Cognitive Experience Design is the art and science of bringing harmonic geometry to a conversation. - Joanna Peña-Bickley

Cognitive Experience Design

Joanna Peña-Bickley
8 min readFeb 5, 2017

Designing Intelligent Brands with Ai For the Cognitive Era of Business
By Joanna Peña-Bickley, Head of Design, Internet of Things, Amazon; Former Global Chief Creative Officer, IBM iX

The problem we face is so clear to me. Humans on spaceship earth are paralyzed by an inability to trust whether we are making the right decisions for our world, communities, companies and individual lives. This paralysis is a symptom of our innate human need to be connected with each other. We have a serious, yet very treatable condition called cognitive overload. Our desire for constant connectivity is producing more data and content than we have ever produced before. In the time that it took me to write this post, humans have produced 1 billion searches on google, 294 billion emails, 230 million tweets, and posted 30+ petabytes of content and data on Facebook. While data has quickly become a renewable natural human made resource, time on the other hand is a resource we should not and cannot afford to waste.

The Human Value of Time

Ben Franklin astutely said, “time is money.” The rising value of our 1440 daily minutes is an asset we should protect. Those moments are precious and priceless given the current state of our world. If we are to take on the grand challenges that can be solved in our lifetime, humans do not have a moment to lose sifting looking through a haystack of structured and unstructured information sources to find the right patterns to get to a next best action.

Time can be spent or time can be invested — a lot like money in our economy. Investing time is not about being busy or industrious. Investments of time are directed at specific activity helping humans accomplish goals. Saving people time is a dividend we should pay back to people participating in our shared, experience economy.

Designing Dividends with Augmented Intelligence Ai

Your brand is only as valuable as the dividend of time it pays out or gives back. Cognitive Experience Design (CxD) is the art of empathetically respecting an individual’s time and choices while balancing the science of crafting data into intelligent individualized experiences that lead conscious decisions. The best Cognitive Experience Design expertly reframes cognitive technology, Ai, as the new artistic canvas, data as the paint and transformative ideas as a method to put your brand in service to customers, clients and individuals in uniquely competitive ways.

The People Redesigning Time

Standing at the center of a rapidly growing Cognitive Experience Design (CxD) ecosystem of talent, it’s important to define the characteristics of Cognitive Experience Designer and the sandbox we play in. Cognitive Experience Designers, #CxD, are ambidextrous beings, post-digital pioneers, confident polymaths who harmoniously unite connected space and time to help other humans achieve an outcome or goal. I believe we are the tension between art and science. We are subject matter experts whose sandbox enables us to play with content, natural language, data visualization, conversation models, APIs and instrumented machines or things (IoT). We use cognitive computing, self-learning systems that use data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing to create innovations that matter for our world. In the context of modern marketing CxDs exist to create, evolve and design brands that are in service to their very human customers. We craft brand experiences for the cognitive era of business.

Crafting Cognitive Brand Experiences

Today your customers are connected humans sitting at the center of three forces of change. The IoT, or internet of things is this centuries communications force. According to economist, Jeremy Rifkin, the IoT will connect everything to everyone creating a physical internet. Cognitive experience design enables humans to connect with smart machines, appliances, phones, cars, drones, robots and homes with radically simple interfaces.

Humans were designed to communicate through conversations. This is underscored by Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends study. The rising use of conversational user interfaces or Conversational UI like ones found in messages, facebook, twitter, whats app and slack can be designed with chatbots, virtual assistants, attendants and concierges that can connect content, commerce, care and community into one experience. Whether you prefer the voice of Alexa, Cortana, Siri or my personal favorite Watson it’s the cognitive experience design teams who creates the skills to enable intelligent conversations that serve our customers with more humanity than we have done in the digital era of business.

Well designed conversational Interfaces are transforming the relationship between humans and machines. Given our natural proclivity to anthropomorphize machines in a social context it is incumbent upon us to take a brand’s intent into action and artfully create our products, skills and surrounding services to deliver individualized conversations with in an interconnected brand ecosystem.

Getting To Know Thy Customer In Record Time
Today, I use Watson’s personality insights to help me get to know my customers in less time by extracting personality characteristics based on how a person writes. You can use the service to match individuals to other individuals, opportunities, and products, or tailor their experience with personalized messaging and recommendations. You can also use Visual Recognition APIs to understands the contents of images — and find human faces, to capture approximate age and gender, and find similar images in a collection.

