To those of you who made it to the SXSW Designing Happiness panel discussion (or as Lippincott described it, the Designing Happiness Intervention): LUCKY! Between the experience design expert panelists (Lippincott director of experience innovation Randall Stone, Walt Disney Imagineering chief creative executive Bruce Vaughn, and SoulCycle CMO Etrog Cohen), the exciting discussion, and the puppies(!), I’m betting you had a blast. Not to mention that the entire experience was strategically designed with your happiness in mind, from beginning to end. What better way to learn why and how you can design for happiness than to actually experience it?
To everyone else: Unfortunately I can’t bring the panelists and puppies to you, but I can offer a behind-the-scenes look at the event, with some valuable takeaways. I interviewed Stone and Lauren Cascio, Lippincot’s senior manager, brand and marketing, both of whom developed the Designing Happiness Intervention. Let’s find out how they demonstrated key happiness principles in the design of the SXSW experience, gather some gems of wisdom that came out of the event, and find out more about the awesome benefits of applying behavioral science to experience design.
How Lippincott Designed Happiness at SXSW
Lippincott knew there was only one way to create a SXSW panel centered on the topic of designing happiness, and that was to structure happiness right into the event itself, using scientifically backed techniques.
Last Fall, Lippincott released “The Happiness Halo,” which explores the unexpected benefits of applying behavioral science to experience design. The research on which Lippincott offers their unique perspective is not a new theory of happiness, by any means. However, it is a new application of the scientific study of happiness. In “The Happiness Halo,” Lippincott lays out nine elements for true customer happiness: tease, tempt, make it a treat, immerse, direct, elevate, end strong, surprise, reinforce and rewire. These elements or strategies can be lumped into three main categories or phases:
- Anticipation, which is a source of joy all on its own
- Interaction, which is all about intervening and immersing customers in the experience
- Afterglow, which is centered on the importance of memories
A lot of the most mundane moments have the most
opportunity for designing happiness into them.
Lippincott brought each of these elements to life throughout the SXSW panel, creating deliberate moments of anticipation, interaction and afterglow for attendees.
The building of anticipation began long before the event, on social media and such—which is likely one reason that the panel was the highest attended of the day outside of the keynote, with 500 people in the room and more than five times that many wanting to attend. Furthermore, attendees were welcomed into the room with a playlist curated by SoulCycle’s legendary instructors, while happy mantras flashed on screens. This, combined with the lighting, created a calm atmosphere and heightened senses all throughout the room.
Designing the Experience
The experience transformed as the interaction element was brought to life. The audience was asked to challenge the panelists to share ideas for improving upon traditionally “unhappy experiences,” like waiting in line at the DMV, and used emoticon cards to vote on the ideas. This served to break up the discussion in terms of where content was coming from and who was doing the talking.
The experience transformed beautifully once again as a litter of 5-week-old puppies was brought into the room to mingle during a Q&A, which helped to break down the barrier typically found between the audience and panelists.
“I think it’s universally proven that puppies make just about everyone happy,” Stone says with a smile in his voice. “In this case, one of the techniques or thoughts about creating strong memory is to end strong, and that was the idea behind the puppies.”
Creating an Afterglow
Stone and Cascio ensured an effective afterglow by giving attendees freshly baked cookies from Naegelin’s Bakery, the oldest bakery in Texas. This allowed attendees to “take happy home,” aiding in the formation of their memories of the event. This is important because, as Lippincott discusses in “The Happiness Halo,” our memories are powerful, and moments like “peaks” and “ends” disproportionately dominate memory. This is a powerful thing for brand and experience designers to think about.
Cascio notes the power of making the mundane memorable. “A lot of the most mundane moments have the most opportunity for designing happiness into them,” Cascio says, “and those are the ones that really surprise, and make people stop and think and leave with a big smile on their face.”
[Need a brainstorming boost for coming up with your own ways to make the mundane memorable? Grab a copy of Creative Anarchy and find out how to break rules for the sake of good design.]
How to Think about Designing for Happiness
Having designed the SXSW panel experience from beginning to middle to end, Lippincott was able to transform the discussion into a real-time happiness experiment. Stone notes that doing this—paying attention to all three phases, not just the middle—is important when it comes to designing happiness.
“Most people are working on the middle one, the experience itself. I think the greatest opportunity is to work on the anticipation and the afterglow.” He emphasizes that this is simply because most brands have usually already put a lot of work into the interaction phase.
“When you think about an experience, it’s actually kind of fractal in the sense that some experiences have the same three phases built into them,” Stone continues. “At any given moment you’re going to be working on all three; it’s just thinking about what aspect you’re trying to execute against.”
He emphasizes that it’s not necessary to get caught up in the science of happiness and designing for it, but rather to simply pay attention to the tools you’re using.
“The science behind it is in part to share with people that this thinking is deep and engrained into the human psyche,” Stone says. “The science isn’t necessarily the tool in which you build the experience.” He emphasizes that the nine elements Lippincott highlights are just a few of many, but designers should for sure understand these nine aspects, and consider asking themselves questions like:
How do we create anticipation?
What are some meaningful ways to tempt the client?
How should we end strong?
If things go wrong, what are some ways to help rewire?
If you want to learn more about the benefits of applying behavioral science to experience design, find Lippincott’s latest thoughts, tips and tricks in “The Happiness Halo.”