I recently blogged about connected experiences, which are interlocking relationships created by standalone brands to make lovable products. The rise of connected experiences is just one sign of design’s more strategic value. Another indicator is Lyft relying on designers to improve ride sharing and competing more effectively with Uber. In fact, I believe that design is becoming more valuable as an operational function that orchestrates the entire customer experience.

Dictionary.com defines choreography as “the sequence of steps and movements in dance or figure skating, especially in a ballet or other staged dance.” This is an appropriate way to describe the role of design. Effective design goes beyond the look and feel of a customer experience. Design engineers the entire experience.

In addition, good choreography is collaborative. The choreographer needs dancers, the dancers need the choreographer, and vice versa. Otherwise, there is no dance. Collaboration is important for any business creating an experience either in standalone fashion or with others. I believe the elements of design choreography consist of:

The Human Element (Emotion)

People are at the center of design. This sounds like a self-evident statement, but it bears pointing out because too often designers get caught up in the design process itself and forget who they are designing for. A lot has been written about human-centered design, humanity-centered design, or user-centered design. The consensus is that designers need to gain empathy for the person they are trying to solve problems for. Whether that person is a system administrator, a supply chain manager, or a stay-at-home parent, they all have everyday wants and needs that must be met and jobs that they need to accomplish. The more empathetic designers are to other people, the more effective they can be as choreographers.

The Journey (Steps)

Like any great dance move, the journey consists of steps and counts. The journey in context of design consists of the user’s journey before, during, and after they interact with your brand, product, or service. This context is key is to ensuring designers remain considerate of the person and their actions throughout the design of an experience. In my last blog post about experience ecosystems, I said that journeys are critical to ensuring we consider the user’s experience from one brand to another. Tools such as journey maps helps ensure that the experience that designers craft will achieve the business and user goals set forth at the start.

Journey maps are a viable business tool. Understanding the customer’s journey can shed light on what back-office or internal processes, systems, and services need to be in place to support the journey and the associated experience pillars. (At Moonshot, we employ journey maps as we help businesses design lovable products centered on customers. We typically use these tools in design sprints, during which integrated teams develop user-centered product prototypes in five days or less.).

Data (Behaviors)

Data science is maturing by the second in today’s high-tech industries. And data science is essential to choreographing experiences. Data-rooted choreography starts with knowing what data must be collected within the journey, how we will collect it, and what data can tell us. Those elements comprise the facets for getting to a smart insight within an experience.

Data helps bring about intelligent design. Next-generation designers need to marry design and data, as companies mature their data science and activation efforts. Applying a designer’s mindset to the data opens the doors for understanding how to make the data sensible. Having a designer’s mindset means asking questions such as:

  • How might we structure the data so that it activates decision making with the enterprise and the user?
  • How might we visualize the data so that it provides an experience that extends the brand or design language?
  • How might we collaborate with data scientists and other disciplines to understand what, where, and how data is being collected — the impact data will have on the experience at any moment?

This is the difference between asking the user to provide information at every point or the system learning and automating data acquired to make the users having to make fewer decisions.

I like how Mike Wystrach, CEO and founder of Freshly Inc., describes data in context of  the future of the consumer packaged goods industry. He says the future of CPG is economies of value versus economies of scale. In a recent article, he said,

In that environment, you apply data and science to solve consumer problems. It’s about having a solution-driven mindset instead of a product-driven one. Instead of continually launching new products and seeing what works, you focus on consumer needs and behaviors and think about solving consumers’ problems. When doing that, you need data and science as your backbone.

Mayur Gupta, Freshly’s newly appointed CMO, is executing on Mike’s vision. As he noted, “My goal is to establish a data-inspired ecosystem that delivers valuable personalized experiences at every point in a customer’s journey, directly impacting their health and wellness goals. The combination of food and tech is a huge industry that allows food companies to anticipate trends and behavior, and what will set Freshly apart is their ability to deliver on those expectations and beyond.”

