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Balanced Human Experiences

Chad Hutson, Leviathan

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As designers of experiences, what can we learn from theme parks, museums, retail and corporate environments... or even our own homes? While disparate in function, these spaces could have more in common than you might think.

“Today we live in an experience economy.”

“Customer experience is the future of our industry.”

How many times have you heard these, or similar statements uttered in the last ten years? You can give some credit to the authors of The Experience Economy: Work is Theater and Every Business a Stage for helping to nudge it into the mainstream back in 1999, but nearly 20 years later the phrase has only become more prominent in business conversations. If you’re not convinced, consider the recent surge in Chief Customer Officer or CX (customer experience) Officer roles being added to organizations around the globe. The experience economy has gone mainstream.

But if your company has not yet brought on such a core position as a CXO yet, fear not, reader... you too are fully capable of ensuring the experiences you give your customers are informative, engaging, fun... and human.

Think back to a recent family trip to an established museum. Sure, those giant dinosaur bones and mechanical relics are impressive to behold, but what else helps to make the experience memorable? The best institutions put great effort into carefully designing their exhibits from every angle, from the graphics on the wall; to the emotional films filled with rich imagery and sound; adding interactive touchscreens to explain complex information; and even some tangible artifacts you can touch and feel: all in the interest of teaching.

Interestingly, some of the same designers of museum experiences also work in the themed entertainment space, helping to create unforgettable attractions at Disney or Universal parks. No less painstaking to create, these spaces are not only technological wonders to behold but also amazing recreations of magical worlds seen in blockbuster feature films. This is all built so visitors can have fun.

With a considerable shift to many consumer purchases being made online, the retail industry is working hard to reinvent what customers experience in brick-and-mortar locations. Premium product lines are accompanied by robust digital activities, comfortable furnishings, even custom installations worthy of a fine arts gallery. (Wait, is this a store or a luxurious residence?) Perhaps the products sold there could be purchased for a few dollars less online, but instead, customers are willing to give a bit more to be pampered, impressed and truly engaged.

It should not be lost on anyone that a main goal of the aforementioned groups is to generate revenue. But also consider the similarities in customer behaviors, as they are willing to pay more for these special experiences. The sights, sounds, smells... the feelings of wonder go much deeper than a mere transaction. They appeal to our human senses.

Not every company is selling a physical experience either—products that exist in the cloud, for example, can be quite intangible—but where you are working to engage with customers can still help create a powerful connection to them. Corporate headquarters, training facilities and briefing centers can benefit from integrating environments that are designed for learning, engagement, comfort and even a bit of fun. And let us not forget our own workforces, for as many days of their lives employees spend at the office, adding more of these enhancements into their spaces can generate the best human experiences of all: happiness.

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About the author: Chad Hutson is co-founder and president of Leviathan, a conceptual design company that creates engaging narrative content and experiences for brands and entertainers worldwide. Chad is responsible for managing company's business affairs overall, including developing and implement new business strategies, leading all marketing, advertising and public relations efforts, and overseeing production and project management teams. His brand experience includes Microsoft, Lowe's, Disney, BMW, Ubisoft, Fox Sports, Starz, Whirlpool, Deere, HP, Chrysler, Northern Trust.