Global design and architecture firm, Gensler, has published its findings of a multi-year research effort to identify and quantify the factors of design that impact the human experience. The Gensler Experience Index identifies the key drivers of a great experience, quantifies the direct impact great design has on experience, and provides a holistic framework for understanding experience. The goal: to inspire the creation of great places that engage people’s emotions and keep them coming back.
The following are some highlights from the Index and insights from Rob Cohen, Northeast Digital Experience Design Manager at Gensler.
Gensler Experience Framework
At the core of experience is a person’s intention, or the reason they are embarking on that experience. Their reason for visiting informs how they will ultimately perceive and evaluate their experience. Those intentions are what Gensler calls “experience modes,” and form the center of its Experience Framework (see graphic). “This helps us identify and understand the clients’ objectives as well as the messaging principles they want to address within the design strategy,” says Cohen. “These principles are then translated into an experience narrative that is defined by the intended audience and how they will be interacting with the experience spatially.”
After understanding their intentions, the expectations a user brings to an experience inform how it will be perceived. During an experience, the quality of interactions a user has have a significant impact on experience, combined with the qualities of space — which range from functional issues like the ability to navigate intuitively, to higher-order items like beauty, authenticity, and uniqueness. “Altogether, these insights inform the expressive elements — physical components, visual content, software, and technology — which are equally important and work in concert to deliver a holistic experience,” Cohen adds.
“An environment that seamlessly blends the digital and physical can drive engagement, but it’s important to design with intentions in mind to ensure that this engagement lasts,” says Cohen. Always go back to the core framework to ensure you understand that experience is the user looking for, and ask how can we craft an experience that meets their expectations? “These questions set a precedent for how the space will adapt over time so it’s critical to understand the user’s needs and behavior in the context of the space during the beginning of the project development phase,” says Cohen.
The factors of design that impact the human experience must also be taken into consideration. “For example, one should not design an interactive experience in a transition space or leverage technology that is useful for a spectacle when a nuanced conversation needs to be had,” says Cohen. The post-development phase of a project is another opportunity to learn from the first version of a space and iterate based on the myriad data points available. “This will not only ensure a compelling experience with high user engagement but provide enhancements and content updates that allow for the space to stay fresh for repeat visitors,” adds Cohen.
The Role of Technology in Planning New Spaces
There’s no doubt that technology plays an integral role in creating spaces that are flexible and multipurpose; however, Cohen adds, “it should only exist in a space to serve the experience and not lead it. Gensler’s Digital Experience Design (DXD) practice begins every project from a strategy and narrative point of view to ensure that any integration of technology is done thoughtfully and taps into human emotion. “It doesn’t matter how beautiful a theater is, even if it’s equipped with a state-of-the-art screen and sound system, but if it doesn’t integrate intentionally with the overall design of the space, it’s going to be a lackluster experience,” concludes Cohen.
The Experience Index points out that technology matters, but not in the way you think. Places with the latest technology are more likely to offer a great experience, even if most people don’t interact with technology directly.