to create an engaging experience on the website that was able to connect with fans on an emotional level. Content was also created for distribution through BlackBerry devices that kept customers up to date on the latest developments of the COC.

Finally, Ilona Posner, a Usability Consultant, led the team through a workshop on paper prototyping. Posner explained how the process of trial and error is critical to good design, and demonstrated how paper prototyping can be an effective way of laying out a design before it gets to the more expensive development stage. The workshop was fun and engaging, and participants were able to test their designs with fellow digerati.

Chang_schoolRyerson's plans for a future program in User Experience Design highlights the importance and benefits of considering experience design in the everyday business environment. While success in business depends on a solid return on investment, the intangible aspects of design can contribute to the bottom line by ensuring that customers are both engaged and excited by a brand's attributes.

McDonald's Goes McLeather

A recent article in the Toronto Star described McDonald's Canada's aggressive strategy to redesign its stores. While once the domain of uncomfortable plastic seats and ketchup-stained tables, the new stores will feature upscale leather sofas, fireplaces and accented lighting systems.

While similar designs have already existed in Europe, the redesign strategy marks McDonald's Canada's response to rising customer expectations. The new design is more contemporary, and has been compared to what customers experience while spending time in Starbucks or Second Cup.

In the Star article, Karen Skobel, one of the designers who worked on the plan, says that "there wouldn't be anything you recognize from the McDonald's of the past."

In an age where brand loyalty often depends on a consistent brand image and experience, is this new look necessarily a good thing? While I can understand McDonald's strategy from a business perspective, do I want to walk into a McDonald's and not recognize anything from the past?

After all, it's the past that connects me to the fast food chain in the first place. When I enter a McDonald's restaurant, I expect to see families enjoying their meals - teenagers discussing their social lives over a burger - and kids throwing ketchup containers at each other (I grew up with three brothers). It's all part of the experience. If I'm in the mood for it, I'll stop by. If not, I'll choose another place to eat.

While the redesign is appealing from an adult perspective, I wonder how it will work out logistically. If I walk into a newly updated store, will I find the same families, kids and teens now sitting in leather chairs...going through the same motions that they went through in the regular stores? Do I want to see ketchup stains or stale french fries from the previous customer on my leather chair?

Is there a disconnect between brand image - and brand experience here? Is McDonald's the place to go to for an upscale experience? It's too soon to tell whether or not this approach will work in Canada. It has worked in other countries, so it's possible they just may be onto something.

What do you think of the image change for McDonald's? What are your predictions for the success of this strategy?

Let's open the forum....

Thrill Rides: The Ultimate Experience

Pcw_minebuster_sm_3Walt Disney once said "I don't want the public to see the world they live in while they're in the park. I want them to feel they're in another world."

Yesterday, my husband and I spent a day at Paramount Canada's Wonderland - just north of Toronto. I hadn't been back to the park since the late 1980's, and noticed that there had been many changes since my last visit. In spite of the obvious growth and increased focus on Hollywood style entertainment, what didn't change was the feeling I had while experiencing the park.

Bernd Schmitt, author of Experiential Marketing - How to Get Customers to Sense, Feel, Think, Act, Relate to Your Company and Brands, defines an experience as "private events that occur in response to some stimulation (ie. as provided by marketing efforts before and after purchase.) Experiences involve the entire living being. They often result from direct observation and/or participation in events - whether they are real, dreamlike, or virtual."

This definition of experience can best be explained through the example of thrill rides. A thrill ride provides the ultimate in immersion. For two minutes, your world is "on hold" and nothing else matters than the sheer thrill and experience of the ride. Problems fade into nothing as the adrenaline rush pushes you to experience rides such as the Minebuster, Dragon Fire, Vortex, The Italian Job and Sledge Hammer.

Once the ride ends, the experience goes on as you continue to hear, see and smell the sights and sounds of the park. Who doesn't recognize the sweet smell of cotton candy and inevitable scent from the hot dog vendors? The food, the acrobats, the shops, the crowds, the rides - they all become part of identifying the experience. There's an expectation that when you go there, you will enter another world and be guaranteed that these elements will be a part of it.

Perhaps the most telling and consistent part of the thrill ride experience is its ability to reconnect me with a place and time in my youth when the world was just opening up to possibility. Everything was an adventure, and risk-taking was just another task in a day's work. When I enter a park, those feelings and thoughts seem to come back, and I feel as if I'm entering some sort of a time warp.

The thrills of a theme park can be experienced at any age, yet marketers seem to focus on families and teenagers when designing advertising campaigns to attract new customers. The question then becomes,"why don't advertisers include more mature adults in theme park advertising, and focus on the potential experience?" After all, it's a great way to relive our youth - and a lot cheaper than plastic surgery.

Customer Experience - By Design

In a recent post David Polinchock, Founder and Chairman of New York based Brand Experience Lab and author of the blog the Experience
, discussed a course being offered in August at the Harvard School of Design.

Brand Experience Lab is both an experience agency and think tank that delves into the future of interaction marketing, and blends "emerging technology into retail and marketing experiences" to create engaging brand experiences for 21st Century audiences. How cool is that?

The Harvard course, taught by New York City architect Gregory Beck is called "Experience Architecture" and "unites narrative content and media technology to offer a dynamic approach to the built environment." In other words, it's possible to design buildings in a way that maximizes guest experience and engagement. What's even more intriguing is that this design orientation opens the door for "projects that use stories as a source of design inspiration."

Through the use of Experience Architecture, architects are able to integrate media and content into their buildings to create environments that are more effective channels for expressing ideas and emotions. The approach takes 150 years of knowledge gained in the attractions, expositions and theatrical arts and applies it to mainstream and commercial design assignments.

When designing projects, architects adopt a series of design values to "translate the narrative essence of companies, brands, and places into meaningful experiences." Rather than being purely focused on the engineering and architectural sides, architects collaborate with other disciplines such as communications and technology to create "compelling places for culture and commerce."

Buildings that communicate the essence and narrative of a brand. Talk about living and experiencing a brand! Now THAT'S Telling Your Story...

Human-Centered Design and the Nokia Experience

David Armano is VP of Experience Design with Critical Mass, and recently posted a comment entitled "Apple + Nokia" on his blog Logic + Emotion regarding the Nokia brand. The post contains a slideshow developed by the innovative people at Nokia entitled "Brand and Design Priorities: A very human story."

It seems that Nokia is a perfect example of how to blend innovative product design, customer experience and emotional branding. In the 2006 ranking of Best Global Brands by Interbrand, Nokia ranked #6 in brand value. That's no small feat.

Perhaps one reason for Nokia's success is their ability to blend technology with human-centered design. In the slideshow, the brand is presented as being:"Expressive. Human. Storied. Emotional and Consistent." Their ultimate goal is to create products that people "fall in love with", and to design "simply beautiful objects that simply work." As a result, Nokia has won consumer hearts by a 4:1 margin.

Bernd Schmitt would probably agree. In his book entitled "Experiential Marketing", Schmitt cites Frank Nuovo, VP of design for Nokia as saying "Technology itself is rather cold. But if you know how to use it, then it will be more intuitive and more human. And when you look at a product more as a person, instead of as an object, and you actually start to interact with it as such, it starts to take on its own personality."

Cognitive scientist and executive consultant Donald Norman shares similar views. In his book Emotional Design (Why we love or hate everyday things), Norman stresses the importance of emotion in product design, and encourages business to look at emotion as an essential element of the decision-making process.

Technology and human-centered design. A proven formula for connecting with consumers hearts and minds.