Designing new customer experiences: a study of socio-material

Designing new customer experiences: a study of socio-material
Document type
Discussion paper
Stigliani, Ileana Fayard, Anne-Laure
Imperial College Business School
Date of publication
17 June 2010
Trends: economic, social and technology trends affecting business
Business and management
Material type

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Past studies on design and designers’ work share an understanding of design as concerned with
making and interpreting objects, including the finished articles – e.g. consumer products – and
‘experimental’ design aids – e.g. prototypes. Nevertheless, for over a decade design professionals have
been extending their remit from the design of tangible objects to the design of intangibles – e.g.
experiences, and services – as the result of the increasing part played by services in the world economy.
This tension between tangibility and intangibility in design is particularly relevant in the case of the
development of new customer experiences by definition intangible, fluid, and essentially subjective, and
thus difficult to define and design. In this paper, building on an inductive study, we investigate how
service designers design – with methods and processes originally created to design artefacts – a
customer experience. Our findings reveal that the design of customer experiences revolves around
three main set of practices, exploring the experience ecology, making experiences tangible, and communicating about
experiences , and point out the prominent role of materiality in the design of intangible outcomes.

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