Creating Products, Not Experiences

Although Kicker does some of the activities that in a lot of circles would be called “User Experience” or “Experience Design,” it’s my feeling that experiences can’t really be designed. You can only provide the resources for people to have an experience; then it’s the people (users) themselves who create the experience.

People bring all sorts of history, talents, sensibilities, and culture to bear on any engagement with a product or service. People’s culture, needs, desires, behaviors, and motivations are what shape any experience they have with a product. (This is true of all products, by the way, not just ones with a digital component.)

This is what we do at Kicker: make the resources (products and environments) so that people can create their own experiences with them. We don’t design experiences; we design the products that allow for experiences to happen.

“Experience design” is often just a fancy term for what used to be called “creative direction,” meaning oversight to make sure all the pieces of a product fit together. Kicker was created with that sort of oversight baked in: our visual, interaction, and industrial designers work together to create holistic products from the inside-out. (This isn’t to say there is no oversight; there is. But it’s much easier when the disciplines work together from the beginning.)

I agree with Nokia’s Design Manifesto (pdf) when it says, “For a human being the product is not an end in itself but the gateway to a plethora of experiences.” It’s the plethora of experiences that is so important. Design for a single experience (or a single user type) is limiting and can even be crippling for a product. (Which is one reason why personas can be a dangerous crutch.)

So while user experience and experience design are all the rage, we know that experiences are made up of products, services, and environments. Design those well, and the experiences will come.