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Experience by Design

Adam Gamwell, Gary David

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This is experience by design, a podcast that brings new perspectives to the experiences we have everyday. Does standing in line always have to suck? Why are airports so uncomfortable? What does it mean to be loyal to a brand? Why do you love being connected but dislike feeling tethered to your smart phone? Can we train people to care about the climate? Join Sociologist Gary David and Anthropologist Adam Gamwell on an expedition to the frontiers of culture and business through the lens of hum ...
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One of the central questions in experience design is how to not only engage the audience for whom we are designing, but also how do we best include them in the process of design. But such a statement can sound more like a platitude than an actual instruction. It is one thing to say “be inclusive”, but another to be truly inclusive. This can seem ch…
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In today’s episode of Experience by Design, we welcome Jon Cohen, an expert in transformative experience design from G&A, an experience design company. We do a deep dive into the potential risks and implications of emerging technologies, particularly the Apple Vision Pro, and its impact on distraction and deployment in various settings, including m…
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I’ve been involved in the creation and promotion of a number of athletic events, more specifically a cycling discipline called cyclocross. I’ve also participated in my fair share of events, from local road running races to Ironman and the Boston Marathon. I like to think that I have a decent understanding on the design of sporting events from the p…
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The field of education and learning is shifting in a lot of ways. Some of this is related to the new technologies, and the opportunities that are created through them. At the same time, we can see the duplication of traditional approaches through new technologies. Afterall, what does PowerPoint really accomplish if all we do is just put our lecture…
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One of the things that we know as social scientists is that people need connection. It is not that we want connection, or would prefer connection, but that we need it to be part of our lives. Some of the foundational figures in sociology were all concerned with the onset of isolation and disconnection that came with industrial society. Durkheim loo…
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The home buying process is not great. And while it might not ever be great, it should be better than it is. While home may or may not be where the heart is, the home is definitely where the stress starts. The whole venture of buying a home is a pain from start to finish. Anyone who has been through this knows what I’m talking about. The financing, …
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There is the old saying that ‘necessity is the mother of invention.’ This could be the slogan for education in the pandemic world. All educators were thrust into a situation that many vowed they would never do: teach online. But what could we do? It wasn’t like there were a lot of options. We had to make due with what we had, and hope that it worke…
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Here on Experience by Design, we like to think we are experts, or at least pretty knowledgeable, about the concept of culture. A couple of PhDs and training in ethnography will at least yield a working understanding of culture, as well as how it permeates all aspects of our lives. Regardless of how ubiquitous, it also is hard to nail down in terms …
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It might seem like an obvious statement, but different kinds of environments require different kinds of designs. Thinking about my kids for instance. As they got older, their tastes and interests changed, which as a result changed their room decor. One of my daughters is always seeking to ‘level up’ her room schwag, looking for design ideas to refl…
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What is business all about? Is it about profit? Or people? Or both? Another question we can ask is why is there the belief that if you are profitable, then you cannot be people focused, or even people concerned. Such a philosophy is going to seep into every aspect of workplace culture, creating a situation in which people are not only disconnected …
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Before, our work lives were defined by our relationship with the brands we worked for. Growing up in Detroit, a person might be a “Ford person” or a “GM person”. The same can be said for those who worked for Mary Kay or Tupperware. Through our association with the brand, we gained a sense of self that was enriched by that association. Today, people…
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It is not like we need a building in which to teach. Thinking back to Socrates, he was conducting his teaching in an open-air market, influencing younger generations to the point where he was forced to drink hemlock. At the same, a good educational structure can help. I have taught in a variety of environments, and have seen educational technology …
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While technology may make it seem like we are constantly connected, the truth is that in many ways we have never been more disconnected from one another. The same devices that can bring the world to our fingertips can at the same time drive a barrier in between real moments of authentic connection. In many ways, this divorces us from ourselves rega…
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Much of our lives, especially in organizations, is governed by process. In fact, organizations can be evaluated based on how mature their processes are. Technological systems are set up to implement processes that employees are supposed to follow. At the same time, process can be a killer of innovation. When we are wedded to processes, we can lose …
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When I was growing up, I used to hear a lot of commercials for a group called The Starving Artists Group. The ad would talk about how you could go to a local mall and get paintings and other art work really cheap, because after all the artists were starving and apparently desperate to find food. It also was not a good ad for going into the arts. Af…
