Joanna Peña-Bickley
5 min readJan 3, 2016


Joanna Peña-Bickley, Global Chief Creative Officer
Alex Sinclair, Global Creative Director

Design is in the eye of a technological, social and cultural storm, revolutionizing how we interact with the world around us. Its impact on business is the difference between disrupting, or being disrupted, as a new design method dictates which brands win and which lose. Central to it all is customer experience, the benchmark of a brand’s value. In today’s fickle market the experience had better be exceptional, and enduring. Competition for the customer’s fleeting attention span in the digital bazaar is fierce. It has shaped an innovative model of business and a fresh approach to branding called Experience Design. Led by Experience Designers, these hybrid creators reinvent products, processes, services, events, cities, and complete environments by combining old school design with a technology canvas, all with a single focus on crafting culturally relevant employee and customer experiences.

The Duality of Design Experiences
Experience Design combines technology’s continuous data stream and API’s with the classic form and function of design. The Experience Designer is both artist and technologist; a polymath, fluent in the language of brand design, technology, and data. In marketing and communication, for example, a consistent breeding ground for new capabilities, the shift to digital has created the experience economy, a new model for how people digest content. In this unusual design sphere, information architecture has merged with interaction design to create user experience design. Graphic design, front end coding, and motion graphics has produced creative engineering. Writing and content strategy is editorial design, and it doesn’t end with communications. Experience Design is a game-changer, pushing innovation among those who are no strangers to it. Fashion technologist Amanda Parks is repurposing what we wear through ‘smart’ connected garments, while sound technologists and environmental installation artists, such as Will I. Am and Mileece are hitting new notes with connectivity in music. In architecture, Maya Ying Lin, Frank Gehry, and David Fisher are mashing design and technology to rearrange physical space, while urban planners and designers, such as Elizabeth Plater-Syberk and Laurinda Hope Spear, are modeling intelligent cities for eco-friendly living. In the field of industrial design Yves Behar, Alberto Vasquez and Donn Koh are pushing the manufacturing envelope, one product at a time, while culinary technologists Homaro Cantu and Bruno Chemel, are playing with their food through molecular gastronomy. The show has gone totally immersive in entertainment as sensory designers, Sam Bompas and Harry Parr systematically alter human perception through all five senses. What they all demonstrate so beautifully is the art of the possible, powered by Experience Design and limited only by the creator’s own imagination and skillset.

The Practice of Experience Design
Today’s creative leader, no matter the industry, draws on four guiding principles of Experience Design:

  1. Design with data: Data is the powerful source that goes far beyond delivering an insight to creating the infrastructure of an experience. Data shapes an individual and personalized brand narrative for each customer. Depending on how artfully it is used, data drives customer and employee engagement to shape, thread and sculpt unique customer experiences.
  2. Design for life at an individual level: Traditional communication methods were created for a mass market. Experience Design is focused on a market of one customer. The mission is to create an individualized experience that integrates seamlessly into the customer or employee’s life, at a specific moment in time. Cognitive computing, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, wearable tech, and the Internet of Things, supported by an endless stream of data, give new meaning to the term “up close and personal.” They are key to tailoring unique and measurable customer experiences that drive revenue.
  3. Design for editorial meaning: Content is data and data is knowledge. The editorial interpretation of data transforms code into human communication. It is the language of science turned into the language of emotion. Editorial design uses cultural relevance to put the customer at the heart of the brand’s story, creating a connection 365 days a year.
  4. Design for connected space and time: We are moving towards a neural network of billions of sensors, connecting everyone and everything. This real-time environment will configure how people spend their time, developing new customer habits and expectations, from driving to cooking a meal. As the boundaries between inside and outside dissolve there will no longer be a distinction between the experience a customer has on a device or in a physical space.

Designing For The Fourth Dimension
The physical world has become our new digital interface and the role of design forever changed. Whereas it once guided an experience in two dimensions for print and static surfaces, and in three dimensions, for digital media, the sky is now the limit. Literally. A combination of age-old storytelling and intelligent computing is driving human interaction to exciting new places in our current marketing environment. Einstein introduced the concept of a fourth dimension in 1912. Data, art, and technology have brought it to life as 4D Design in the post-digital world.

A Force For Disruption
4D Design uses human interaction to awaken the brand. Equal parts science and art, it draws on the computational beauty of nature to create breakthrough experiences in real-time. It connects data technologies, ideas, interactions, and storytelling to all five human senses. 4D Design inhabits a unique space where ‘virtual’ and ‘augmented’ become reality. It shifts the brand mission, from communicating a narrative, to delivering a dynamic experience that turns the brand’s values into action. It is changing how business connects to its audience and pioneering unique interactions.

Wiring plants with sensors, Sonic Garden by Sonos Studio has transformed a garden into a symphony of sound. Disney’s Magic Band uses a sensor-laden bracelet to give each guest a key to unlock the magic of the kingdom. Artists Michael Lemieux and Victor Pilo use multimedia to bring Shakespeare’s genius and drama into the round in an immersive and breathtaking experience of The Tempest for The Canadian Institute for Theatre Technology. In retail, Chanel, Diesel and Nike Footlocker are elevating window-shopping to high art through dazzling, interactive storefronts. While CogniToys’ Dino, powered by Watson’s cognitive intelligence delivers a talking toy that becomes more personalized as it learns. Finally, in a sensational example of reconfiguring physical space, Florentine architect, David Fisher’s conceptual, shape shifting Da Vinci Tower in Dubai, is the ultimate in 4D Design. Each floor is designed to rotate separately so that the building never appears the same in a lifetime.

The 4D Design paradigm will touch every corner of industry, from financial, auto manufacturing, and healthcare to government services as the connection between extraordinary customer experiences and a healthy bottom line becomes apparent.

Our Future is the Ongoing Present
The Experience Design evolution is an exciting prospect for creators and businesses alike. It is golden opportunity to craft branded employee and customer experiences that drive results. Business has always been about the survival of the fittest, but never more than today. Experience designers are the new branding expert and designing in the fourth dimension is the formula for success. So, how will your business greet the future using 4D Design?



Joanna Peña-Bickley

Artist, Activist, Inventor, Designer of intelligent things that are useful, usable and magical. | https://joannapenabickley.com/