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The High Ground Designing the Brand Experience Conference in Breckenridge, Colorado, May 19 – 22, 2000, broke the mold of the traditional conference syndrome of active speakers and passive audience.

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85 graphic, web, interface and product designers actively applied the tools and methods they learned in morning lectures to real world problems in afternoon team studio sessions. In their presentations, studio masters John Cain of E-lab Sapient, Chris Conley of Design Research, Bill Hill of MetaDesign, Paul Rothstein from Arizona State University, Terry Swack of Razorfish and Tucker Viemeister of Razorfish described highly useable methods and tools. The content of the lectures included user experience research, brand strategies and generative methods for brand experience design – Experience Design Branding tools to understand the user experience and to design satisfying brand experiences.

Each 5-person team project focused on designing a brand experience for a hypothetical company's product and service mix. Pairs of studio masters mentored their 4 teams, applying their own unique methods to the problem. One studio used the framework of actors, activities and artifacts to look at how people interact with products, communications, technology and the web. Another studio drew a product description from one hat and a company name from another hat to determine the project they were to work on. The company and product mixes ranged from Nike farm tools to Hello Kitty sex products.

The climax of the 3-day program was the final morning in which each team presented their brand experience concept to their studio masters and studio colleagues for review and critique. In the final wrap-up studio masters summarized their teams’ solutions for the entire conference.

All of the teams found that the process of telling stories and generating scenarios about people’s lives and the products that populate them was both a very effective method for cross-discipline team-building and also a very powerful generative strategy for designing products and services that fit real user needs. The conference concluded that effective branding strategies involve understanding user’s daily routines, identifying moments in user’s lives that could be enhanced by the company's products and services, and then designing a brand experience that fits their lives and resonates with their values and perceptions.

What the Studio Masters Had to Say...

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