Ownable Moments (Connection)

An experience is memorable when it facilitates a connection internally with the individual or externally with the brand.  Ownable  moments need to be designed – those sometimes-indescribable connections a person feels as a result of their environment, digital product, or content.  An example of an ownable moment: my Fitbit alerted me when I achieved the Marathon badge for walking 12 hours during a day at Walt Disney World with my family over the holidays. Wow! Placing my achievement into a greater context elevated my sense of accomplishment – a connection I had with my own progress. That insight helped me realized how hard I need to work for the benefit of my health. The moment, though small, was meaningful and motivating for someone who doesn’t run marathons but aspires to.

Think about your last best experience. It might not have been perfect. But was it magical? The key to creating a memorable experience is creating what the Heath brothers refer to as “a peak — a magical moment.” We must consider, design, and execute the specific “peaks” within an experience to achieve meaningful experience design. I like how the Heath brothers illustrate four tenets of moment design:

  • Elevation: rising above the routine. Elevation make one experience something extraordinary within something mundane.
  • Pride: commemorating a person’s achievements – treating people not as “consumers” but as capable individuals ready to take on the next step in their journey.
  • Insight: delivering realization and transformations. Realizations are catalysts for driving new behaviors or creating new perspectives that reframe the new normal.
  • Connection: bonding people together. A memorable experience brings people together to achieve a common goal, such as celebrating a grandparent’s birthday.

I recently talked with Todd Unger, chief experience officer and senior vice president, Physician Engagement, at the American Medical Association (AMA). Todd explained how “experiences” to him is where technology, product, marketing, design, and content meet. This is his purview across the AMA – looking at all facets of how the customer interacts with the association and its brand end to end. Unger explained the importance of creating moments using empathy and data to form inspiring content that delivers on the AMA’s very successful “Membership Move Medicine” mission, which has resulted in doubling the AMA’s member growth rate. How did the AMA do that? By listening to existing members the old-fashion way – having face-to-face interactions, leveraging data, and optimizing existing digital channels to amplify stories where AMA and the members come together to move medicine. Storytelling helps the AMA achieve its goal. As he put it, storytelling helps the AMA “amplify their efforts of what AMA is doing for the individual’s membership so that it always provides value-add to the member. How we grow and retain our membership and mission is the same; delivering value.”

With a limited set of live events, creating magical moments digitally is key for Unger and his team at the AMA. Doing involves emphasizing and leveraging digital content as the primary driver for that moment versus creating a live experiential one. One example is the AMA’s Member Spotlight hub. Created as a catalyst to their Membership Moves Medicine initiative, the AMA is able to draw on the stories of these real physicians and position them as the cornerstone to drive value for the membership and complement it with their Annual Meeting – a live event that drives the initiative’s mission home.

The Look (Visualization)

The cornerstone of design is look and feel. Now, we’ve all heard the dated notion that  design “makes things pretty.” While there is a tiny merit in that sentiment, design is much bigger than that. The look and feel is the final “dance” that takes what you learn from the human, data, journey, and moments and then expresses an experience that evokes a specific emotion. Learning from people whose lives we want to improve, understanding what data we are able to collect, activate, and present back within the overall journey informs how the overall look of the experience will materialize and ultimately pay off the combination of these inputs.

The creation of a design system that influences not only the product or service but amplifies the mission and vision of the brand is essential to ensuring the tenets of the experience is being paid off.

The Future of Design Choreography

Designers are going to need to think more like choreographers especially as ambient experiences become more mainstream. With ambient experiences such as voice taking hold, people are less dependent on screens, creating opportunities for businesses to create experiences that rely on all our senses to connect emotionally. In fact, with immersive reality, designers literally are choregraphing an experience. I’m excited about what lies ahead as designers become more central to how businesses create relationships with people.

At Moonshot, we pride ourselves with always considering these five movements within experience design when it comes to our mission of connecting people to lovable experiences today and tomorrow. As I mentioned earlier in this post, we employ tools such as design sprints to identify customers’ wants and needs in a way that mitigates the cost and risk of designing new products. We use design sprints as part of a larger process known as FUEL, in which we go beyond concepting and actually help companies launch products. Check us out or contact us to start a dialog on how we can partner with you to design your next lovable experience.

Amish Desai

Amish Desai

Head of Experiences