Why Experience Design?

studio-events-collaboration students working at a table
a game design with stickers and a game board
a student working on a computer
a pattern cut out of a sheet of wood

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.– MAYA ANGELOU

"Experience Design" is a pretty lofty claim. After all, who can design experiences? They're fleeting, amorphous, and ill-defined. Sure, you can take a photo or video of a moment in time that captures an experience, but this media fails to capture the emotions, smells, or other senses that made the experience unique. Experiences are hard to define but all people who are conscious experience things—both large and small.

Experiences can include frustration with a confusing smartphone app, arguing the month's bill with a worker at the power company, or the experience of a person who is homeless trying to find a safe place to sleep for the night. All of these experiences are composed of countless micro-moments and influenced by designed things like phones, customer service policies, and park benches. Below are examples of Experience Design in action and many of the parts that make them up. In the xdMFA, we explore each of these aspects deeply in an effort to learn of people's needs and design outcomes that facilitate more desirable experiences.

We all experience. Because all people matter... people deserve better experiences.

Research Inspires Innovation

Applying theory and research methods reveals areas where design can meet needs and innovate relevant products.

people waiting in a hospital waiting room

(Medical) Field Research

Research requires designers to go out and learn how people interact with information and policies in spaces like medical clinic waiting rooms.

In our program, research theories, methods, and tools are applied in order to discover opportunities for innovation and what kinds of Experience Design outcomes may best meet these needs.

a coffee shop


one man interviewing another man


people sitting around in a circle discussing

Focus Groups

a website with heatmap blotches on the interface

Eye Tracking

two Indian women smiling


a woman in a wheelchair using a shower

Different Needs

a crowd of people

Communication & Psychological Theory

a storyboard drawing

Theoretical Frameworks

Experiences are Unique and Personal

An expansive range of experiences from mundane tasks to life-altering turns must be considered when experiences drive design.

a woman holding her child

Everyone is on a Journey

A parent interacts with her child differently and faces new challenges as years and life stages pass. Experience design measures things like minutes waited, frustrations with sippy cups, and delight in sharing endearing messages so designs support those unique moments and journeys.

Students in Experience Design research and consider real and perceived aspects of daily life as central to the experience design process. Outcomes are accompanied by experience maps (sometimes called customer journey maps) and/or video animations that help clarify how designs work and function.

a man with head down in his hands


a woman in front of business smiling


woman at night looking at stars


man in hospital using walker


male soldier being hugged by son


man using computer looking frustrated


women holding hands


a man with an angry face


People are Transdisciplinary

Designing to evoke emotions and outcomes isn't limited to one media, one approach, or one discipline.

people waiting at a bus stop

Multi-sensory Bus Stops

A bus stop isn't a singular experience. There are ads to read, time to check a smartphone, and people to chat with. It's an experience. How can a bus stop do more than keep the rain and sun off of your back? Here's an opportunity for experience design...including interaction, industrial, graphic, service, and maybe even sound design to enhance the experience.

Experience Design is not limited to one design approach, but often activates aspects of many different design disciplines. Every xdMFA student brings an area of expertise to their work, then refines and develops skills in a range of design disciplines to plus that expertise.

a customer giving money to a shopkeeper in a store


a person tapping on an iPad tablet screen


a designed poster, business card, and package

Communication Design

three spray bottles with labels


a person using Instagram on an iPhone

Social Media

a smart speaker sitting on a table

Product Design

wayfinding signs in an airport


a map of new york with areas highlighted in circles

Information Design

Processes and Tools for Experience

When designing experiences, different tools and processes must be used.

apps on a smartphone screen

Experience the Many Moments of Digital

Using an app involves a touchscreen, a smartphone, and the world of interactions that surrounds the device. Phones are context-navigators. In order to design, you have to research context, interaction, and systems.

We teach and practice traditional and emerging tools and approaches for evaluating, exploring, and developing experience-focused design needs and outcomes.

post it notes on a whiteboard

Design Thinking

an experience map

Experience Maps

drawings in a storyboard


a woman wearing a virtual reality headset

Virtual Reality

people working together to design a solution


a complex diagram of many different idea connections

Systems & Systemic Design

a person touching a paper prototype of a keypad


illustration of silhouettes of different people


Crafted to be Memorable

Every pixel, every point, every second is crafted because details are how designs and the experiences they facilitate are made real.

wireframe website drawings in a sketchbook

Every Detail Matters

Anything created, from a design to a research project hinges on craft. When something is created with precise detail, people notice and unexpected outcomes are reduced. In the tradition of the visual arts, outcomes are designed with care and fine detail.

Students in Experience Design create finely-crafted outcomes that include digital, physical, and time-based media.

a pattern of pixels


a smiling girl telling a story


a cushy, soft leather couch

Touch & Feel

a grid of shiny metal pipes


typed words on a page of a book


spray painted graffiti on a wall

Visual Rhetoric

a girl wearing headphones listening to music


a filmmaker with a movie camera

Motion & Video

What people seek is not the meaning of life but the experience of being alive.– JOSEPH CAMPBELL