Preparing To Strike Up A Conversation with Ai
15 years ago I created one of the first branded conversational experiences for the Matrix movies using a phone, a phone number, voice recognition, drill down scripted trees translated into voice xml, audio and visual design with actors. Since then technology has advanced and we have evolved to construct intelligent Conversational Models with Flows that connect people to topics in order to help them achieve a goal in record time. A conversational flow should never be static or hierarchical. It should be designed to be adapted and refined over time by objective subject matter experts orchestrating machine learning. The conversational model unlocks the sum of brand’s value by enabling access to information locked enterprise vaults or hidden unstructured social feeds as a living corpus of domain expertise.

Conversational Model with topic flows

Branding The Conversation
Intelligent narrative design begins by translating your brand purpose into intent and puts your visual and tone of voice guidelines into practice and actions in service to individual users. Cognitive experience design brings your brand’s personality to life. It’s important to note that superior narrative design unites audio, visual and haptics to engage a users with artfully crafted domain expertise in any form and in any channel.

Cognitive experience design has given way to new artifacts, components and deliverables we create and programmatically orchestrate in order to customize engagements with users. From the generation of scripts with interactive dialogue that can unlock wit and wisdom of a brand; to the development of audio and visual pattern libraries that serve to enhance daily rituals with time saving ease; to the creation of generative data visualizations that inform and reinforce an insightful system recommendations or suggestions; To the artfully composed audio that will ensures memorable brand signatures; to the industrial, interior and physical design that bestows time manipulation superpowers to every user — we systematically create these works in studios to programmatically be assembled in real time to enchant users and invite their return usage.

Cognitive Mobility Platform Design By Joanna Peña-Bickley & Alex Sinclair

Attributing conversations to the value of your brand
Nothing is more memorable than an unexpected conversation that pays you a dividend. So often brands have collected consumer information but not connected it to a their brands intent or higher purpose and connect the dots for users. CRM programs languish and are dying from siloed disconnection. These vast repositories of user data sit in systems inaccessible emerging needs and evolving human rituals. Human social media teams often miss opportunities to transform moments of crisis in to moments of joy because no one human can anticipate the needs of the many who want to have conversation with our brands. One to do solve this problem is to use cognitive analytics and APIs and connect the dots for customers. Cognitive experience design respectfully anticipates and predicts the customers need and gives them a choice to save time and accomplish a goal or bank it for later.

Creating in unique social or conversational interfaces give companies an opportunity to reinvent a business as intelligently human brands.

The Business Case For Cognitive Experience Design

The industrial revolution is here, again. As a creative business leader you have very little time to make this jump from the second industrial digital era to the third industrial cognitive era of business. The over-abundance of cheap information and accessibility to networked technologies gives every individual an opportunity to be a player in their own economic destiny and to build a sustainable business model and ecosystem.

Brands who are succeeding in the most tumultuous time in business have either embarked on a journey of customer-centric tech-based transformation or were born out of technology platforms with a collaborative contract with their users. The construct of these contracts begins with the intent of our brand purpose and brand values that govern the way we serve the needs, desires and hopes of our customers, communities, countries, continents and connected biosphere with a new collective bargain for their time.

Today, people are choosing “disruptors” because they are giving us dividends of time in the form of designed simplicity from collaborative capitalist brands like Lyft, AirBnB, Rent The Runway, Maven, Starbucks, Twitter, ZipCar, TaskRabbit, SpaceX, Warby Parker, Under Armour and WeWork.

For Instance Under Armour intends to make all Athletes better through passion, design and the relentless pursuit of innovation. That’s why they now offer cognitive coaching to their community of athletic users which pays dividends in the form of easily accessible human performance information which helps accelerate the growth of their ecosystem.

For global companies with brands cognitive experience design, transforms your role from top down producers of goods with restrictive franchise or distribution models to aggregators of goods and services positioning yourself as the nucleus of large aggregated networks of prosumers and SMEs (Small & Medium Enterprises and Subject Matter Expertise).

“We will see more change in the next 5 years than we saw in the last 50.” — Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors

The cost of paralysis, indecision or standing still comes down to how you value the existence of your business. Acting quicker than your competitors will stand in stark contrast to those brands who do not and fail from diminishing brand relevance and the retraction of revenue sources. Time is a clear business case being made for the agility of a one page business plan called a business model canvas, the reorganization of hierarchical organizational structures into lateral networks of connected talent and the re-imagination of physical work spaces into collaborative commons or connected studios. The most important exercise that a brand can take on is the outward acts of deft intelligence to solve customer problems with cognitive experience design.

Take a deep dive into the practice of cognitive experience design and how to design intelligent design systems:



Joanna Peña-Bickley

Artist, Activist, Inventor, Designer of intelligent things that are useful, usable and magical. |