By Joanna Champagne, Senior Innovation and Insights Manager, Customer Strategy & Applied Design Great artists, storytellers and designers have always known that human connections enable action and change. Marketers are just realizing this too, because they’re becoming experience makers. Now, instead of giving people something to buy, they are offering them something to buy into and acknowledging that the human experience is more powerful than marketing and advertising. Think of your favorite brand. Why is it your favorite? Leading brands put purpose before product and work to bring humanity to every interaction they design. Marketers are just starting to learn how people and technology intertwine. Frank Chimero, a designer who works with top consumer and technology brands, once wrote, “People ignore design that ignores people.” Human-centered design enables you to clarify or reframe the real issues at hand, and it puts the human – who traditionally has been at the endpoint of a transaction – first. The companies that pay attention to design and the way consumers interact with their products and services earn loyalty and see their respect for human needs reflected in the bottom line. Design is ready to play a lead role in the business world. At its best, it’s enabled with the collaboration of developers and strategists to fully inform what they design, whether it’s experiences, products, or internal cultures of innovation. This human-centered approach is a dramatic shift, and in the process of putting the human at the center, marketers are realizing something incredible. The technocratic age is over, and the radical advancement in the application of design to the creation of digital experiences is just beginning to show. Today, strategists, designers, artists, and technologists are combining art and design to develop experiences that have three elements in common. 1. Personal connection These are the experiences that are deeply relevant, curated or anticipatory. The connection is made through personalized art and design, whether it’s in a story, visual reference or how an experience or product feels. 2. Authenticity Whether or not an experience is perceived as enjoyable is often based on the context in which the customer experiences it. Any moment in time can feel arduous or wonderful depending on how you feel about what you are doing and what else is going on in your life. Consider the next online purchase you want to (or have to) make. It can be a welcome retreat from the everyday routine or it can be a distraction from other activities that need your attention. The magic happens if the experience still connects in a personal way. One thing marketers have learned is that choice and agency are critical. As such, it’s your responsibility to design authentic choices that empower people to feel active, participatory and understood. 3. Elevate humans to action or a new understanding Art is an ancient storytelling medium and cultural influence. Design is a way to amplify what someone or something already is. Putting these two together means that you know enough and understand enough about the customer experience to see it for what it truly is: a human experience. Marketers have the ability to design authentic and compelling connections to people’s lives and make the impact positive and human. Some fitness companies are successfully uniting equipment, apparel and coaching to create a sense of community and well-being. This purposeful, human-oriented approach to experience will not fade any time soon. As designer and technologist John Maeda, said “I believe art and design are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century like science and technology did in the last century.” The challenge – and the responsibility – underlying this truth will keep the principles of human-centered design at the forefront of the marketer’s agenda.