northtemple journal of design ~ November Issue
Exploring the inner workings of a designer’s mind is no picnic. Stop over-analyzing and go with your gut.
Visiting with Rob a few days ago about our role as experience architects, he mentioned that we are creators and that our work is to lead people.
My first thoughts when he said those words were about Heavenly Father: how He is the Master Creator and how His entire work is centered around leading people. As our Father, he is the ultimate architect, crafting experiences—such as our lives on this Earth—to lead us and to guide us so that we may become like Him and return Home to live with Him again. I then thought of His Son, Jesus Christ, and how He completed the largest and most significant design project in the history of this world when he lead and orchestrated it’s creation.
“I’m not averse to riches or profit, but not at the expense of the user.”
Jim Buckmaster, Craigslist CEO
A while ago I noted that the opening of the first IKEA store in Utah had created significant traffic snarls for days. Well, apparently in Portland this week it was even worse.
One of our interns, Derek Caswell, reported that a new IKEA store opened in Portland this morning. He had stayed for a long weekend with family in Eugene and stayed in a Portland hotel last night prior to catching his flight back to Utah. He caught wind of the IKEA event when someone mentioned how lucky he was to get a room.
When he asked why, he was told that most hotels were fully booked—because of the IKEA opening today! People apparently traveled from all around and stayed the night in a hotel in order to get in line early on opening day.
As was the case here in Utah, the local transportation office published an IKEA Traffic Flow Plan and the airport posted a Traffic Advisory to handle the massive volume of opening day. A web search also turned up lots of other buzz around the event, including one titled, “The Swedish are Coming! The Swedish are Coming!”
When people will go to such lengths just to walk into your store for the first time, when the local transportation department and airport have to make special arrangements to handle the traffic (not for hours, but for weeks, according to the advisory), when people book all the hotels in town early just to get in the door—you are doing something awfully right.
As I said before—in my opinion, it’s not just the products, it’s the design of the whole IKEA experience, from the products, to the pricing, to the floorplan, to the food and other cultural touches, to the packaging, all the way through the instructions and assembly.
If you haven’t been, check it out. And bring your design notebook.
Knowing my great affection for anything Scandinavian, I’m sure the whole team would be shocked and dismayed if I didn’t post something about the IKEA store opening in the Salt Lake valley. So here it is! How careful experience design created a traffic jam along I-15 and nearby surface streets.
On my way to work this morning, I looked out the bus window as I passed Bangerter Highway on I-15. I noted the new IKEA building, with a three-quarters full parking lot, balloons waving, a crowd gathering—despite the fact that the store didn’t open for another two hours. Last night on the news they announced that certain freeway offramps would be closed, and that a major surface street would be converted to one-way, all so that the high volume of expected traffic could be routed most efficiently in from the south and out through the north. People have been talking with great anticipation for weeks about the store opening.
So I ask— what’s the big deal? It’s a big box store for cryin’ out loud. No Walmart, Lowe’s, or Fill-in-the-Blank Superstore got this kind of treatment! I think there are at least two factors: Audience and Experience.
I myself am affected by the Audience factor in multiple ways. I appreciate relatively cheap, high-quality stuff, which is what IKEA makes. I further served an LDS mission in Sweden, so I appreciate the food, candy, decor, and other cultural touches you find at IKEA, especially around the holidays. I look forward to sharing many a plate of IKEA’s swedish meatballs and lingon berries with former mission companions and maybe even a convert or two who have relocated to Utah.
But you don’t have to have Swedish connections to appreciate the IKEA Experience. This is a company that doesn’t just sell you a piece of furniture. They sell you a good experience, from the minute you walk in the door, to the navigating of the floorplan, to the enjoyment of authentic Swedish cuisine, to the sheer relief of dropping the kids off in a 100% secure Playland before beginning your shopping trip, through the checkout lines, and all the way home.
Once at home you open your box and find—gasp!—highly readable instructions that are easy to follow. Less than thirty minutes later, your loft bed with student desk is assembled and your kid is telling you it’s the coolest thing she’s ever seen.
During December, be prepared to add a Santa Lucia procession complete with candle crowns and caroling in Swedish, and a glass of warm glogg in your hand. (I apologize for not finding my umlauts and other diacritics, Swedish speakers; forlat.) Add to this the scent of the pine trees lined up for sale, and you have an Atmosphere, not a store.
To sum it up, the reason people are lined up for miles to see this store open is not because they can’t wait to get that rocking chair or box of chocolates. It’s because IKEA provides a rich, memorable Experience that has been carefully designed from start to finish.
We should all be so wise in our design work.
(Also see how good experience made it hard to find a place to sleep in Portland.)
From Good Experience we get the 2007 Copernican Award finalists for best exemplifying the idea that a business “revolves around the customer, not the other way around.” My personal favorites on this list: The Motley Fool (whose radio show I started listening to years ago in Seattle), and Shutterfly (whose photo products arrive semi-regularly in my mailbox, compliments of my memories-minded mother-in-law).
Principles all designers should live by – great read!
1. Technology Serves Humans.
2. Design is not Art.
3. The Experience Belongs to the User.
4. Great Design is Invisible.
5. Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication.
Read complete article
“the more generic the person for whom the designer is designing, the less likely the experience will be exciting, memorable or unique.”
Tom Guarriello in Experiencing Experience (UX Magazine)