1 December 2009

Our misguided focus on brand and user experience

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Branded UX
If there is a future for designers and marketers in big business, it lies not in brand, nor in “UX”, nor in any colorful way of framing total control over a consumer, such as “brand equity”, “brand loyalty”, the “end to end customer journey”, or “experience ownership”. It lies instead in encouraging behavioral change and explicitly shaping culture in a positive and lasting way, argues Jon Kolko in a long piece on Johnny Holland.

“The focus on brand and control of the user experience is an attempt to avoid the above commoditization and irrelevance of artifact, and it references a dated model of dominance – one where a company produces something for a person to consume. This is the McDonalds approach to production, where an authoritative voice prescribes something and then gains efficiencies by producing it exactly as prescribed, in mass. The supposed new model is to design something for a person to experience, yet the allusion to experience is only an empty gesture. An experience cannot be built for someone. Fundamentally, one has an experience, and that is experience is always unique.

Interaction design is the design of behavior, positioned as dialogue between a person and an artifact. A person commonly doesn’t talk to an object; they use it, touch it, manipulate it, and control it. Usage, touching, manipulation and control are all dialogical acts, unspoken but conversational.”

Jon Kolko is an Associate Creative Director at frog design. He has worked extensively in the professional world of interaction design solving the problems of Fortune 500 clients. Prior to working at frog, Kolko was a Professor of Interaction and Industrial Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, sits on the Board of Directors for the Interaction Design Association (IxDA), and is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of interactions magazine, published by the ACM. Kolko is the author of Thoughts on Interaction Design, published by Morgan Kaufmann, and the forthcoming text tentatively entitled Exposing the Magic of Design: A Practitioner’s Guide to the Methods and Theory of Synthesis, to be published by Oxford University Press.

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