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How to Design Happiness via @FastCoDesign

This is a brilliant piece on how thoughtful design can deliver joy. An absolute must-read! Writer Mark Wilson moderated an event at SXSW called Designing Happiness. Its experts included Bruce Vaughn, former chief creative exec with Disney Imagineering; Gabby Etrog Cohen, senior vice president of PR and brand strategy at SoulCycle; and Randall Stone, director of experience innovation at Lippincott. All three brands strive to create happy experiences, not as an afterthought, but as the first step in what they do. It is an approach that’s paid huge dividends for each company.

Here are the six principals discussed and a link to the full article.

HAPPINESS IS MOSTLY THE ANTICIPATION OF AN EVENT AND MEMORY OF IT

…At the creative consultancy Lippincott, designers have a theory called the Happiness Halo—and it’s built upon reconstructing happiness as a three-act structure of anticipation, experience, and memory.

YOU NEED A MOMENT OF TRANSITION TO ESCAPE THE REAL (UNHAPPY) WORLD

Anticipation reveals something else about happiness: That with all of the micro-stresses we experience in our daily lives, it actually helps us to prepare ourselves to be happy, to decompress, wipe our consciousness, and open ourselves to joy.

…Every SoulCycle location has been built to accommodate what the company calls the “crossover.” “We purposefully design our spaces so that when you are leaving your class, another class is coming in,” Cohen says. The “crossover” isn’t anything fancy. One cyclist friend describes it as a “hallway lined with lockers.” But that hallway is an important two-way street, designed for the people coming in to cross paths with the people coming out. For the sweatless, it’s a taste of things to come. For the exercised, it’s an audience to provide validation—the cherry on top of their hard work.

EMPLOYEES NEED TO BE EMPOWERED TO MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY, SANS APPROVAL

For instance, take the haute N.Y.C. dining establishment Eleven Madison Park. Not only does it serve some of the most beautifully plated, scrumptiously paired flavors in the world, it employs a staff member called the Dreamweaver. The Dreamweaver is like a concierge for experience. As Stone tells the story, on one occasion, visitors from out of town expressed that their only regret was not having a slice of N.Y.C. pizza. And so the Dreamweaver responded.

“[The Dreamweaver] jumped in a cab—and here you’re getting a very expensive, multicourse meal—and one of the courses was an authentic slice of New York pizza so they could have everything on their list checked off,” Stone says.

SURPRISE IS REALLY THE KEY TO DELIGHT, AND IT’S MUNDANELY EASY TO SURPRISE PEOPLE

These happiness interventions, staged by employees, are the perfect opportunity to inject an important element into happy experiences: surprise. Much like beginnings and endings, we’re cognitively predisposed to remember surprises, too. And when you have employees primed to surprise customers, it’s far easier to pull off the feat.

“At SoulCycle, we have a program that’s actually called ‘surprise and delight’ where everyone of our managers and key holders has a budget to be able to surprise and delight our riders—whoever they want,” Cohen says

NATURE KNOWNS HAPPINESS BEST BECAUSE WE’RE ALL BARELY TAMED BEASTS

“In our theme parks, there’s a lot of what we call the ‘living show’—actual live plants, living plants, a lot of water, all these things work on the subconscious level to give reassurance,” Vaughn says. “Great cities have this as well. In the city of Paris there’s a lot of food, a lot of bistros and things. People are very reassured by food.”

We crave the resources of nature, and having them on hand makes us happy.

LEAVE YOUR CUSTOMER WITH A KISS GOODNIGHT

At SXSW, keeping in mind the importance of the power of surprise and the kiss goodnight, while recognizing that nature has the power to give us happiness in a way nothing else can, we had an idea:

So we went full-on Oprah, and we released puppies to the audience. (They were a Lab-Golden Retriever mix—totes adorbs.) People climbed over one another to take photos like the paparazzi. They shared stories of their own pets back home while waiting for their turn for puppy snuggles. And of course, their faces melted when they actually held the pups. In case there was any skepticism that you can design, not just for solving problems, but for solving one of humanity’s biggest problems, I can attest, if you can make someone smile when walking out of an hour-long talk in a hotel ballroom? You can make someone smile just about anywhere.

Read the full article here.

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