The End of Delight?

Since at least mid-2014, there’s been a bit of skepticism around the concept of “delight”. Trite. Trivial. Tacky. The word, in the digital space, suddenly carries the stigma of overly-ambitious gimmick.

Which, as you can imagine, is disconcerting after your pet project of 4 years was recently rebranded to encompass the very word. (For those out of the loop, I’m talking about the Delight Conference.) Founded as “Love at First Website” in 2004, it began as a local event to gather clients and industry professionals over lunch to discuss great design and digital work.

Pure elation over the success of the 2014 event.

Fast forward to 2010, as we were all realizing digital “love” encompassed much more than beautiful website aesthetics or clever campaign work. When I came on board*, the vision for the event was taking off — as was traction around the concept of “delight” in experience design. In 2012, we rebranded to the Delight Conference.

Over four years, the event matured into a passionate, international community.

Featuring speakers from brands like Simple (in beta, at the time), Disney, Warby Parker, Bow & Drape, Nordstrom, Zappos and many more, the conference served to gather the cream of the crop in exceptional customer experience design. With user experience, business strategy, engineering and marketing professionals in the audience, conversations around the event (before, during and after) reflected more than an industry buzzword: delightful experience design was a movement people wanted in on.

A recent Fast Company article, which seems to attack the nature of delight, only underscores its true meaning. (Judging by the astute comments from other FastCo readers, it’s a pretty transparent attack anyways — but I digress.)

Over years of managing the Delight conference, I heard from both speakers and attendees what exactly “delight” means to them. To truly delightful brands, it isn’t “a cherry on top” piece of flair. People love brands like Nordstrom not for superficial surprises, but the meaningful interactions they create by understanding and anticipating needs of their customers. 100+ years of amazing customer service speaks volumes about the sustainability of their efforts.

Check out any number of past talk videos from the likes of NPR, Intel, Zipcar and more for more on what delight really is (and isn’t).

As the conversation around “delight” continues to grow, it was an exceptionally difficult thing to leave the Delight conference and community last month with my departure from ISITE. Though many have grown used to my face (and byline) on much of the content, the team behind the event actually spans over half the agency by now — it truly takes a village! While I don’t know what this next year will hold for the event, I do know the momentum and conversation around delight — the event and the broader concept — will only grow in scale and maturity. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next…and enjoying some Delight Conf fun from the audience! ;)

*The Delight Conference is organized by ISITE Design, a digital agency in Portland, Oregon.

Originally published at on March 27, 2015.