A series of blog posts created in the "design methodologies" module at ZHdK, teached by Dr. Joëlle Bitton.

Today’s class was about experience and it’s importance for design, presented by David Wollschlegel and Daniela Spühler. Therefore I’ll be writing about the learnings from my colleagues presentations and from the literature of this week.

David’s presentation was about the definition of experience and how we as designers want to keep track of the user’s experience. I’d like to give my opinion on what experience means to me and what I think about it concerning the design process by referring to this week’s literature as well.

David started by stating that an experience addresses many different aspects such as physical, mental, emotional and social conditions and that an experience is a very subjective thing. I totally agreed with him there, but I think one can break this down further to human’s perception. We somehow all have more or less the same tools for perceiving our environment - like having eyes to see, ears to hear or a nose to smell. Yet a normal meal like a ratatouille as in the Disney film of the same name can make a person experience something deeply, while someone other just feels sated from the food. It’s somehow magical how humans can have an entirely different experience from the exact same situation I think. I deduce from this that every new experience we make builds on top the experience we have or respectively is influenced by it and changes the way we perceive things. Consequently, a designer will have a very hard time trying to anticipate every step in a user’s experience. But this should definitely not mean to neglect it then. It means that we have to fall on user tests and to try different methods to get real and authentic feedback from a user experience. It’s about shifting between our knowledge as a professional and the ability of showing empathy with the users.

So building a meaningful user experience shouldn’t mean to be evaluating and assessing throughout the whole design process. It’s equally about observation and empathy abilities in the idea finding process. We have to ask ourselves what experience the users are striving for and how their needs are related to the circumstances.

Considering that, I’d like to refer to George Eastman who looked at design as an organisational competency and truly revealed what makes a good design sustainable in an economical way. By seeing a product as an object imbedded in a system, Eastman recognised the importance of the experience a product is addressing. For him the experience was the product. What made his company Kodak so successful and outstanding at this time, was the way he thought about people and design and how he saw the product as a tool to integrate the users in a system, rather than an object without a relationship to it’s environment.


boyd, danah. 2007. “Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life.” In MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning – Youth, Identity, and Digital Media Volume (ed. David Buckingham). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Horst, Heather. 2011. Free, Social, and Inclusive: Appropriation and Resistance of New Media Technologies in Brazil. In International Journal of Communication. 5. 437–462.

Kaye, Joseph, Levitt, M. K., Nevins, J., Golden, J. & Schmidt, V. “Communicating Intimacy One Bit at a Time”. In Proceedings of CHI ‘05.

Krueger, M. W., Gionfriddo, T, & Hinrichsen, K. “Videoplace - An Artificial Reality”. In Proceedings of CHI ’85.

Merholz, P., Wilkens, T., Schauer, B., & Verba, D. (2008). Subject To Change:
Creating Great Products & Services for an Uncertain World: Adaptive Path on Design. O’Reilly Media, Inc. (Chapter 1 + 5)

Additional Readings

Buchenau, M. & Fulton Suri, J. 2000. “Experience Prototyping”. In Proceeding of DIS ’00.

Holmquist, L. E. 2005. Prototyping: Generating Ideas or Cargo Cult Designs? In Interactions. March-April 2005.