On 21 July 2009, Experientia turns four years old. From four friends and business partners to an office of over twenty staff and collaborators, Experientia has grown quickly. It’s a far cry from the early days of meeting in partners’ homes, but it has been an interesting journey.
From idea to experience – the founding of a company
We begin the story at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, where both Mark Vanderbeeken and Jan-Christoph Zoels were working, Mark as Communications Manager and Jan-Christoph as Senior Associate Professor. Based in Italy, the two friends were busy strategising about building an experience design consultancy, which could compete with leading design agencies in Europe.
At that time Michele Visciola was working as an international usability expert, teaching at Milan Polytechnic and collaborating with Pierpaolo Perotto of Finsa Consulting. He had previously founded an Italian usability company that was bought by a major software company, and now wanted to start an international company.
In April 2003, Michele co-organised a conference on the semantic web at the Interaction Design Institute. Speaking with Mark, he talked about his ambition to found a company; the story began to take on a shape of its own. Before long, Mark had introduced Michele to Jan-Christoph, and they had met up with Pierpaolo. With a gestation period of two years, including meetings in Rome, Milan, Turin and the Ivrea countryside, the idea of an experience design company was developed. In the spring of 2005 the four met for a one and a half day conference, and brainstormed on the philosophy, concepts and strategies that would underlie the business. Michele came up with the name, with inspiration striking him in the train station of Milano Centrale on the way back from a business meeting!
After finding the name, the next important step was securing the right website address. Experientia.com was owned by BuyDomains, a domain name trader, and was for sale at a cost of US $2800. Pierpaolo dictated his personal credit card details over the phone to Mark, in order to quickly buy the domain name – the first official Experientia transaction!
On the 21st July 2005, at the offices of their notary, Experientia was officially born.
The early days
The first challenge was to find a home for the company. The partners soon moved into the fourth floor of Via Cesare Battisti 15, overlooking the charming piazza Carlo Alberto in the heart of historical Turin. Within a year, they found that they had outgrown the space, and began looking for new, more spacious offices. The search took them all over Turin, including an eerie 17th-century building which housed the ex-offices of the Inquisition! Finally the search led them in a full circle, when the partners noticed a sign for the current office space on the second floor of the same building. In March 2007 they moved into the new offices, without even needing to change the business cards!
All over the world
The Experientia staff have always had an international flavour, with current team members coming from as far away as Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Israel, Japan, Korea and the USA just to name a few. The staff, just like the clients, were originally sourced from the partners’ wide networks, built over twenty years of professional experience each.
The atmosphere at Experientia is open and collaborative, with a horizontal structure, and a hands-on approach from the partners, who choose to be strongly involved in the projects. The partners each bring a different area of expertise to the mix, as do the staff, with experts in strategy, design, usability and communications.
The client roster now boasts an impressive list of new and past clients, including some of the biggest names in telecommunications, technology and fashion, from all over the world. The Experientia reputation has grown over the years through word of mouth, based on innovative processes, creative solutions and high quality deliverables This is also due to the active communications and outreach strategy of the partners, which includes the highly successful blog Putting People First, presentations at conferences and workshops, and articles in such well-known industry journals as Interactions Magazine.
To the next four years… and many more
As Experientia continues to grow, the team strives to bring user research and design together, and to communicate the message that companies and public services must start putting people first. The vision for the future includes continued growth, despite the economic slowdown, with the possible setting-up of business units that deal with specific areas, such as health care, or public governance, and regional offices. Part of this expansion will be a greater emphasis on service design, experience prototyping, the integration between international usability and design, and the development of design strategies.
The last four years have been an unforgettable experience for all involved, positioning Experientia for exciting opportunities in the years ahead.
Adaptive Path (USA), Alcatel-Lucent (France, Spain), Area Association (Italy) with project site DiTo, Arits Consulting (Belgium), Arup (UK), AVIS (Italy), Barclays (Italy, UK), Blyk (Finland, UK), Casa.it (Italy), Cittadellarte (Italy), City of Genk (Belgium), Condé Nast (Italy) with project site Style.it, Conifer Research (USA), CSI-Piemonte (Italy), CVS-Pharmacy (USA), Dada.it (Italy), Design Flanders (Belgium), Deutsche Telekom (Germany), Expedia (UK), Facem Tre Spade (Italy), Fidelity International (UK), Finmeccanica (Italy), Flanders in Shape (Belgium), Foviance (Italy), Fujitsu-Siemens (Germany), Haier (China), Hewlett Packard (India), Idean (Finland), IEDC-Bled School of Management (Slovenia), IKS-Core Consulting (Italy), Istud Foundation (Italy), Keep Sight (USA), Kodak (USA), LAit (Italy), Last Minute (UK), La Voce di Romagna (Italy), Max Mara (Italy), Media & Design Academy (Belgium), Microsoft (USA), Motorola (USA), MPG Ferrero (Italy), Nokia (Denmark, Finland, France), Red Hat (USA), Research in Motion (Canada), Samsung (Italy, Korea, UK), Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (Italy), Swisscom (Switzerland), Syneo (Italy), Tandem Seven (USA), Techno System S.p.A (Italy), Thomson CompuMark (USA), Torino 2008 World Design Capital (Italy), Usability Professionals’ Association (Italy), Vodafone (Germany, Italy, UK), and Whirlpool (UK).