06 June 2012 // Thoughts

The Value of Experiential Design: Design for the Mind

Last week we learned about the value that experiential design is bringing to a number of training facilities by immersing trainees within realistic, high pressure situations.

This week, we take a look at the intersection of experiential design and education.

The value of experiential design within educational environments is based upon two primary factors – the ability to attract visitors and the ability to engage them in the process of learning.

Let’s look at a quick case study.

In 2002, the city of Cerritos, California celebrated the opening of their new $40 million Cerritos Millennium Library. The new library features over 300,000 books along with over 200 computer workstations. But the library is perhaps best known for its stunning architecture, outdoor water play area, sculpture garden and its unique interior elements, including a 15,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, a lighthouse, a Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil replica, an arts and crafts room, simulated atmospheric changes in a rainforest theme and a reading area themed after 19th-century European reading rooms.

City leaders wanted to change the way that a traditional library operates as well, making it much more guest-friendly. Instead of going to the traditionally intimidating check-out desk, patrons who want to check out a book or locate other research material can just speak with one of the Library’s headset-wearing staff members constantly roaming the floor, who will assist you on the spot.

The success of the new Cerritos Library can be measured from both a quantitative and qualitative standpoints.

First, compare the numbers from the library’s first six weeks of operation in 2002 with the same numbers from 2001:
• attendance went from 58,770 to 185,765;
• library cards issued grew from 792 to 5,019
• circulation increased from 84,372 to 136,286.
City Librarian Waynn Pearson states that probably the best qualitative result was a comment he heard in the library’s elevator, when a group of teenage girls declared the library “cooler than the mall.”

It’s such a community jewel that it’s become a popular place to hold weddings and receptions. Talk about the value of experiential design.

In two weeks, we’ll take a look at how experiential design can actually aid in healing the mind and body.  But first, join us next Wednesday as we venture to Hong Kong to recap the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions’ Asian Attractions Show!