The process of developing a distance-learning MFA in Experience Design at Miami University has challenged me to clearly define Experience Design, itself. What is it? Who can do it? Where does it live? I published a paper titled “Experience Design: Embracing Transdisciplinarity” in the June 2017 issue of Iterations Design Research and Practice Review to offer some answers based on my research.
Experience Design is transdisciplinary, and that’s what makes it powerful. Instead of designing with a building, screen-based product, or a service in mind from the start, peoples’ experience(s) drive design decisions. This means that sometimes an interior needs to be designed to meet peoples’ needs. Sometimes sound design or visual communication design outcomes are warranted. Experience Design always centers on peoples’ needs and desires, taking into account their cultural backgrounds, worldviews, hopes, fears, and what they eat for breakfast on weekdays. A focus on experience expands the contextual scope of what designers consider when researching and designing.
Situating Experience Design
As an emerging design discipline, Experience Design focuses on engagement. Formal outcomes like built environments, services, products, screen-based outcomes are products of traditional design disciplines. The visualization below illustrates Experience Design’s relationship with other design disciplines. Most formally-trained designers started as traditional designers (myself, included). Well-crafted, finely-detailed traditional design is necessary to facilitate experiences. Experience Design is an engagement-focused mindset that guides where and how design research is conducted and clarifies what traditional design outcomes are needed in order to support the desired experience.
For more on Experience Design, download a PDF of my article “Experience Design: Embracing Transdisciplinarity” from the June 2017 issue of Iterations Design Research and Practice Review.