Designing Experiences That Inspire & Delight


Ichi-go Ichi-e, which roughly translates to “one moment, one meeting in your life that will never happen again,” describes a cultural concept of treasuring meetings with people. The busyness we all feel is one of the reasons I so firmly believe that the way we in which we come together matters—it determines how successful we can be as a group and also creates a foundation for relationships that can be nurtured outside of organized experiences. How might we stop and appreciate the opportunities we have to interact with one another?   

Think of all the moments you experience each day. Some are thought out, but many “just happen.” Which experiences do you remember?  What if we intentionally crafted, both large and small moments and experiences for those we lead? YOU have the power to create incredible experiences by learning to be an experience architect.  Whether you choose to use these strategies to redesign a staff meeting or craft a critical conversation, the skills of an Experience Architect will shift how you approach planning any experience.

A mind that has been stretched by a new experience can never go back to its original dimensions.
— Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Four elements to keep in mind when embracing your role as an “Experience Architect”

  1. Planning for the Big 3: Who? Why? Constraints? So many of the experiences we participate in become routine and we forget to really think about the building blocks of the experience.  Who are you creating for, why does the experience need to exisit and what are your constraints? See if you can turn your constraints into your advantage and design around them.  

  2. Break with the Norm When it comes to experience design, routine is the enemy of creating great experiences.  As Tania Luna shared in Surprise, “ We feel most comfortable when things are certain, but we feel most alive when they’re not.”  The most memorable times of our lives tend to be when we have experienced something new, different or novel.  Businesses that are memorable also break with the Norm. If you’ve ever flown Southwest airlines they break with the norm by telling funny jokes during their safety announcements “Ladies & gentlemen, if you wish to smoke ,the smoking section on this plane is on the wing and if you can light’ em, you can smoke ‘em.”  How might you break the norm of the experience you are creating?

  3. Set the Stage  This may seem trivial or an afterthought, but looking at your space and taking the time to “set the stage” can change the experience. Research suggests you only have seven seconds to make a first impression.  While this research is focused on introductions to new people, I believe it holds true to experieces as well. Think about it. Within seconds of walking into a room, you not only get a feeling about the time you’ll be spending there, you also know what type of role you will play.  Does the room invite you to engage with others or compel you to sit in the back row with your eyes glued to your smartphone? Take a quick inventory of your experience space. What does it communicate? Are you happy with the message being sent? If not, what can you do to change the message?  Consider playing music to build energy or calm the room. Think about your seating arrangements. How will participants engage with each other? Details matter.

  4. The Fun Factor  There should be joy in our work at schools, yes even at meetings. When designing an experience, consider the element of fun. I know some work is serious business, but even serious businesses like banking are looking to incorporate fun into their experiences. I don’t know about you, but I don’t always think “fun” when I think of banking. Metro Bank in the UK is challenging that thinking. Their new tagline is  “Banking, But Better.” They have completely reimagined the banking experience and all of their branches have a Magic Money Machine that counts coins in the lobby. How can you add a fun or interesting twist to the work you are doing?

    Redesigning experiences doesn’t have to take a ton of time but the difference between a good experience and a great experience is the intentionality in the design. Here’s an “Experience Design Planning Template” that can speed up your planning process.  You too can design experiences that inspire and delight others! I’d love to hear about any experience you redesign. Share in the comments below or on social media using #Dt4EduLeaders