What is experience design, exactly?

Experience design is the creation of experiences for the purpose of entertainment, persuasion, recreation, or human enrichment where the emotional journey of an individual or group is the focus. Experience design is a growing field that rethinks how meaning and value are created, often by taking a holistic, human-centered approach to design.

Why do you call yourself a designer? You seem more like an artist.

I grew up watching my mom design everything from textiles to visual layouts to interiors. Being a designer, with a client or pragmatic application in mind, resonates deeply with me, even if some of the stuff I make ends up feeling and acting like art. My brother is also a successful designer, so it runs in the family.

So, you’re not a performance artist?

Nope. Performance artists make aesthetic experiences where, more often than not, they are the instigator, the reason for the work, and the focus of the audience’s attention. (Think: Marina Abramović or David Blaine.) If you insist on throwing me in an art bucket, social practice would be more accurate. I care about the relational, not the performative.

What can I hire you for?

My work schedule is spoken for through late-2018, possibly longer. Before then, I will consider consulting and design projects that are a great fit with a clear, specific scope. I’m always open to giving a talk or teaching. Just get in touch.

How can I help with your current work?

What would be most helpful are invitations to funerals. I’m exploring the design of transformative social experiences by comparing sex parties, funerals, and wilderness trips. You can read about it on the Patterns of Transformation site. If you or someone you know would be kind enough to invite me to a funeral you’re attending, I would be quite grateful, even if the event can’t be written about or made public in any way.

I’d also love to be in dialogue with folks who find Patterns of Transformation useful or interesting. Read it, drop me a line about any questions you might have, and hop on the mailing list.

On a completely different note, unsolicited proofreading is a fast way to my heart. Since I have dyslexia, it’s impossible to catch all of my own typos.

What happened to your experience design practice Sextantworks?

Sextantworks closed down in mid-2016 after nearly four wild, busy years. We started out doing projects just for fun. Their success outpaced our ability to manage the opportunities let alone our own ambitions, so we disbanded.

Many people have expressed disappointment at Sextantworks closing down. While it was sad to close up shop, I am deeply gratified applying everything I learned to broader endeavors with an eye toward sustained impact.

Do you still design adventures?

I’ve been focused on research and consulting lately, but I am working on few private adventures.

I think the Night Heron is just the coolest. Can you come do a talk about it or make me a hipper than hip marketing thing based on it?

I’m happy to speak about the Night Heron in the context of Sextantworks’ practice generally, but I’m more interest in speaking about my current exploration of transformational social experiences. (Organizations like IDEO, Oculus, Kaleidoscope, and littleBits have had me in for talks.)

If you want a custom bar designed and built, contact Dirby, the Night Heron’s lead craftsman and a regular creative superhero at Sextantworks. I can’t recommend his work enough.

All other inquiries regarding the Night Heron should go to the proprietor, N.D. Austin. Just drop him a line.

What are some of your influences?

My idols include Susan Meiselas and Peter Drucker. As a kid, I was a dedicated fan of Bill Nye the Science Guy, the Back to the Future trilogy, and Myst. Once I learned how to escape the suburbs for New York City, rascal institutions like ABC No Rio, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and the Madagascar Institute became major influences. My whole conception of the world shifted a little after reading Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, and I’m gladly never going back.

What’s caught your attention lately?

Death Cafes, the debate over trigger warnings, new research into connections between our neurobiology and perception, The Creative Independent, The Mysterious Package Company, Chani Nicholas and 12th house themes, A Hero With A Thousand Faces