Archives For experience design


Photo by Ali Guichard / IDEO

Many people think of business travel as a chore. I see it as an opportunity. Not to generate new work, necessarily (though that’s nice, too), but to exercise my curiosity, think about problems in new ways, and get inspired.

Sometimes that inspiration hits as soon as I step off the plane, like it did when I first flew into Vancouver. Airports are welcome mats for the places we’re visiting, but all too often, they’re pretty unwelcoming. Not so at British Columbia’s hub, where on my walk to customs I was immersed in a wonderful and unexpected introduction to the sights and sounds of the Pacific Northwest. It made me wonder: How might we design the experience of arriving in a place in ways that acclimate and delight the road-weary? That applies to airports, but also to hotels, and even to new modes of travel like Airbnb.

On my first trip to India, I was struck by an unusual practice of the small convenience stores on every street: The shopkeepers never throw anything out. As you venture further into the store, you find layer upon layer of old advertising posters and products in vintage packaging. In the US, the old stock would signal a badly run business, but in Delhi it gave the stores an incredibly rich sense of history. I thought: Could Western retailers increase customer loyalty if they showcased their history in some way?

One final story. Early one morning in Beijing, I noticed a food vendor on the street. She had just finished making breakfast for some nearby construction workers and was stashing her cookware — including a large vat of piping-hot oil — on her moped. It was an elaborate and dangerous process that begged the question: how could better design improve conditions
for the working poor?

Such A-ha! moments are everywhere — even on a business trip — but you have to train your eye to look for them. So, wherever work takes you, make sure to get out of the hotel and watch everyday people living their everyday lives. Even if it’s just for an hour, I guarantee you’ll find more inspiration than you ever would inside a windowless conference room.

What everyday sights have inspired you on your travels?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

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Project teams and small groups need to easily congregate—and then just as easily wander into private spaces for design iterations, coding sessions, etc. The mix of project rooms, smaller conversational nooks, and individual phone booths makes this possible. Our studio also allows for the high percentage of casual transient spaces needed to let folks easily collaborate.

This is a photo (above) of a corner of our San Francisco studio. The space is meant to enable the fluid nature of creative work at IDEO.

Individual IDEO-ers reserve a new desk space every week—meaning you never know who you’ll be sitting next to. This constant flux makes it easier to get inspired by colleagues in other disciplines. You never know when you’ll be sitting next to me!

At IDEO, we continue to create new spaces and work arrangements that invite inspiration, collaboration, and serendipity. Our spaces are ever-evolving prototypes.

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

The future of the book

September 21, 2010 — 6 Comments

The Future of the Book. from IDEO on Vimeo.

Some folks in the New York office of IDEO have been thinking about the future of the book and how it shows up as an experience on tablets. They would love to get your reactions to the ideas.

It is interesting to think how a media morphs as it transitions to a new technology platform. In this case is this really about the ‘book’ or is it something entirely new? There is a conversation going on over at IDEO’s Facebook page.

Local Design

July 31, 2010 — 2 Comments


I don’t generally travel to rural Oxfordshire, the place in England where I grew up, for design inspiration. History, beauty, friends and family – yes, but design – no. That is at least until I discovered Giffords Circus on my trip this summer. Giffords is a family circus that spends the summer months traveling around Oxfordsire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire performing to small crowds in fields behind pubs and other such local landmarks. This is a tradition that has gone on in England for a century or more and to be honest most of these circuses are tired and a little sleazy – not so this one. From the beautiful and vibrant graphics of the program and map that shows the locations of performances; to the rigorous application of the ‘corporate identity’ on every vehicle the visual design of the circus is stunning. Beyond this the performance is delightful; a cross between Cirque de Soleil and vaudeville with inspirational music, amusing plot and loads of humor. The final touches include homemade cakes and drinks at the interval and even the option of a three course meal made from the best local ingredients with the performers at the end of the evening. A UK food magazine describes it as “one of the most enjoyable and memorable restaurants imaginable”.

This delightful experience is owned and delivered by Nell Gifford and her husband Toti (a landscape designer). It shows what can be achieved with the combination of imaginative design, enthusiastic entrepreneurship and talent.What would happen if our local school districts, city councils and health authorities exhibited the same imagination?


January 25, 2010 — 1 Comment


I am spending the next day and a half in Munich before heading up to Davos for the annual WEF annual meeting. There is a great event that happens here every year called DLD (Digital Life Day) put on by Burda Media. You can think of it as a mini TED but with many more Europeans. The content is eclectic but I came away with a couple of interesting insights from today’s sessions.

John Nesbitt, author of the iconic Megatrends in the 1980′s, is just publishing his new book China’s Megatrends . He, along with his wife and venture capitalist Joe Schoendorf, were talking about what is really going on in China. One interesting comment from Nesbitt was “China is a country with no ideology”. Given the way China is represented in the western press this comes across as pretty radical but the point he makes is that China today is about the under 25′s and they are only interested in creating better lives and not in whether communism or capitalism are the right ways to do it. For those thinking about innovation in China the point is that our assumptions are not necessarily accurate.

In another session on health, moderated by Esther Dyson, we heard how health will be driven by user generated content and consumer applications. Products in the future will be a collection of therapies, monitoring, applications, communities and incentives. In other words they will be experience systems.

Finally, the CEO of Deutsche Post, the world’s largest logistics company as well as the German post office, talked about innovation in his industry. One thing that is interesting is that Deutsche Post is quite profitable unlike its counterparts in the US and UK. He was quite critical of the banking industry because he believes that business has to be based on meeting the needs of customers and taking responsibility for employees. He believes that much of the banking world has lost touch with both of these ideas and in many cases no longer serves customers with its activities. I agree with the essential nature of meeting needs but I might expand the idea of taking responsibility beyond employees to include the community in which business is practiced which for the largest companies includes much of the planet.