As the discipline is rapidly evolving in the last decade, some of us get confused what’s what. Perhaps this attempt to clarify this confusion will help.

Stocksy, purchased by Aga Szóstek

Back in 1998 through their HBR article Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore made a dent in the perception of many by proclaiming the upcoming era of Experience Economy. The Progression of Economic Value model, they proposed, showed the evolutionary process of shifting what businesses offer to their customers (from commodities, to products, to services, to experiences, and to transformations).

The Progression of Economic Value model proposed by Pine and Gilmore

While the era of commodities lost impact with the dawn of industrialization, back in the nineties of the 20th century we were still pretty deep in the industrial era providing us with products and solidifying the consumerism culture. The last decade of the 20th century and the first two of the 21st century can be characterized as decades of economy focused on convenience and ease of use. As we approach the third decade of the 21st century a shift towards the experience design begins to be noticeable, with the first frontiers paving the path for transformational design.

The evolution of the design field

Naturally, the design field keeps on evolving alongside economy both provoked and propelled by the changes we go thorugh in the last century. It is, actually, almost unbelievable to imagine that the design profession has just passed its 250th birth mark. Of course, design as craft was known since the dawn of humanity but as profession is has been first established during the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain in the of mid 18th century. The first time the word: industrial design has, allegedly, been used in 1919. The growth of the industrial design field correlates with the massive urbanization and also the steady growth of the middle class who wanted to (and was able to afford) possess objects that were not only functional but also beautiful.

Then we hit the nineties, got the Internet and that has changed the world and the design profession in a unimaginable way. Firstly, the digital objects such as websites, systems and apps needed to be designed, which formed a new branch of the design field: the . User Experience was nothing more than the industrial design competency shifted to design of digital products.

Then customers asked for more. They wanted not only a good product but also a great service. This is how Service Design and Customer Experience domains came to life. With Service Design focused more on the digital domain and aiming at more analog world of physical processes and services, we got into the Service Economy with its aim to strive for streamlining the offering to make it fast and easy. To save time.

The elements of experience design

As we are making the first steps into the Experience Economy, a new (and more complex) approach is needed. It is not enough to just focus on mapping the Customer Journey and addressing the various touch-points. In order to design an experience, an Experience Vision (also called the Experience Theme or the High Concept) is necessary to guide and marry three domains: branding (with the narrative, within which the experience is coded), Customer Experience (which is responsible for construing the experience from the customer perspective) and Employee Experience (which holds the framework for the people staging the experience to act within).

An initial model of experience design elements as discussed by Andy Sontag, Aga Szóstek and Werner Puchert

Transformational design

As much as we are able to pick into the emerging field of the experience design, the next evolutionary step: design for transformation is still mostly hidden from our eyesight. There are the first examples of it such as the AltMBA workshop but the mechanisms of designing for transformation still need to be to the major extent uncovered.

One thing seems sure though — as much as the product and service design was focused on delivering end solutions, something that people use as is, the experience and transformational design will focus on delivering means rather than ends: platforms for staging experiences and transformations rather that convenient products and services. It will require yet another shift in the way of thinking for the design profession.

Means- End Theory


With this growth of design-related nomenclature there is quite some confusion with respect to what are the typically applied steps of the design process in Service Design, User Experience and Customer Experience. While it is still rare to think about the experience vision and strategy regardless of the approach, many of the other steps of the design process are being taken. You may notice some dis-continuum, which I think, stems from the fact that the design discipline is evolving so rapidly, some cracks in the process are inevitable.

I would like to put a disclaimer here: I am sure that in many places these processes look different and take different steps into account. This drawing is a generalized representation of what I observe with many of my clients. It is not aimed to either criticize or to be a reference point. It is just capturing reality as happening around me today. Please, don’t be offended by it — I am sure that many organizations are more mature and therefore filling in the cracks with the subsequent steps to create a comprehensive process of experience design.

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