Experience is the operative word when talking about the Web and “Experience Design” with Greg Nations, vice president of Interactive Services for the award-winning Seattle design firm known as Methodologie.
It’s a uniquely interactive experience visiting Methodologie’s corporate Web site which just took home Best of Show honors in the interactive category at The Seattle Show in May. How you experience the Website depends on when and where you happen to arrive.
In one version of the home page, you can roll your mouse and ruffle a moving curtain of spectral gold and yellow bands (perhaps symbolic of winning Gold so many times at The Seattle Show). In another version, the art of paper folding is crisply presented in successive visual steps as a green sheet of paper becomes an origami frog which proceeds to leap around the page. We’ll leave the rest for your future visits. This is design that has to be truly experienced to be appreciated.
“Our approach to the Website was really about interaction, to be able to find these different elements that users can communicate with rather than react to,” confides Nations. “So often sites just push it at you and you have no other choice. We wanted people to experience the site in different ways on different visits, so as they move through the site they might not experience the same thing the same way. And yet the same message comes across: ‘Inspired Strategy.’ We’re using design as a differentiator in the very same way we do that for our clients.”
The absolutely world-class Website was done completely in-house with hat’s off to Interactive Creative Director Mr. Daniele Monti, HTML designer Dan Vaslow, and Interaction Director Paul Ingram plus a core group of Methodologie support staff including marketing group maven Rhia Siegle.
Experience is also the depth of expertise one will find in the Methodologie portfolio. An overview of recent Methodologie projects includes interactive work on the Onyx.com website, Icos.com, WTS.com, Bidpath, Mission Hills Winery (the firm is also doing print work with Robert Mondavi), EMC out of Boston, Symantec in Northern California, and for AT&T Wireless, their printed annual report and online annual report. (Methodologie knew about “mlife” about a year before it hit the streets). The visual vocabulary of the firm was well-enhanced when Creative Director Anne Traver merged her company with the firm created by Bob Grindeland and Janet DeDonato.
How did experience design become Greg Nation’s personal mantra and what is it exactly?
Greg explains, “What is experience design? Well, right now it’s being defined and executed at the same time. But think of it this way. In the past, designers were defined by their end-product: a print designer, a Web designer, an interface designer. Yet, in today’s new media and interaction design, one person can do multiple things. The end product is defined from the users’ perspective in terms of how they experience something.”
“In experience design, the designer also wants to connect other user experiences in life — the imagery and icons and other metaphors of life in what he or she is creating.” Greg is the Seattle Chair of AIGA’s Experience Design Group and cites the AIGA Website as a great place to look at the whole Experience Design initiative http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm?Alias=fourthadvancefordesignsummit. He credits veteran interactive designer Clement Mok, now president of AIGA National, as one of the movement’s originators.
You presented a tutorial on Experience Design in Hawaii?
“We had submitted a proposal to the W3C on Experience Design, and they invited us to present. I gave a tutorial, the purpose of which was to instill in the audience the value of design and how it can affect everything that they do. The point is that anything we interact with, whether it’s a phone, a freeway, a book, has been designed. There are rules and reasons and inspirations as to why that is. I tried to communicate to the World Wide Web conference that design is your friend, design makes what you do better, and the fact that they are all designers as well. A number of people told us that it was really refreshing for them to understand that point-of-view.”
As someone who began in the early days of the Web, creating the E-commerce store for Sierra Online, Greg has seen the Internet run its evolutionary course. One of the more enlightened advances in the Methodologie Website is a modern treatment of the classic user survey, a feedback form that meets the user’s eye before signing off.
“Most companies have gone through the hype of the “dot.com” and the “get online” phase and are now wondering what’s the value, what are my metrics, how am I being judged on any of this interactive work I am doing? Part of what we do at Methodologie is try to create metrics for our clients and ourselves to get a clear idea, more than what we had before, of whether our communication is successful. So on our site we employ a “Thanks for Visiting” screen. A small number of high level questions that we think, or our clients think, are important. We don’t really need to know all the details. We just want to know are people liking the experience, are they finding what they need?”
That’s simply de’ riguer for the Experience Designer. [24×7]
Greg Nations is a champion for the art of Experience Design at Methodologie and at the Seattle chapter of the AIGA.