Simmetrico’s introduction to Experience Design: empathy, travel, and heroes

By Daniele Zambelli


Experience design, or as I like to say “designing with emotions”, is the creative ability to integrate different artistic disciplines, languages, and technologies to build a memorable experience, to discover the contents and values of a thematic context, whether it be a country, a museum itinerary or a brand; it’s the creation of a physical and emotional journey within a narrative landscape made up of questions, people’s stories, and human endeavours.

My history as a creative director has taught me that, while  creativity has no rules – only missions, there are prerequisites for creativity to fully manifest itself and make the experience authentic for those who live it.

If I am asked to state what, apart from talent, is the requirement of a good creative, I say with unreasonable confidence that it’s the capacity for empathy. I define empathy, for a designer, as the ability to resonate, to participate in the contexts to which one applies one’s talent, and to be in a symmetrical relationship (Sym-metron: order and proportion among the parts of a whole) with them.  Whether it is towards one’s team, towards the project theme, towards the public, or simply towards beauty: a creative who has not yet discovered that it is empathy  to produce the right intensity to realise a project will never be as effective despite his talent and technique.

The design journey is like the hero’s initiatory travel that marks the classic structure of storytelling in literature; the creative path is full of unexpected events, allies, and mentors and always has the inevitable and necessary antagonist: time. This passage requires resources, and the first one for a creative is one’s empathic ability, which nourishes one’s mission to see, “draw”, and share what is not yet there. In the plot, the hero completes this journey with the “discovery of a new world”. For the creative person, the project and its realisation are the rewards.

Because of the symmetry I mentioned, it is not unusual that the prerequisite of empathy, which applies to the designer, is also the expected result of a good experience design project. Again, the metaphor of the journey comes to our aid: in this case, the heroes are the visitors and the goal is to surprise them as they travel inside the designed narrative landscape, to create an empathy with the values and contents we want to communicate: the “characters and shapes of our story”.

It seems difficult to engage the, sometimes, very heterogeneous exhibition audience if we consider the differences that shape everyone’s personal experience. Supporting the creative person in this endeavour is the emotional palette, with which we all perceive reality through our senses. Despite cultural differences, as archetypes of collective imagination, certain colours generate similar perceptions in us, this is also true for certain harmonic frequencies and certain fundamental forms.

If we move from the terrain of opinions to that of emotions, “we are made of the same substance…”, and we are much more similar than we imagine. We may be surprised at how many more fundamental values unite us than those that divide us, and you know that a smile or a tear means the same thing at any latitude. This is why Art in any of its forms has always been the most effective bridge for dialogue between different cultural universes.


Happy Journey to all.