Lens: Type: Component

Anyone who uses design to complete an activity.

Without people, there is no interaction with design. After all—for design objects to be created or used, people must be part of the equation. The more clearly we understand, involve, and consider people in experience design, the more effective and relevant our research and creations will be. As components in experience design scenes, people are the most difficult to study because they are so complicated.

People are Rational

People do things that make sense. They watch out for danger and turn the lights off when they leave the room. People spend only as much money as they have, and they show up to work on time. People think critically, weigh options, then act on available information. The logic that underpins human decision-making makes sure trains run on time. It means that as designers, we can predict with decent certainty what people will do because they act rationally.

People are Irrational

Sometimes, people aren’t so rational. Have you ever decided to stay out late at a party with friends a little later than you should have, and the next day at work was tough because of lost sleep? Perhaps you bought something that cost a little more than you could afford (okay, a lot more). People do things that aren’t logical but are driven by other factors like emotional mood or cultural traditions. People can be irrational—inspired by things that don’t make sense. There’s always a motivation behind these actions, and deciphering those motivations often gives us a peek into how people make meaning of the world around them.

People are Unpredictable

At one moment, people make rational decisions, and the next moment, they do something completely unexpected and unwarranted. That’s what makes researching people fun for experience designers. We can not know what a person is thinking at all times. Philosophy, psychology, and computer science have worked for centuries to figure out how to predict people. Algorithms are getting close, but they’re not quite there. People are elusive and continue to be. It’s hard to define and categorize them. People always surprise.

People Matter

People are experiencers in experience design scenes. The success of a design is measured by how well they can use it and how effectively it aligns with a person’s needs, values, and preferences. User experiences hinge on if the design is useful, usable, and desirable (Sanders, 1992). When design outcomes also consider experience-level aspects, products, services, and systems can become meaningful, valuable, and even empowering.

People Examples

  • A 15-year-old girl who plays softball and has dreams of going to the Olympics.

Characteristics and Behavior

Observations can produce descriptions of components. Designers can document things like physical size, style, and makeup. Components’ characteristics and behaviors directly define what they are and how they are working. However, they fall short of revealing more profound aspects of who they are, why they are, and their function in experience design scenes.

Select any of the aspects to learn its role in experience design scenes at the characteristics and behaviors level.

People Characteristics
People: Behavior
People: Self

Self Characteristics

Age Sex Race Gender Identity Size: People Condition

Self Behavior

Habits Movements
People: Relational

Relational Characteristics

Sexual Orientation Relationships Social Class Knowledge

Relational Behavior


Experience-Level Aspects

A designer with experience mindset researches and designs with the tangible and the intangible in mind. When researching experience design scenes, these aspects can be targeted using different design research methods. Designing for complete experiences does not neglect these aspects. Instead, products, services, and systems are designed to align with these aspects and consider them as essential drivers for design decisions.

“Seeing” these aspects requires taking different perspectives—putting on a set of “lenses.” Bifocals, a magnifying glass, and a stethoscope enable the viewer to see different things. Explore scenes using each set of lenses to reveal new details about components in experience design scenes (Gilmore, 2016).

Select any of the aspects to learn its role in experience design scenes at the experience design level.

Experience Theme
People: Meaning-Making




Culture Values


Self-Concept Worldview
People: Motivation


Attention Attitude Subjective Norm Abilities


Intention Role


Sensations Mood

Research People to Learn...

a ruler


A design concept is planned. How should we make the design? What about the context and people must we not ignore?

Read MoreConstraints
a busy rail station with lots of people


A need for design has not been established. What innovation is needed that's not already there? Where are pain points and opportunities?

Read MoreDiscoveries


References and sources that support the inclusion of this Aspects of Experiences for Design component.


Gilmore, J. H. (2016). Look: A Practical Guide for Improving Your Observational Skills. Austin, Texas: Greenleaf Book Group Press.


Sanders, E. B.-N. (1992). Converging perspectives: product development research for the 1990s. Design Management Journal, 3(4), 49-54.