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We’ve all heard the saying that change is hard, but it is more than that. Change is not only hard, but can be threatening, as well as inevitable. Change is something that takes place naturally, and is impossible to stop. When things change around us and we fail to change with it, then what was once familiar can now feel foreign. While before we mig…
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Gary was part of the first generation to have home video games, and can still remember his Odyssey game console while everyone else was getting an Atari. You might say that left a mark. But he also remembers the fun that you could have just by sitting in front of the television, or computer, and playing some video games. As the games evolved, so di…
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Good health is one of the things that we value as most important in our lives. When other tragedies strike, people often will remark that at least they have their health. And even when all other things are going well, being in poor health (even momentarily with a minor illness) can completely through us out of balance. But despite the importance of…
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Anyone who is in education knows the challenge that exists when we are trying to deliver content that connects with students. It can be hard to remember that the material that exists us might not be that exciting for the students. Although, I do find it hard to imagine that sociological theory isn’t fascinating for everyone. At the same time, there…
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The idea of pleasing customers goes back as far as the beginnings of human history. A 3,800 year old clay tablet with cuneiform writing from the city of UR is perhaps our evidence of customer complaints. A man named Nanni complained about the quality of copper he received to Ea-Nasir, along with issues with subsequent delays. A quote from the table…
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In today’s data saturated world, businesses are looking for ways to cut through the noise, and consumers are looking to feel seen and heard. Tools and techniques from the social sciences like Anthropology and Sociology can help organizations thrive in today's complex world by focusing on people’s lived experience in context. Learning to see connect…
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Designing for an international audience can provide challenges to the experience designer. If we are going to design with the cultural norms and expectations in mind, how do we handle when the number of cultures we are catering to seems to always increase? This also is a major challenge when living in a multicultural society where we have people fr…
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In a media environment where we are beset on all sides by messages, it can be hard to connect with your audiences. More challenging still is educating and impacting. We are all familiar with ads on television for different medications, from restless leg syndrome to depression to atrial fibrillation to skin problems to Wilfred Brimley “diabetus” adv…
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One of the lessons of the pandemic is raising the relevance of the workplace as a physical location in which people come together to accomplish their tasks. There are numerous stories of empty locations and attempts by employers to bring people back. Some of these attempts involve enticements, while others involve threats. Both speak to the growing…
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In experience design, there is design thinking, design doing, and design strategizing. Seldom do all three things come together in one package. This clearly presents a problem. Thinking isn’t enough without the doing. And doing isn’t enough without a strategy for what we are doing and why we are doing it. How to tie these things together becomes no…
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One of the most enjoyable aspects of being an experience designer, or a designer of any kind, is the opportunity to make unexpected connections in order to deliver new experiences. Often this starts in our backgrounds of study. Because there are so few programs targeted in experience design, the majority of designers combine their educational backg…
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One of the fascinating things about doing experience design is the innumerable ways in which we can apply our understanding and work. While we might talk about silos such as customer, user, employee, patient, and the like, it always comes down to people. Or, some might say, humans. And it is not just that we are dealing with humans in our design, b…
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Anyone who has been involved in education knows that education ain’t easy. It can be tricky and challenging to figure out how best to learn, integrate, and distill information to an audience. From the days of Socrates in the Agora and even before, the challenge of reaching learning with information that connects and educates has existed. The emerge…
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When confronted with all of the wicked problems that we are facing as a country, global community, and species, it can all seem pretty hopeless. The great abolitionist Frederick Douglass famously said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and never will.” When looking at the challenge…
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As social scientists in sociology and anthropology, we are well-versed in the examination of business as a source of disruption in society. The privileging of profits over people, the extraction of resources for the benefit of shareholders, question ethics and legality rationalized as a necessary evil. Especially looking at the slash-and-burn era o…
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The field of leadership coaching has been expanding with many different types of offerings provided by just as many different approaches. And it is hard to say that it is not needed. People in management positions can be beset on all sides by demands and limitations, making even thinking about leadership just another thing to add onto an already pa…
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In many ways, Experience Design is a new field of work in terms of how it has become focused on and prioritized in companies and across sectors. In other ways, there is nothing new about it at its core. Experiences have been designed and delivered throughout human history. Perhaps what is most different about today is the awareness and intentionall…
