What is an Experience Designer?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus
An experience designer may create the concepts behind store displays, including mannequin placement.
An experience designer may create the concepts behind store displays, including mannequin placement.

An experience designer is basically a creative commercial designer who designs products, events and services with the experience of the user in mind. An experience designer works within the principles of experiential marketing which is focused on how target groups experience branding and other elements of advertising. In other words, the experience designer does not merely create design as art, but design that is thought out to impact the end user in a way to get the desired result.

In retail stores, an experience designer can create the concepts behind store displays that affect customers. An experience designer must understand the psychology of marketing and why people buy and why they don't buy certain items displayed in certain ways. For example, during the Christmas season a department store window may feature a decorated Christmas tree and other seasonal decorations to attract customer attention. The scene can also feature the store's products such as mannequins wearing seasonal clothing with the price tags featured prominently on them. The store's products featured as part of the seasonal display give a much more pleasant holiday experience to the consumer than the same products sitting on a table or shelf in the store.

Marketing storytelling is a large part of experience design. It tends to involve the target audience in the product in a way that simply presenting a product for sale does not. Experience designers in advertising often use mascots to help sell products. For example, in the food product Hamburger HelperĀ®, the television commercial does not simply present the product to the homemaker as a solution to a quick family dinner. Rather, an animated hand that brands the product and symbolizes that the product is a helping hand to today's cook is used as part of the household in the commercial. The commercial then shows the family sitting down at the table together enjoying the product to complete the success story for the viewer.

Experience designers must always be concerned with the wants and needs of the target audience and how they desire to experience a product or service. The consumer is listened to and involved in the experience in the process of experiential marketing and experience design. An experience designer is a fairly new occupation in the commercial creative arts and schools such as Carnegie Melon University and Ohio State University are known to have some courses that feature experience design concepts.

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I'm studying graphic design. I took a class on this recently because I wanted to know what makes a good experience designer.

My instructor was quite amazing, had a lot of sense of humor but was very experienced in this field. He told us that a designer is an experience designer only if he or she knows the audience and actually communicates with them. You can't be one if you can't state why the service is being created and what it is trying to achieve for users.

You also can't make decisions based on your personal interests or not test the service out. Finally, the experience designer has to think long term; not just about getting people to buy the service, but also about how they will use it and what their opinions will be after.

Isn't this a great description?


Finally I've found a description of an experience designer relating to commercial design rather than computers!

Apparently "experience designer" also refers to designers who design computers and software based on the preferences of computer users. Of course, the experience designer we're talking about here is very different, although both are trying to fulfill the needs of customers and impress them. The difference is that one is doing creative design whereas the other is doing technical design.

If we wanted, we could probably broaden the term to refer to all designers in all fields who consider the needs and wants of buyers in their work. But that would probably get very confusing.


I agree that experience designers can do wonders in attracting customers. I have experienced it myself many times!

There is a cosmetics store at the mall that I always stop by to see what's new. I rarely go in with the intent to buy a specific product. I usually just go in to take a look and see what's new.

But the designs used to advertise the products are so pretty and attractive that I always end up buying something. Even the stands that display the products have been designed so intricately. It's as if the product is calling out to me! You can tell that the designer put in a lot of thought into it and knows exactly what women want. I fall for it every time!

I guess more than anything, a company needs good experience designers to sell their products.

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    • An experience designer may create the concepts behind store displays, including mannequin placement.
      An experience designer may create the concepts behind store displays, including mannequin placement.