Design for Humans

Why experience is at the center of creativity

It was the day before I was to give a presentation about X, a big project I undertook over the last several years that explored meaningful experiences and the future of experience design. I was nervous. Well, I always get nervous, but this was completely consuming me. I couldn’t think about anything else, which blocked me from seeing what it is I would actually say on stage. There was just something about this event, the idea of speaking in front of the very people who’ve inspired me over the years, that was intimidating and immobilizing. I was running out of time. I needed to start my presentation.

When I’m frozen like this, it’s usually the result of some concoction of fear and doubt mixed with wanting to do the very best that I can. But, before I dug in to take on my procrastination, I needed to walk across the city of Austin to see my dear friend Chase Jarvis, renowned photographer and CreativeLive Founder. Chase had set up a studio where he was shooting a special series, “30 Days of Genius,” aimed at helping creative professionals and entrepreneurs in their work.

Luckily, we were also going to talk “X” and thankfully, Chase has this way of making you feel at ease, engaged and even confident.

Lights. Camera. Action.

Chase roared into his intro and I had no time to overthink anymore. But, it was what he said about his audience that would not only help get me through the interview, but also help with my big presentations and beyond.

“The audience considers themselves creative or they want to be more creative.”

I tend to fall somewhere toward the latter side of the audience, “I want to be more creative.” X was an expression of that desire. How could I overlook that? Indeed, I needed to connect withpeople, the human beings on the receiving end of this conversation, and understand who they were and who they wanted to be. It’s what separates those two states that inspires and drives me and defines my role in bringing them closer together.

Visual notes by Jill Rapley

It’s so easy to forget that there are real people on the other side of our work, products, stories, aspirations. Why do we get so caught up in our processes, rules and metrics at a time when we are empowered, even accountable, for re-imagining the future of everything?

Somewhere during my conversation with Chase, I realized that I had nothing to gain by holding anything back and the same was true for the audience. They would gain nothing if I didn’t consider why they watched this show or why they follow Chase and his work. My purpose was greater than X. Since I really do care, my obligation was to connect the dots between my experiences and the aspirations of those who want to be more creative, validated, motivated or enlightened. This is true for all of us.

No one achieves greatness by not completely exposing themselves.

Start with experience… Why leave experiences to chance?

In the end, we are all bound or separated by the experiences we have and share. The truth is that people will experience something after spending time with you or some semblance of you, so what do you want them to feel? What do you want them to do? What do you want them to share?

This is the source of experience design. It’s about people, those who are and aren’t like us, and bringing people together in meaningful ways. It’s human-centered and empathetic. Your brand, reputation and the perception of your work is or will be separated by what you create and what people experience and share. That divide is where your work begins.

Experience is emotional and sometimes irrational. Knowing that, what can you do differently? In the earliest stages of creativity, your work must consider who people are, what drives them and what it is you want someone to experience. Then design those triggers into every aspect of their journey.

Visual notes by Alessio Maltrotto

All I needed was a reminder that our work and our words have to mean something to someone else. It’s the work we do before we speak and act and the experience we design to embrace someone else that defines the moment and also our ability to earn/re-earn someone’s time attention and relationship over time. Anything less is less.

The embrace… That moment when you have my attention and I have yours and together we create unforgettable experiences… Experience.

The conversation with Chase also unlocked for me what it was that I would speak about the next day. My creativity popped like a champagne cork when I asked, “who was going to be in that room, what are they struggling with or what do they want to accomplish, and what I want them to feel after spending time together?”

The presentation was a success, thankfully, because I connected the dots between my experiences and their desired experience to make that embrace, that moment, significant.

All of this reminded me of a beautiful quote by Maya Angelou that helped me throughout the trying times of creating “X.” Let it also inspire you in your work. Design meaningful and shareable experiences. Make someone feel like you get them. Never stop.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But, people will never forget how you made them feel.

Please take a moment to share in this episode with us. I hope it helps you as much as it helped me.

Thank you also to @ekofocus, @thevisualscribe and @kiwichamp for taking the time to create and share their visual notes. Their notes just helped me discover my next project!

Visual notes by The Visual Scribe ‏@thevisualscribe

Make sure to watch the entire #30DaysofGenius series. Guests include the likes of Mark Cuban, Sir Richard Branson, Seth Godin, Adrian Grenier, Daymond John, Jared Leto, Sophia Amoruso, James Altucher, Arianna Huffington, Tim Ferriss, Gretchen Rubin, and an entire array of people doing amazing things.

Brian Solis is the author of the new book, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, which teaches organizations how to take a human-centered approach to experience design.