Could Your Feelings Make or Break Your Experience Design Project?

Night cityscape

Close your eyes and tell me, are you licking your lips remembering the food?  Chuckling recalling the plot?  Smiling imagining that incredible hotel?  I bet you are, and I bet if you were to describe it to me, you would conjure such a striking image of your experience that I would feel as if I were sitting with you at dinner or reading the story alongside you or strolling down that beautiful city street just like you did.

Or maybe you wouldn\’t.  Perhaps you would tell me that you had a great meal; that it showed 83% improvement over the quality of past years\’ meals on the same day.  Maybe your bottom line improved 26% when you purchased your favorite book because you economized on shipping by offering it virtually which was what made it a success?  And that incredible vacation?  Maybe one out of one vacation participants surveyed was pleased with the new August date pattern you selected.

If you\’re shaking your head at the absurdity of those measurements to evaluate the success or failure of the experience of eating an amazing meal or reading a mind-blowing story or taking the vacation of a lifetime, consider whether slight changes in the exact same sentences aren\’t eerily familiar metrics we often bandy about as the hallmarks of experiential design success.

  • You had a great gala; satisfaction with food and beverage showed 83% improvement over past years.
  • Your bottom line improved 26% when you economized on shipping by offering your event virtually which was what made it a success.
  • Seven out of ten surveyed were pleased with the new August date pattern you selected for the product roadmap release.

Take things a step further.  Imagine someone was attempting to convey the experience of a gala or a virtual event or a product roadmap release to you in order to convince you to donate, register, or buy that product.  Would those descriptions light your fire?  Would you be clamoring to be a part of any of those experiences?  My guess? Probably not.

The Power of Your Feelings and G+A\’s Vivid Description in Experiential Design

Feelings-led experiential design, which is at the core of G+A\’s 4D Framework, flips the conventional decision-making paradigm for any design project on its head.

In place of an analytics-led approach that prioritizes the achievement of data-driven goals both during the design process and after its consummation far ahead of whether an experience evokes such powerful feels as to be rendered unforgettable, in step one, Discover, of The 4D Framework, experience design thinkers identify those deeply desirable feelings as a series of Love to Feel adjectives that embody how they want an experience to feel AND how they want to feel as they design it.  Then, in step two of the Framework, Define, we work with them to craft a Vivid Description of the experience using vibrant language to capture those feelings in specific, easily quantifiable ways.

The Vivid Description becomes a foundational yes/no litmus test for design decision-making, creating a touchstone that lets teams ask, \”Is this decision moving us closer to or further from our Vivid Description of this experience?\”

Take this example of a Vivid Description of an individual\’s vacation experience:

The moment I arrived at the hotel, I knew I\’d discovered a unique location in a sea of vacation choices.  Not only did the vibrant, energetic atmosphere mirror the lively, playful spirit I\’d seen in every social post and website photo before I arrived, the hotel also elevated the playful, friendly energy by introducing unique experiences I never expected: a personalized check-in alcove where I was served a refreshing beverage of my choice while I waited for my room key, a welcome amenity in my room based on the traveler profile I selected while making my reservation, and a simple list of activities suited to my preferences based on that same traveler profile.  When I walked through the door, I was transported to the most lively party this side of the Atlantic where every day felt like the first day of an amazing celebration!

Enveloped by the same warm hospitality that has sustained the hotel since it was first built in 1889, I couldn\’t help but join in the fun having awesome conversations with friendly staff and guests who shared a common joie de vivre.  From authentic food and décor to service and events that create a sense of wonder, I experienced one adventure after another that I couldn\’t wait to share.  

The Power of G+A\’s Vivid Description in Practical Application

What if I told you this was actually the Vivid Description G+A crafted for one of our hospitality clients?  In fact, it was, and it allowed that client to make determinations about the design of each touchpoint of their experience against that simple question, \”Is this moving us closer to our Vivid Description or further from it?\”

  • Q. What type of in-room amenities should we choose, or should we eliminate them altogether?
  • A. We should choose amenities based on the traveler profiles we\’ve built, ensuring the experiences match.  Eliminating them would fly in the face of our description, so they stay.
  • Q. What type of traveler profiles should we list in the reservation process?
  • A. Ones that align with the idea of vacationing at a property that offers \”the most lively party this side of the Atlantic where every day feels like the first day of an amazing celebration.\”  Guests whose traveler profiles don\’t align to that experience probably aren\’t a good fit for our experience.
  • Q. What kind of employees should we hire?  What should we include in job descriptions?
  • A. We need to focus on job titles, responsibilities, and descriptions that attract friendly people who share a common joie de vivre.  Similarly, our evaluation and incentive programs should promote those characteristics and reward that type of behavior with priority!

These were just a few of the questions whose answers became simpler to find with a Vivid Description in hand, and that\’s really the point of the entire exercise.  The 4D Framework is intended to first, help you identify how you want an experience to feel, and next, provide clear, easy-to-follow steps backed by straightforward tools to allow you to make incremental decisions while designing experiences that evoke those feelings.  We keep it simple, easy, and fun so that you define AND design your dream experience… whatever it may be.

Until next time, dream boldly, dream beautifully,
Mallory Gott, Founder + Creative Director, G+A | An Experiential Design Firm

To learn more about the power of a feelings-led approach to experience design, and for an overview of G+A’s 4D Framework, read about Our Approach. Then, Join The 4D Community of experiential design enthusiasts for even more great content!