"Design" refers to many different things, but generally it is the act of creating something. That "something" used to be tangible, back in the eighteenth century, when it was often the step before manufacturing (Svabo and Shanks, 2015).
In modern times our world has become more complex. The service economy, information technology and globalisation have made design more intangible. Nowadays, intangible things such as style, functionality and emotional impact have become part of design themselves. (Svabo and Shanks, 2015)
We live in artificial worlds; design is everywhere
There is now a need to understand and connect all these different designs together. Human-centred design (Norman, 2013) and the experience economy (Pine and Gilmore, 2011) blended together to become Experience Design. But, as discussed, the definitions of "experience" are many and varied.
But this everything-at-once nature of experience and, by extension, Experience Design might actually be its strength.
As more of our basic needs are met, we increasingly expect sophisticated experiences that are emotionally satisfying and meaningful. These experiences will not be simple products. They will be complex combinations of products, services, spaces and information.
Experience Design could thus be an umbrella term for many different design fields. Experience Design is the glue that holds the other disciplines together and weaves them into one big, continuous flow.
Experience Design is the only Design.
As pointed out by Svabo and Shanks (2015), Experience Design is site specific. It requires a deep understanding and embodiment of the specific context and experience.
Designers need to understand, imagine, and fulfil human needs and desires. This implies building empathy, watching what people do and how they interact with things, environments, and each other.
On the surface, experience design seems aimed at creating visual appeal, or pleasant interactions. These are touch points, yes, but a user does more than just physically interact with a product, they also have a mind to think with, and emotions to feel.
Experience design aims to understand and create experiences whether that is by using a lamp, a phone or a restaurant.
Experience design tries to understand the entire user experience: the sensory, emotional, and psychological components (Svabo and Shanks, 2015) and how they blend together.
To conclude: Experience is blending with the world, and the world blending with you. Experience Design, then, is the choreography of the movements: pushing and pulling on the user's engagement.