What competencies do Experience Designers need today and tomorrow?

Andy Sontag
4 min readOct 14, 2016

…Experience designers need to understand: How are expectations created? What are emotions? What triggers emotions? How does memory function?
— Christian Jantzen, Experience Design Professor at Ålborg University, Denmark

As professional educators of experience designers, we thought it was a good idea to speak with a variety of thought leaders and professionals from fields, with relevance for the discipline of experience design, about the most important skills/competencies for experience designers to master. This list is the first thing to come out of 6 months of research. Later will follow an article with insights about “experience design as driver of organizational engagement and market innovation”.
Below are the skills that we at Kaospilot Experience Design believe to be most important for experience designers to master both today and tomorrow. They are not in order of importance.

Competencies for Experience Designers:

1. Design Thinking

#designthinking #visual #digitalnative

Experience designers need to be well versed in the process you use to design things. This has a lot to do with having the mindset of a designer. Being able to think about solving a problem from a design thinking perspective. A basic understanding of Adobe Creative Suite is enough, but the ability to visualize ideas and rapidly create prototypes is essential. Experience designers should be well versed in human centered design, design thinking and Lean UX.

2. Understand the Psychology of Experience

#psychology #physiology #emotions

One thing that should separate an experience designer from a chair designer is the experience designers understanding of the human experience. To give someone something that they want, but didn’t expect requires insight into human psychology and even physiology. This requires insight into what really motivates people, and what triggers them. Experience designers need to understand: What are emotions? What triggers emotions? Cognition, how does our memory function? How are expectations created? As well as the basics of perception, sensing and physiology.

3. Strong Empathy

#anthropology #ethnography #humanconnection

Empathy is the ability to not only understand someone, but also to become one with that persons distress/joy… To be able to understand the perspective of the users is called ‘sociological imagination’. The ability to literally imagine yourself in the shoes of someone else is essential for experience designers. Creating meaningful experience for others is about having empathy, and being able to draw deep insights from qualitative research.

4. Collaborative Management

#projectmanagement #facilitation #systemsthinking

Experience designers need to be able to create deeply engaging innovation process with diverse stakeholders and an interdisciplinary team. They need the management skills to understand how an efficient system is constructed. They need to be able to communicate clearly to the business side of a project. They need to be experts in facilitating innovation in a collaborative, yet goal oriented way.

5. The Structure of Beauty

#aesthetics #artist #culture

Experience designers need to have good taste. They should be connoisseurs of culture, and experiences that positively upset expectations. Experience designers need to know how to construct something interesting, beautiful, pleasurable. They need to be able to understand the massive changes in taste as generations change.

We ask a lot from experience designers. Does this mean to be an Experience Designer you need to get a masters in: Design, Psychology, Art, Business and Ethnography? No. But it is increasingly important to have a strong pallet of knowledge, that your core skills can stem from, to as IDEO has framed it, a T Shaped person. We believe experience designers hold the key to solving some of the worlds most inextricable problems. The cultivation of these skills is the bedrock with which experience designers of the future will build from.

Authors//Niels Jensen and Andy Sontag

Kaospilot Experience Design
Since 1992, Kaospilot have worked systematically with the management of change and co-creation processes. We are a creative and experience design driven school with 100 inquisitive rule breakers from all over the world and a consultancy house that makes training programs in leadership, innovation, creativity and experience design. We teach experience design through giving participants of the course a carefully designed experience. We learn through applying theory to real word cases that the participants bring into the courses.

Learn more about our in-house and open sign up Kaospilot Experience Design Course

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A huge thank you to the people we spoke with in depth:

Mikael Lindh, Senior UX Designer at ustwo Nordics, Sweden
ustwo is a leading global digital product studio.

Kristoffer Krohn Eide, Brand Experience Manager at DNB Bank, Norway
DNB is Norways largest financial services group.

Idunn Hals Bjelland-de Garcia, Marketing Manager at Tomra, Norway
Tomra is a Norwegian multinational corporation active in the field of instrumentation for recycling solutions.

Jan Walter Parr, Creative Leader of Service Design at Eggs Design, Norway
EGGS Design is a multidisciplinary design consultancy housing.

Alison Boston, Communications advisor at Xynteo, Norway
Xynteo — Reinventing Growth — offers environmental consulting

Carola Verschoor, author of Change Ahead: How Research and Design are Transforming Business Strategy and Founder of: groh-innovation.com

Christian Jantzen, Professor of Experience Design, at Aalborg University http://vbn.aau.dk/da/persons/christian-jantzen(78168906-8f08-419b-8ea2-a62a25e9b50c).html

Christer Windeløv-Lidzélius, CEO of the Kaospilots

Maja Klausen, Ph.d., Postdoctoral researcher, University of Copenhagen http://mef.ku.dk/ansatte/?pure=da/persons/571807



Andy Sontag

Designing experience that enable people and relationships to grow ☀️ // Kaospilot Experience Design: https://www.kaospilot.dk/product/experience-design/