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We might have all heard that curiosity killed the cat. But as with all stories, the reality of that statement is a bit more complicated. It turns out that the initial version of that phrase referred to how excessive worry or concern for others killed the cat, and that is a concept we can all relate to. Curiosity, on the other hand, did not cause ha…
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As ethnographers, we are used to the idea that big discoveries can come from everyday observations. There are possibilities for discovery all around us. All it takes is for us to notice, and noticing can be the hardest thing to teach. An observation becomes a noticing, which then becomes a premise, which turns into an idea, and eventually perhaps e…
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Changing mindsets, behaviors, and organizations are hugely challenging. Design presents a pathway for trying to do so. However, when considering the complexity of systems and all the elements associated with them, the challenge can seem overwhelming. People can either oversimply to the point where their approach is incomplete, or get stuck in the w…
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Bob Ross has long been a fixture in the pop cultural landscape. The big hair, the soft voice, the happy little clouds, and the artwork created in an episode made Bob compelling and peaceful viewing. There was something about seeing a canvas transformed into a landscape that was transfixing. Despite his shows being on many decades ago, there is more…
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Anyone engaged in experience design knows the challenges of measuring experiences. Far being being a recent issue, understanding our experiences with the world has long challenged philosophers and social scientists. If centuries of the world's greatest thinkers has yet to be able to figure it out, you know it is a hard nut to crack. To solve this i…
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Memories are central to our lives, and how we form a sense of who we are as people. How we remember and engage with the past speaks to our identity in the present. Both events good and bad can form deep impressions in our minds, cutting grooves and building pinnacles that create the topography of our experiences. Low points and high points, trauma …
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While we are celebrating Earth Day on April 22nd, it might feel more appropriate to be planning the Earth’s memorial service. Earth Day was founded in 1970 as a way to learn about environmental issues, highlight sustainability of natural resources, and direct our attention to the fragility of our world. In the intervening 52 years, things haven’t g…
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Organizations may often think of change, but they are also often not serious about actually changing. When it comes down to making changes, where the rubber hits the proverbial road and orgs have to consider resourcing, people, budgets and time horizons, the reality of what it takes to change runs up against actual desire to change. Change can be e…
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With the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, there has been a lot of discussion of the military in the news recently. As we see images on television of these conflicts, the service of those in the military comes into clearer focus. There are those who are giving their years, themselves, and even their lives. Even in 'peace time,' military members can …
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Organizations used to be notable for their stability. Some of the biggest companies were well-known for their established cultures, their recognizable products, and their steadfast brands. Going to work at one of those companies meant permanence and security. It wasn’t just that those companies were change adverse; it is that change was seen as irr…
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It can be easy to forget that experience design, whatever the kind, is about people. More than that, it is about making not only experiences better, but more importantly their lives better. As experience designers, we can help in ways great and small. It can be an overused phrase to be customer, or patient, or user centric. And we can lose sight wh…
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We are on the verge of a new year, and with a new year comes new ideas about how we need to make changes in our lives. While individual will often make New Year’s Resolutions about how to make a “new you”, what about organization? What resolutions can organizations make to change the way they have been doing things, and enter the new year with not …
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When the world can feel more divided than ever - whether polarizing politics, climate change or economic uncertainty, ethnography reminds us to come back down to earth, and into the lives of people. Because the truth is, if we want to see systemic change, and address issues larger than ourselves, we actually have to start with everyday experience. …
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Meaning is a key element of designing experiences. At the same time, a major challenge is to understand how people construct and achieve meaning not just personally, but shared with others. How we create meaning through language has long been a philosophical question drawing sharp arguments around a fundamental feature of our lives. Max Louwerse’s …
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When looking at American culture, you can see how security minded it is. Home security systems. Car security systems. Gun ownership for protection. Locking your doors. It is a society that in many ways does not trust its own environment. At the same, we have in many ways given up pretending that we have digital privacy and security. News reports of…
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Perhaps one of the most immediate changes brought by the pandemic was the move to living online. It seemed like the world was going virtual, as people in business, education, organizing, and those trying to maintain social connection became boxes on screens. As we put more time into being online, we often found that there is a difference between be…
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This past summer has brought greater attention to questions of racial and social justice, resulting from the George Floyd murder to other stories also depicting events that bring us back to an earlier time in American history. While this renewed focus is welcome to address issues that still need addressing, the topic of diversity, equity, inclusion…
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