Speaking the same language

POSTED BY on Aug 3, 2016

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at an event hosted by the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) and the Society for Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD) that focused on the theme “What is Experiential Design?” The event gave each of the four presenters the opportunity to share their perspectives on the topic, and deliver their presentation in a “Pecha Kucha” style format—20 slides, 20 seconds per slide—followed by a Q&A session.

Beyond the audacious goal and exhilaration I placed upon myself of trying to craft a meaningful POV and deliver an engaging argument in less than seven minutes, I was struck by the diversity of the approaches in the presentations themselves. I was also encouraged by the foresight of the organizations involved (IIDA & SEGD) to partner up and merge their constituencies together to take on the topic of defining this emerging practice area.

While the presenters’ approaches varied in terms of content structure—from bullet points and principles to a short project video/case study—many of the overall themes remained consistent. These themes included notions of how experience design focuses on what you’re supposed to “feel” versus what it looks like, of storytelling and the role of technology, and of the critical role that brand plays in both defining and being shaped by the experiences we create.

The broadest disparity I heard was around the title or naming of the field itself. Is Experiential Design a new and emerging practice (which is what I believe) that requires new frameworks, more collaborative thinking, and a broader discourse around design strategies that connect people to places? Or is it just a new name for something we’ve essentially been doing all along? I believe that although there are aspects of the field historically rooted in environmental graphics or “branded environments”, the opportunities for us now are far greater. As fellow practitioners and technologists converge on new ways of shaping experiences through time-based design thinking and our myriad displays and devices, we are only getting started on how Experiential Design will be defined and valued by our clients and communities at large. I’m excited and grateful for being a part of the defining act.


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