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That burger was delicious!

Peter has been yammering on and on about Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast & Slow. Rather than read the book, I hit up the Ted talk instead. Kahneman’s examination of the delta between experience and memory is rocking my socks off right now. The video was posted in 2010, so you know I’m right on the cutting edge here.

Here’s the gist in case you don’t have time to settle in for a complete viewing. There’s essentially two versions of me. The experiencing self – that’s the me that is actually chowing down on a delicious burger. The remembering self – that’s the me that is sitting back reviewing my instagrams memories of that delicious burger that I ate. According to Kahneman, these two versions of you have vastly different perceptions of happiness, and consequently different perceptions of pain.

“We don’t choose between experiences, we choose between memories of experiences. Even when we think about the future, we don’t think of our future normally as experiences. We think of our future as anticipated memories.”

His example paraphrased – You’re at a symphony, listening to beautiful music that you love for an hour. At the end, there’s an incredibly unpleasant loud shriek. You leave the evening and exclaim “my night was ruined.” When of course, you experienced 60 minutes of pure joy, and but a few minutes of unpleasantness. Your experiential self loved 60 min hated 2 min but your remembering self can only take away the completed story. It’s a solid explanation for why we’re all staring at our camera phones during life’s precious moments. Record and capture. It’s a technicolor memory on demand in my pocket that has a greater impact on my perception of happiness than the very experience itself.

How can we take this kind of understanding and apply it to what we do? We have long raging internal dialogs about how to create tools that delight our users. But I wonder if we get hung up on designing only for the experiencing self, and forget to pay attention to the take aways that the remembering self will leave with. How do we create not only delightful interactions, but delightful memories? I can see how a single UX fail could ruin an otherwise delightful experience, but how do I flip that thinking around? Do I aim for a single truly amazing feature or expereince, give them enough to make a memory or create a story behind, and let the rest settle into place behind it? Should the goal be 90% not-crappy with 10% amazeballs?

If my metrics revolve around user satisfaction and they only truly remember the 10%? This goes against my natural inclination to believe that our work should be amazing all the way through. That we should detail and lovingly craft every nuance of our interface. That we should spend countless hours designing and coding custom checkboxes and radio buttons…

I wish I could leave you with some bullet points, but this one ends with a head scratchers.




I'm an art director hailing from the great northern state of Minnesota. After a decade in the industry, I'm only interested in projects where we get to add real value. I believe in making grids, breaking grids, clean code, good type, 70's motorcycles, and Raymond Chandler novels.