Beauty of Experience Design

September 28, 2011 at 4:42 pm Leave a comment

Before deciding to write this blog post, I started making comments on my Twitter feed and my Facebook page about my love of intelligent experience design. According to Wikipedia, experience design is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience and culturally relevant solutions, with less emphasis placed on increasing and improving functionality of the design.

Um…. What?
OK, yes, it’s true… what they said. I’m focusing more on the “environments” part of that definition. To me, experience design is a well-thought out space that communicates the meaning of an event, time or place through visuals and typography that creates an impact on the viewer. For my fellow Nashvillians, think of Bicentennial Mall. Every time I visit this park, my stomach does flips. If you’ve never been, let me lay it out for you…

map used by National Folk Festival

In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Tennessee’s statehood, the city of Nashville fashioned a commemorative park to honor all of the achievements, people of significance and  historical facts about this state. This park is very long and narrow. Starting on the south side of the park closest to the city lies a beautiful, detailed map of the state which rests in the shadows of the State Capitol building.

The designer used patterns, texture and colors to detail the differences between the waterways and highways, the counties and the cities, etc. To commemorate the history of the state, a series of small stands exhibit more details of the city including its topography, rivers, settlement, etc. Traveling under the railway bridge pavilion is a water installation showcasing each one of Tennessee’s major rivers. During warm weather, these fountains will shoot straight up. The falling water lands on the surrounding concrete creating the sound of rushing water.

Walking on the west side of the park (my favorite side), on the left of the walkway are large marble towers spaced evenly down the length of the park representing a decade in the state’s history starting with 1786.

On the right, are quotes and descriptions of what was happening in Tennessee during that time. Some particular parts of this wall (which is only about 4′ high) are at the year 1786 when Tennessee became a state. The initial installation at the wall was a drinking fountain and the words, “Drink to Statehood” are blasted in the marble surrounding it. Since the flood in Nashville in May 2010, this fountain had to be removed due to damaged water pipes.

Continuing down the wall, soon after passing the year 1846, the wall cracks and marks Tennessee’s separation from the Union during the Civil war and the divide of the North and South.

The copy at the separation point mentions Tennessee as being the last state to secede from the Union. In 1866, Tennessee was then the first state to rejoin the Union, so the wall mends the break and continues on down to 1986. Along the way, it discusses how the Tennessee Volunteers, Oprah, the involvement in World War II, and many other quotes and facts about the state.

At this point, the visitor reaches the gem of the park, the Carillon Ring. A carillon is a set of bells in a tower which is played by using a keyboard or automatic mechanism similar to a piano (thank you Webster). These bells symbolize the music of Music City. At their feet lay the names of the great musician who were born in Nashville.

This is the northern most point of the park. If you turn and continue south along the other side of the park, you’ll see how the state is divided into three sections: East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee. While walking down this sidewalk, you will pass the names of every county in the state surrounded by the state’s tri-star emblem.

…. So why the detail about Bicentennial Mall?
Recently, a new experience design park was opened which I am dying to visit: the 9/11 Memorial Park. Without going into too much detail about the factual significance behind this park, just understand that I think it is the most heart-felt, inspiring, beautiful way the city of New York could commemorate the victims of that day. Both waterfalls lay in the footprint of the original Twin Towers and are surrounded by beautiful shrubbery. To understand more about the meaning behind the park, read this from the designer himself.

Now that I’ve shared two of my favorite experience design environments, I’m curious. Is there a space near you that’s similar to these two incredible locations? Please comment below and share.


Entry filed under: graphic design, Graphically Speaking, Inspiration.

Worky Work, Busy Bee

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