Design Experiences Not Content

October 27, 2016

by Carla Johnson

Early in my career I worked for architecture firms. That phase was one of the most valuable times of learning in my career. One conversation in particular with a designer is still clear as can be to me today, decades later.

He was telling me about a children’s burn unit in a hospital he was designing. He told me about the emotional and physical trauma of burn treatment for children – the pain that came with it and the incredible fear of anticipating the pain that came with having their wounds cleaned.

“I don’t think about individual rooms,” he said. “I care about designing an entire experience of the care. That’s what matters to patients.”

It’s the entire experience that matters.

The first thing that my architect friend thought about wasn’t the rooms and how they all fit together. He focused on the experience he wanted to design for the injured children and then he backed that into what he created. When he talked to the hospital team, he talked first about emotional comfort and giving patients a sense of control over their environment. He told them what it meant to have their parents sleep in the same room and make them feel safe. He described why it was so important to address the feelings of sadness, anxiety, fear and anger that these young children had. Only then did he talk about the makeup of how that happened. The content of his design.

As content marketers, we have to take the same perspective. It’s not about individual pieces of content. It’s about the overall experience that we create for people and how we tie it all together. It’s not about siloed efforts that measure website traffic, social media shares or campaign clicks.

It’s about the entire experience.

Southwest Airlines has the entire travel experience in mind when they partnered with the TSA and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency in a passenger pre-screening program. They’ve always been great about the ticketing through what happens during the flight. And now they’ve bridged the last gap and made getting through security at the airport just that much easier.

They put the experience of travel first.

For you, as marketers, how can you design experiences rather than just creating content?

Are you interested in creating a stronger brand story that you can turn into stellar customer experiences? Contact me and let’s talk about how we can help. Or follow me on LinkedIn, and Twitter, and if you like what you see, Subscribe here for regular updates.

Photo credit: Unsplash Dariusz Sankowski

About Carla Johnson


Carla Johnson is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author.

Over the last two decades, Carla has helped architects and actuaries, executives and volunteers, innovators and visionaries leverage the art of storytelling to inspire action. Her work with Fortune 500 brands has served as the foundation for many of her books.

In her latest project, Fast Forward Files, she contributes to a larger collection of thoughts by some of the world’s greatest minds -  Shazam co-founder Dhiraj Mukherjee, activist and entrepreneur Heather Mills and behavioral designer, technologist and mental-health champion Peter Trainor. Consistently named one of the top influencers in B2B, digital and content marketing, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking. 

Today, she travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.