The User Experience of Places

Greetings from Raleigh! I don't think there is a single month this year that I won't be traveling somewhere. I just got back from Chicago, where I was a part of the 2013 OSA Convention - it's essentially a three day weekend full of fun and activities to help bring together people who are from Orissa - the state of India my parents are from - but live in the US. I am incredibly happy with how it all went; I was a moderator for the convention's women's forum and also got to speak a little about what I do as a UX person as a panelist for the convention's young adult career panel. I hope that I inspired at least one person, and I have even more respect for people who serve as moderators for panels (it is incredibly difficult but highly worth the experience!). While I was at the convention, I got to meet up with a good friend from college and we got dinner at the local P.F. Chang's. I've been to the restaurant before a long time ago, but as we walked in I took in the little details of the place: the (faux) clay statues, the choices in interior design, and even the design of the printed menu. The restaurant had a cohesive story with its design with the goal being a modern dining experience while also bringing in the influences of the culture represented by the cuisine. The experience of actually sitting in the restaurant was a great feeling even while we were waiting for the food.

The design of places is something that I've been interested in since seeing the talk about the Royal Ontario Museum's Dinosaurs exhibit that featured built in iPads and augmented reality components to the exhibits. Museums design their spaces around the objects they are displaying; I can't imagine that the items on display would be nearly as enjoyable if they weren't put in a setting that maximized their beauty for visitors to enjoy. Sure, exhibits would still be fascinating if they were just put in a large undecorated room with a few signs describing the objects on display, but who's the audience? Little kids? Adults? The undecorated room might be okay for some adults, but for kids it's just be boring! On the other hand, something like the ROM? As an adult, I enjoyed it immensely but I also had to be careful not to get bowled over by enthusiastic kids. By paying attention to the experience of walking through the exhibit, the designers created something incredibly memorable... and not just for the beautiful collection of dinosaur skeletons.

I'm going to stick to designing for devices, but hats off to interior designers and everyone else involved in the process of designing the experiences of buildings, rooms, and other types of locations. It's a lot of detail oriented work, I imagine, but when done well it makes an incredible difference.