Experience Design: Beautiful and Sexy.

The past few months I have been engaged in a fascinating discussion with a close industry peer. An individual that champions the association between emotives and experience design. What has a tendency to be a rather philosophical conversation has brought about some amazing conversation and insights as we explored emotives that rarely enter into the mind of a bank, beauty and sex.

Now before you judge this as a ‘Sex Sells’ pitch, let me outline the thought behind the two words. Everything in our physical world has some degree of association with the concept of beauty. Whether its art, buildings, people and advertisements, each have a context of beauty. The visual appeal that the eye of the beholder has the ability to appreciate. Think about a time that you recognised a beautiful photo, and the thoughts that crept into your mind as you appreciated its beauty. While a trained appreciator maybe able to describe the design theory that constructs the elements of beauty, the large major of us use emotional association to recognise and connect to the elements we appreciate. Thus we recognise the importance of the emotive connection to visual experience appeal. But beauty along doesn’t invoke a desire for action.

A key differentiator in the Experience Design space is the ability of the designer to not only create visual appeal, but also guide and attract action. Think of the last time you flicked through a women’s magazine like Cleo, Cosmo or Vogue. The images in these are very deliberately created to subtlety invoke the ‘Men Want Her, And Women Want To Be Her’ action. While more extremes are invoked emotive of a ‘Sexy’ Car, in creates a desire for the appreciator to get in it, and drive it. My Personal object of desire is Porsche’s 911 Turbo, a boyhood dream that I’ve carry since the age of 10. These appreciation connections create a bond that is more than a passive appreciation, it stirs your desires in a way that drives your impulse to act.

How does this relate to Experience Design? Recent years have seen the accelerate maturity of User Experience Design as a profession, with dozens of publications illustrating the link between good experience design and product/service performance. And in recent weeks, we’ve seen Payments Experience Design Pioneer Square acquire Design Firm 80/20. The role of experience designers is to create compelling, engaging, desirable experiences to enable products and services in the digital era. To differentiate between good design and impactful design, I propose understanding the difference between beauty and sexy. Which brings into the design process the objective of creating something that is more than just visually appealing. Instead creating a visual that invokes a users desire to act. Successful implementation of experiences that invoke this desire, will be the key to moderately adopted and hyper adopted products and services. Where the sexy elements promote the function of the experience.

So ask yourself… does the experience of your service invoke beauty or sexy?

© Scott Bales 2014. All Rights Reserved.