Experience Design Principles. What they are and why you need them.

experience design principles

Each and everyday brands face an avalanche of situations that they need to respond to, often without any enduring guideposts to inform decision making. The result is that brands are failing to create positive, emotional experiences that engage people and drive customer loyalty. To succeed brand’s need to continually deliver new value to their audiences by considering the whole experience people have with them over time. It is no longer enough just to provide excellent functionality and usability (not to mention the explicit qualities of an appealing look and feel of a product or service). Brands need to create and deliver authentic meaning — and do so consistently across all their touchpoints.

Have you ever asked yourself: How can my organization keep a diverse range of products, experiences, and services recognizable, distinct and enjoyable?

If so, Experience Design Principles are a great place to start.

What is an Experience Design Principle?

An Experience Design Principle is a fundamental truth about the value your brand needs to present to your audience to deliver on its brand promise. They are a shared set of guideposts for the organization, used to inform the stakeholders responsible for new products, experiences, and service development on how your customer or end user should feel when interacting with your brand. Similar to brand pillars in the sense that they’re thematic, macro-level truths, but more action-oriented, they’re essentially cues for how you should design your brand’s touchpoints; this can be anything from the tactile feedback of a button on a product to an overarching strategy for a product portfolio.

Why are they so powerful?

Good solid design principles are powerful because they link your brand and your customer with the design process. They take both an outside-in view of your products and services to create them — think about what it’s like to walk in the shoes of your customer or end user — and look inside-out at the purpose and values embedded in who you are as an organization. Filter every design decision through them, so you can ensure that your purpose and values, and the needs of the customer drive your design process in a holistic and integrated way.


When you apply your Experience Design Principles to your organization’s design processes, you’ll start to uncover the various ways that they make work more straightforward, and more impactful:

1. Experience Design Principles Enable Faster Decision-Making

When designing a product or service, there are so many approaches you can take. Experience Design Principles ensure you are doing the right thing for the brand, especially at the fuzzy front end of development when you have so many options open to you. Experience Design Principles are invaluable brand guideposts for the development process, providing a framework to make sure you get moving in the right direction. They should reassure people in the organization that their decision making is sound and in-line with the brand.

2. Experience Design Principles Bring Clarity and Direction

Uninformed decisions can wreak havoc on a brand and move you further away from the values you want to imbue on your customers. Having a robust set of Experience Design Principles helps objectively align thinking and action among stakeholders focusing decision making on implementing the agreed principles, rather than any given person’s idea or point of view. Experience Design Principles should also educate. When we identify our guiding principles, it is straightforward to see where to go and where not to go. When a set of principles drive us, we can run forward with the clarity of our causes, and communicate more clearly with those around us.

3. Experience Design Principles Act as a Lighthouse for Your Brand

Experience Design Principles are not just useful for experience design and development activities; they can also be a lighthouse for your brand across the whole organization. Solid design principles help to codify the behavioral mindset you want to embed in your organization; it can start to shift your organization’s culture and encourage everyone to work in new ways. Yes, cultural change is hard, but Experience Design Principles become mantras that begin to influence brand and design thinking. Make them short and “sticky”; easily recalled, easily applied across silos and touchpoints. Then repeat them enough, so they start to become embedded.

4. Experience Design Principles Drive Consistency and Authenticity

A good customer experience design principle is unique to your brand, product line or service. Every brand has its own goals, purpose, and values, and your set of solid design principles should be developed to match them, focusing on what is distinct about your brand. With those principles defined, you can stand firm amid challenge and opposition — in other words; you don’t just follow the whims of the market. By following your principles, your brand and its products and behaviors will be a direct reflection of who you are. That, in turn, will help differentiate your brand from others. Moreover, your principles can be applied again and again in similar situations to help you achieve your goals and drive consistency across products and touchpoints. For your customers, that consistency enables you to build trust over time, because they can anticipate how the brand will act and perform, and why.

5. Experience Design Principles Empower Your Team

With clarity surrounding your Experience Design Principles, your team can better understand the bigger picture of your organization, broadening their perspective beyond their role or a single product or service. When their contributions are framed by a broader sense of purpose, they experience greater meaning in their work and increased ownership in the brand and the business’ mission. They become part of a shared vision, so everyone across your organization can enter conversations with the same information. Endowing every member to be part of the discussion, and empowering them to make decisions with confidence, armed with principles as guidelines.

Being clear about your Experience Design Principles is crucial because it permeates across all your brand’s touchpoints. However, surprising as this may sound, it’s rare to find brands and organizations who write their principles down, codify them, and share them as a way of operating across touchpoints from a behavioral perspective. They may already be in the ether that exists within and around your organization as a set of unwritten rules. But they need to be visibly acted on, and most of all they need to be celebrated.

Look out for our next post, and we’ll share how to go about principle definition, write them so they stick, and put them into practice.

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