I'd like to know about how to call the design of experiences for real life.

For example, the design of experiences for pedestrians has many disciplines like signage, psychology, architecture and so on. But is there a name to encompass all these disciplines for this case? The same could be said for the design of holistic experiences for a restaurant, or event, or medical processes (not the medical part itself, but everything related to it that is not medical per se).

I'm more interested in architectural and interiors design, but anything related to improvement of life will work and is of the utmost interest for me.

  • 1
    I'm curious about it too, and how far does it go in real world (is architecture considered to be part of it or the other way round?). I always liked Mies quote: God is in the detail en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_devil_is_in_the_detail
    – Alvaro
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 23:07
  • 2
    Universal Design: designing everything for everyone ?
    – PhillipW
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 23:52
  • It is like when I asked what they call Public Schools in England (because their term actually means what I would call a Private School): schools
    – user67695
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 15:17

6 Answers 6


Terminology is not well defined.

The problem is that the terminology in our field is loosely defined. The answer to your question might just be 'design'.

The different design terminologies varies by the specific context and process that they're used for. There is a debate about the meaning of terms and not all academic authors and practitioners agree with each other on the definitions.

Often times you can use several design terminologies for describing the same design process, and they can all will be valid.

So here I will list the ones that I think are relevant to your question:

Ergonomics / Human Factors

ISO 26800:2011 abstract presents the general ergonomics approach and specifies basic ergonomics principles and concepts. These are applicable to the design and evaluation of tasks, jobs, products, tools, equipment, systems, organizations, services, facilities and environments, in order to make them compatible with the characteristics, the needs and values, and the abilities and limitations of people.

ISO 26800:2011. Scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among human and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance

User Experience design

User Experience (UX) is also called experience design. UX design has many definitions but Don Norman was the first one to coin the term:

“I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with the system including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual. Since then the term has spread widely, so much so that it is starting to lose it’s meaning… user experience, human centered design, usability; all those things, even affordances. They just sort of entered the vocabulary and no longer have any special meaning. People use them often without having any idea why, what the word means, its origin, history, or what it’s about.”

Video of Don Norman explaining what is User Experience.

Dan Saffer has a book about interaction design and he classifies the disciplines like this:

User experience design terminology and disciplines

Human-centered design

ISO 9241:210 Human-centred design is an approach to interactive systems development that aims to make systems usable and useful by focusing on the users, their needs and requirements, and by applying human factors/ergonomics, and usability knowledge and techniques. This approach enhances effectiveness and efficiency, improves human well-being, user satisfaction, accessibility and sustainability; and counteracts possible adverse effects of use on human health, safety and performance.

Remember that the term system may not only mean a computer system or some other technological meaning, but can represent a system of processes supporting certain activity. For example for pedestrians have a system. It should have signage, lights, sidewalks, etc. This can be said that it is pedestrian system, just like the road system.


Possible terminologies for 'real life' user experience design that are safe to use, in my opinion, are but not limited to:

  • ergonomics,
  • human-centered design,
  • (user) experience design,
  • interaction design.
  • 1
    'design' is the new 'spam'. haw haw
    – user67695
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 15:15

It sounds like you are referring to Experience design:

Experience design (XD) is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events, omnichannel journeys, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience and culturally relevant solutions. An emerging discipline, experience design draws from many other disciplines including cognitive psychology and perceptual psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, architecture and environmental design, haptics, hazard analysis, product design, theatre, information design, information architecture, ethnography, brand strategy, interaction design, service design, storytelling, heuristics, technical communication, and design thinking.



If you want an all-encompassing term, perhaps Universal Design??


Universal design - broad-spectrum ideas meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to older people, people without disabilities, and people with disabilities.


Universal Design (UD) is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012). It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.


I will go for a different perspective. In this great post the author explains his transition from Architecture to UX design explaining the similitudes between the two. And I found this sentence specially relevant to your question:

UX designers are digital architects and we can all learn from each other.

  • If that link goes down your answer becomes completely worthless. You should include citations of the article's chief claims. Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 21:33

Perhaps you mean "Everyday Design" as in the design of normal things that we use every day. (Here's a link to a book on the subject by Don Norman)

Or "Ubiquitous Design" as in design that is everywhere. (Most of the references for this online are connected with the design of ubiquitous computing systems but I found a paper that focuses more on the design angle than the computing one)

Or maybe you mean something else entirely!


"User experience design," used in a broad sense, would cover the things you mentioned. People use signs, buildings, street lights, clerks, etc. to achieve their goals.

However, the things you described sound more like a related discipline called service design. The Wikipedia definition sounds pretty solid to me:

Service design is the activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between the service provider and its customers.

Many of the examples you mentioned were public services, but I think the tools and methods employed by service design practitioners are probably what you're looking for. They mostly involve mapping the user's journey, and making sure that the people, places, and things a user encounters ("touch points") work together to create a positive experience.

It's worth mentioning that if you're mostly interested in architecture or interior design, those are design disciplines in their own right and shouldn't be dismissed as not-experience-related. Practitioners of both disciplines spend a great deal of time designing spaces that are functional, safe, emotional engaging, etc.

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