Patterns Become Pathways in Experiential Design

At the intersection of architecture, technology, and storytelling, learning how to rely on patterns to create a journey is helpful in experiential design. A panel of Google employees and their design partners touch upon this topic.
Patterns Become Pathways in Experiential Design

Experiential design is about a lot more than placing screens. It starts with people and patterns. It then utilizes technology in novel ways to create an ideally holistic experience.

At InfoComm 2022 in Las Vegas, Ryan Howard, who created and leads Experience Platforms at Google, led a panel discussion entitled Using Audience Journeys to Drive Responsive Content. The session explored how Google and its design partners have been rethinking the way that content is produced across varied environments.

The panel included David Waingarten, creative director of Downstream, a global design agency that is working with Google; Katie Polenick, design director of strategy for Downstream; Emilie F. Grenier, head of creative at Thinkwell Studio Montréal, who leads her teams to create large-scale multisensory journeys; and Seema Patel, who leads global strategy for experiences in Google's spaces.

One thing that Google and its partners have done is systematized common thinking patterns into their tooling and expanded responsive web approaches to the physical environment to aid in experiential storytelling.

“So, the way we think of experience design is that it centers users and their journeys to create seamless experiences that hopefully establish or strengthen a relationship with our company and with our brand,” said Patel. “And when I say holistic, we consider a guest experience to be anything that they see, smell, hear, taste or touch. So, we think about that complete experience. We think about how we can use many different tools to tell a story and technology is one tool in the toolbox.”

An example of one of Google’s projects is one made about six years ago where the goal was to communicate to users that Google photos leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning to make searching and finding photos on your phone extremely fast.

“One way you can tell that story is with a screen on a wall and a slick produced video that goes into all this depth and detail about all machine learning that helps you search and find photos really quickly,” said Patel. “But instead, what this team came up with was the idea of a taco truck.”

People would walk up to the taco truck to receive a free taco, but in order to obtain one, they would have to push a button on a flipboard, which randomizes subjects like sunsets or puppies. Then, a time limit begins, so people have to pull out their phones and find a photo of that subject for a free taco.

“The experience of a user standing there, pulling out their phone, opening up Google photos, typing in sunset, and immediately seeing a photo of the sunset was just such a quick and easy way to hit home the point of how powerful AI based searches are without having to go into like a whole long preproduced video message about how it works,” continued Patel. “We try to think about what other ways there are that we can tell stories. Everything is reinforcing this larger message.”

“We want to think about what the sequences, steps, and moments are that people experience across their entire journey,” added Polenick.

For a sales sort of journey to happen, or even a brand journey to occur, it is important to create an experience by establishing and then solidifying design patterns. But it all starts by thinking about the user experience. How can we use design patterns, which include audience journeys, and apply them to responsive content?

“We have to rely on patterns,” expressed Grenier. “We have to rely on these routines and use them as tools. The way that I like to describe my own practice is I look for shortcuts into people's hearts and that is experience design.”

How do we take those journeys and start to use them in new ways to drive scale?

“Journeys are so fundamental to designing these experiences,” said Howard. “We want to try to build tools that embody these journeys. We want the tooling and the rest of the processes to embody these design principles and these design methods. So, everybody who uses them naturally becomes a designer, which is very different than having to go train or teach people something.”

“We can kind of study all these different architectural layouts in places, think of where people move through spaces and kind of analyze the common patterns in these journeys, what moments come up consistently and also understand what types of information these people need each of these moments,” said Seema. “We think about other things like dwell time. Where do you have opportunities where you can kind of entertain and play with? Where can people play with things a little bit more versus where you want to keep traffic moving?”

“When we look at the interactions and behaviors that are happening, those are the design patterns,” stated Waingarten. “What are the consistent things that we see people needing to do? What are they desiring to do? How do we sort of anticipate that? We're trying to actually consider moments when people need, like their nervous systems need rest, where that's actually the kindest and best way to provide them the service and the experience that we think is going to make them have a great day at Google.”

Clearly, creating at the intersection of architecture, technology, and storytelling is a unique challenge but finding those patterns has shown to be a useful tool in this often highly collaborative process.

What tools, strategies, and technologies do you use to create an experience or tell a sales journey or brand journey? Share in the comments what you have found helpful. And keep in mind that InfoComm 2023 will be in Orlando on June 10-16!