Total Design

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by: David Armano 

Adam Greenfield recently penned an insightful writeup on thoughts around experience design, customer service, and the notion of control.  If any of these topics are of interest—I would recommend reading the whole thing.  As for this post—I'm going to reference some of my visuals as I think they may compliment some of Adam's thoughts (in quotes).  Enjoy the mash up and be sure to read Adam's entire post for the full context.

"When you consider that such interweavings are becoming increasingly common in our day-to-day lives – you can grant an older cellphone entirely features by blowing updated firmware into it, while certain models of Lexus automobiles now come with a subscription to real-time traffic information – the time would appear to be ripe for a new kind of designer to take center stage.

What might we call such a person? Here’s a hint: it’s neither a “graphic” nor a “Web” nor even an “interaction” designer."

"As far back as 2001, no less authoritative a body than AIGA (”the professional association for design”) had lent its imprimatur to the fledgling field, with an AIGA conference defining experience design as being concerned with a product’s “entire lifecycle with a customer, from before they perceive the need to when they discard it.”

"In the years since, the discourse of experience design has steadily gathered authority, offering as it does a way to wrestle and wrangle with the new complexity of the built environment and the objects we encounter in it. (In this, it parallels the emergence of actor-network theory in the academy, a line of thought that accounts for interactions between extended networks of people, ideas, technologies and artifacts. Something’s clearly in the air.)"

"Whether the emergence of a self-conscious experience design community reflects a canny land-grab on the part of a few visible and reasonably influential practitioners, an underlying recognition that our technosocial practices have transcended the rather limited model of the “user” ultimately derived from old-school human-computer interaction studies, boredom with a thoroughly mapped landscape, or something else entirely, it’s undeniably been a successful way of framing things."

"Experience design would appear to incorporate this recognition from the beginning, which would certainly better position it to respond to the manifold challenges of design for a networked world than more tactical arts.

But it turns out that there’s a serious flaw in this way of thinking. Ensuring that all phases and aspects of someone’s interaction with a product/service ecology align with the desired vision requires that something little short of total control be asserted over their choices. This, in turn, leaves little room for the self-evident (and lovely) messiness of our lives, not much in the way of flexibility should the scenario of use deviate to any significant degree from that contemplated at design time."

"…But if the choice is between an overcontrol that will predictably result in an eventual breakdown, and a flexibility that admits other players but also affords more satisfying long-term outcomes, which would you rather have your brand associated with? In the final analysis, about all that can be said about end-to-end control of a multi-touchpoint customer interaction is that it results in a perfect experience….except, of course, for when it doesn’t."

"In the long run, providing for high-quality experiences in a deeply networked age means having the humility to know when our efforts are most welcome…and when, as designers, we must let go."

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