Your Keys to Outstanding Experience Design

mcdonalds, experience design

Experience design keys for the future.

My work in customer experience design has spanned decades, industries, and continents.

That said, there are certain sectors where my team and I have spent a lot of time –not least of which are automotive, hospitality, financial services, building trades, retail, and restaurants.

When it comes to the restaurant sector, we have seen many sizzling upgrades at flagship locations. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery stores are outstanding examples of what can occur when a brand stretches in futuristic ways.

New Shine to The Golden Arches

Recently McDonald’s previewed a new flagship store in Chicago designed as a combination project of Chicago based Ross Barney Architects and Sydney, Australia-based interior designers Landini Associates. The Nation’s Restaurant News provides a five photo gallery depiction of the McDonald’s flagship store take at its unveiling. Suffice it to say; this is NOT your grandmother or grandfather’s McDonald’s.

In fact, McDonald’s is referring to this location as the Experience of the Future. While the vast airy environmental design changes are impressive, I was struck by a new service delivery model at the Chicago flagship wherein all ordering is done at kiosks (no person-to-person ordering), and table service delivers the food.

McDonald’s dramatic overhaul of the flagship store’s physical layout and service design prompted me to share thoughts about an overarching concept I refer to as experience design and to offer a few key elements I view as central to crafting relevant, engaging, and loyalty building experiences.

Experience Design Defined

Over the years I’ve seen a number of definitions for experience design, and I have cobbled together my own from the best definitions I’ve encountered. For me, experience design encompasses a range of disciplines which guide the creation of processes, products, services, and events optimized to produce quality interactions/moments/memories.

The first phase of experience design involves the quest for immersive knowledge about the wants, needs, desires, and preference of individuals for which the design is being crafted. It requires an understanding of what those individuals seek to accomplish/enjoy in their daily lives.

Beyond the initial customer research phase, experience design moves through three other stages:




Using McDonald’s Experience of the Future store as an example, I suspect the flagship store is designed for younger customer segments based on extensive consumer research. I further suspect that the consumer research was offered to cross-functional design teams tasked with imagining what a store of the future might look like if built expressly for that consumer segment (thinking beyond existing floorplans and service delivery mechanisms).

I also suspect that McDonald’s prototyped many of the floorplan changes and service modifications (e.g., kiosk ordering) in a variety of test markets and made ample tweaks along the way. Finally, I assume that the flagship store, not only represents an implementation of the Experience of the Future but will continue to function as an iterative learning lab for the brand.

Service Design Keys

Since I am not an expert in environmental design (I will leave that to the architects and interior designers), I will focus on a few keys to outstanding service experience design…so here it goes!

Outstanding service design requires that the design be:

  • Holistically focused on all stakeholders in the service ecosystem (e.g., taking care of customers at the expense of service providers is not sustainable)
  • The by-product of collaboration across an organization
  • Experimental and iterative in nature
  • Built to address interconnected needs across the customer journey
  • Authentic, tangible, and measurable

The Future and You

I suspect that future blogs will expand on topics of experiential design or service experience design, but for now, I am looking forward to visiting McDonald’s flagship Experience of the Future store and continuing to guide my clients to build relevant, engaging, and loyalty building experiences for their core customer segments now and into the future.

If you would like to discuss your experience design opportunities and processes, I would love to set aside time to chat. Simply contact us, and we’ll talk soon.

Smoke over black background

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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