SXSW 2016: Designing happiness

SXSW 2016: Designing happiness

When we think of happiness, we think of those moments or little things that make you smile. That moment when you feel alive, joyful, amazed, and above all, aware of what's happening around you. The chemical reaction that happens in your brain is that your dopamine is triggered, giving you the feeling of euphoria. We think that this feeling of happiness is essential in providing a great experience. So, what exactly creates this feeling of happiness? What do we have to keep in mind when creating "happiness" experiences? At SXSW 2016 we joined a session about ‘Designing happiness’ with a great panel of speakers from inspiring companies. Bruce Vaughn is former Chief creative executive of Walt DisneyGabby Etrog Cohen is SoulCycle'sSenior VP of brand strategy; Randall Stone from Lippincott is responsible for the experience innovation of his company; and Mark Wilson is Senior writer for Fast companySo now let's see how they've given us a positive experience and a smile on our faces!

Panel designing happiness

Bruce Vaughn from Walt Disney explained a few basics of designing happiness; First of all, you need to know what your customer needs. The fundamental starts with making the customer feel safe. Think about it, without feeling safety it’s hard to imagine you can feel happiness.

When you start creating an experience, focus on the beginning and the end. These moments can make the difference. The part in between is less important, because the concentration and focus might drop a bit. In the part in between you can peak the happiness with high moments. It simply is the beginning and the end of the experience that customers will remember more easily. These moments together are the moments that will make your customers smile in the short and the long run. They will create a positive memory of the experience with your brand that will last a lifetime!

So, how did they do it?

We listened to Bruce Vaughn as the former Chief creative executive of Walt Disney. When you enter Disney World you enter a tunnel which makes you aware of the fact that you are leaving the real world and entering a whole new happy world. Disney characters are waving at people, welcoming them into their new happy experience. After a full day of spectacle and show, Disney ends the journey with beautiful fireworks, as we know it from the Disney movies intro’s. They end it with a bang and will live happily ever after...

Disney World's tunnel entrance
Disney fireworks

Another great example is spinning on an exercise bike. This might be boring for some people, but SoulCycle invented a super high-intensity work out concept in which music, dancing, exercising ánd sweating are combined to give you a real fun experience. While spinning on the SoulCycle, an instructor leads the class through different moves to get the body and soul worked out! At SoulCycle every manager of each studio gets its own budget for creating a more delightful experience.

Two other great examples that inspired us were given during this happiness session. At the Hyatt hotel in Chicago they changed the way how guests experience the signing form process. It’s a formality that everybody have to go through, so why not make it more engaging! Normally, you grab a pen, click it, read the form and sign it. The Hyatt Chicago makes this process a bit more fancy by presenting five very exclusive pens on a serving plateau with it’s own characteristics to fit every guest's taste. After choosing the pen, a beautiful box is presented with the form in it. A rather dull and insignificant formality is turned into a 'delightful experience' that can make the guest smile.

At Uber, they focused on making the end experience of a ride as simple as you would end a conversation with somebody. Just by saying “Bye” and stepping out of the car. Imagine this compared to a regular taxi ride where you have to take care of the payment and the hassle with the credit card... In the Uber app you already added the credit card credentials, so you don't have to think of the money and it's done right away. Everything made simple to provide a better experience.

designing happiness

Practice what you preach

Our overall feeling of the session? We found these examples quite inspiring. Although the session was not very digital focused giving mostly offline examples, we still think that this is the basic way of thinking in 'designing happiness', also for online experiences. But this session definitely gave us a "happy" feeling compared to other sessions. While entering the room, we could hear some uplifting music on the background which already set the tone. Unconsciously, this contributed to the atmosphere in the room, preparing the audience to get engaged.

But how did they bring that "undeniable happy smile on our faces"? At the end of the session they closed it off by bringing in sweet furry labrador puppies for EVERYBODY to pet... You can probably imagine how half of the women present in the room (including some men) started running towards the stage to get closer to the puppies! And it worked like no other. On top of that, as if that wasn't enough already; at the exit of the room they were handing out cookies with happy smiley faces on it. The icing on the cake! Something with the beginning and the end of an experience... They simply nailed it!

Puppy happiness 2