When first I heard the phrases user experience, user interface, audience engagement, they were applied to website interactions. After considering these terms, I realized I’d been working with them since design school, pre-www. Shortly thereafter, my mother pointed out I’d been working with them since I was a child.
Wow. They sound so new, don’t they? But they’re not.
At some point in design school (this was after I’d already earned a BA and an MFA) I read that the act of picking up a product from a retailer’s shelf, increases by a significant measurable amount the chances that the prospective customer will purchase that item. As I saw it, my job was to make someone want to pick up the package and thereby increase sales. This is where psychology met art, and I was hooked. A form of customer engagement, yes?
If you pick up a piece of sculpture, or if it’s larger, walk around it, the sculptor has engaged you. Likewise, with the first package I designed, I made sure that the graphics wrapped around the sides to the back of the box to subliminally encourage the viewer to turn it over and read the romance copy on the back.
I followed a similar process with each brochure. What could I put on the front that would make the viewer curious enough to open it, and if a folded piece, to open to the next panel. Keep them engaged by deliberate, effective use of line, shape, form, texture, tone, color. And making sure to use the elements of design in a way that spoke to the select audience.
What element of surprise or entertainment could be included in order to hold his/her attention long enough to receive the message/information? How would the users’ experience be affected if the visual design or shape, as in a die cut, were altered? And the texture: would the response to the overall richness spot varnishes added be worth the additional cost? What about the weight and texture of the paper? And, would a two or three-color job with a spot varnish be more engaging and effective than a 4 color job with only an aqueous coating?
It is a parallel process with website design, with the additional excitement of more motion, speed (of interaction with many at once), and a mouse/tablet or touch plus some version of a rectangular box. And sound. What causes eyes to follow? What causes them to leave? Those questions are much the same for user experiences regardless of the object involved. As is the question of why a particular emotional response occurs. In short, what do you want the person to do/feel/know/experience/see when s/he arrives at your website, app, sculpture, painting, product?
My exploration of user experience started when I was a kid, while building my first 3-dimensional model of a house. I wanted it to be as “real” as possible, with opening and closing doors and windows, and interesting from all 4 sides. It was made of paper and scotch tape, — still my favorite [along with a pencil] materials for prototyping.