New business take-away


We only think about experiences. It’s what we do – for clients interested in creating services, products and places that make a difference to people.

Begin with the meaningful experience and all else will follow.

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We want so much more

We live in the age of the experience. Whether it’s of the workplace, education, city making, mass transport systems, or retail, entertainment and hospitality, we want more than the top-down, one-size-fits-all approach that characterises many of the places we live, work and play in. Physically or virtually, we hanker after places, products and services made for us: they’re relevant, they’re meaningful, and they’re designed to connect us to real living communities.

The threat of the irrelevant

All of which presents businesses with a pressing challenge – and necessarily so. If today’s consumers view everything through the lens of experience, then clearly the traditional model of design-and-they- will-come does not work. We will not live, shop, work, play or study somewhere that fails us. We will go elsewhere, somewhere much more relevant: a place that knows and understands us. Beware the threat of the irrelevant.

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Start with people and all else will follow

For nearly 20 years, FreeState has been responsible for designing the experiences of some of the world’s greatest brands. A great brand lives or dies on the basis of its relevancy. It designs in the name of an ever- evolving end user, consistently manages the experience of the brand, and sees its users more as co-creators than pure consumers. So much more than its logo, such a brand is an experience capable of attracting, involving and giving people a real sense of belonging. It’s key philosophy? Start with people and all else will follow.

Experience design for a better journey

And if true of the brand, then so too is it of any other environment. Whether making a single building, a transport hub, a digitally integrated campus, a bank, or indeed an entire neighbourhood, FreeState begins by putting the user experience first. Working across both physical and virtual environments, we integrate spaces with people-powered programmes, weaving a given project’s vision across a spectrum of touchpoints. Designing user journeys that start and end with people, we help create destinations that matter to people.

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People first = great results

As the likes of Apple, AirBnB, Burberry or Nike demonstrate, approaching the making of anything from an experience-led position gives it the best possible chance of success. These companies work across physical and virtual environments, their deep understanding of the user (humanware) informing the build (hardware) and the interface (software) of their products. Their designed experiences are utterly relevant, and so attract, immerse, and grow their users. Championed by their users at every turn, the sales, net promoter scores and brand values of these companies continue to soar.

Opt in or lose out

Given the overwhelming success of those companies who begin with the designed experience, we are left with a stark choice: opt in or lose out. Experience design is not a luxury. Ignoring the wants and needs of the very people your success relies on is a recipe for disaster. It does cost more, but that’s not what you should be worrying about. It’s the cost of not doing it that ought to be the real concern.

Who is FreeState?

Part of design practice HASSELL, FreeState is a global network of experience designers based in London, Sydney and San Francisco. We design integrated experiences for the world’s greatest cities, buildings and brands, our work spanning hospitality, retail, workplace, education, infrastructure and urban design. We work across physical and virtual environments. We only think about experiences. It’s what we do – for clients interested in creating services, products and places that make a difference to people.

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 A secret experience-making sauce

‘First life, then spaces, then buildings; the other way never works.’
Jan Gelhl

For FreeState, what this means in respect of all our work – across physical and virtual platforms, from brand to place making – is quite simple. We put people first. Working alongside the client and the user, we keep the conversation open and live: together, we storyboard ideal journeys across time, and together we co-create with the trans-disciplinary team that will plan, deliver and manage the experience.

We think people. We think programme. We think place. The first of these is nothing new: everyone’s talking about people-first approaches to making new or improved places, products or services. The second and third, however, are unique to the industry: they are the ingredients to our secret sauce for turning a meaningful idea into a new and lasting reality.

1) Think people: the user experience informs everything we do

2) Think programme: the narrative experience helps create everything we do

3) Think place: the immersive experience is what we do

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Our process explained

It is very simple. As a process, we build the experiences around three consecutive stages: Experience Strategy, Experience Design and Experience Management .

1) Experience Strategy is our stage for creating an experiential plan of action to achieve a specific business goal. These business goals often steer a wider cross disciplinary initiative, and our strategy draws from, and can help shape this campaign in collaboration with other partners.

2) Experience Design is our stage for designing and delivering products, processes, services, events, omni-channel journeys, content and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience across all relevant touchpoints. As we design we interact with other creative partners to ensure that projects are delivered as a holistic whole.

3) Experience Management is our stage for implementing the experience, coordinating it across all touchpoints, and ensuring that it remains relevant to both the business’s original and evolving goals. We draw on our experience as well as our range of collaborators to ensure experiences are brought to life flawlessly.

<Writing Man also wrote FreeState’s website>