Gift giving has been at the center of human relationships since the dawn of time. It feels good to receive a gift, and many times it feels better to give one. If great experiences illicit emotional responses, what better way to illicit a positive response than to give gifts through design?
I've been paying more attention to gift giving in the digital space and have found that simple, small, and largely unnoticed moments of generosity actually help round out already great experiences. This extra step, not typically found in a functional or creative brief and arguably an unnecessary effort, is a form of gift giving that can strengthen the bond between a consumer (the recipient) and an experience/brand (the giver).Back in 3rd grade I encountered my first party favor in the form of a GIJoe that was given to all who attended. I thought it crazy (but awesome) that the guests would receive gifts at someone eles's birthday.
Developers have been giving gifts in the form of easter eggs embedded in software for years. Tetris on the original Gameboy featured a fun little song and dance animation topped off with a shuttle launch when you beat a particular game mode. As you upped the difficulty the rewarding animation became more elaborate.
I'm not sure a client has ever asked to see the design of a 404 page, yet countless hours have spent creating elaborate and altogether fun brand moments that a precious few users will ever see. IMDB's 404 pages are perfect.
Here are a couple more 404 pages from Umbro and our own Obliteride.
Check out the metallic playhead in iPhone music app. It uses the built-in accelerometer to reflect light as if it were real metal.
The "Kudos" button from this blog has a nifty animation that works especially well on the phone.
Siri has a sense of humor when it comes to sci-fi movies.
Facebook asks you the same question in several different ways. You'll eventually answer one of them.
The most recent version of iTunes dynamically generates color palettes that reflect the album artwork. A developer from Panic actually figured out how to replicate it.
At the end of the day these are all examples of an acute attention to detail. It is a detail that can't be found in any brief or specified in a scope of work. Clients don't ask for it and it's certainly not something that is explicitly paid for. It's a detail that is freely given by designers, developers, and writers because it's just as joyful to give it as it is to receive it.