Experience-Level Observations Guide

This tool was developed to guide observations in theme parks, but it can be used anywhere when researching how design can create experiences. Try them in a restaurant, hospital, bus stop, or library to learn the effects of these environments and services. Use these prompts to spark new ways of sensing.


Observe these things about the people around you.

What are people wearing?

  • Brands
  • Shoe type
  • Backpacks
  • Warm clothing
  • Clothing that is cooling

What are people expressing?

  • Annoyed
  • Confused
  • Nervous

What are people sensing?

  • Hungry: Devouring a meal
  • Hot: Using a portable fan
  • Loud Environments: Hands over ears.

How are people’s body positions?

  • Slouching
  • Upright

How are people moving?

  • Tired
  • Energetic

What are people doing?

  • Playing a game on their phone
  • Eating an ice cream
  • Boarding a bus

Who are people spending time with? How do they show the depth of these relationships?

  • With friends or family
  • Caring for others

What special moments are people commemorating?

  • Just married!
  • Celebrating a special moment
  • First visit


Notice details of products, services, and systems.

What are physical and digital designs made of?

  • Brick
  • Steel

What attitude does the design look and feel present?

  • Retro
  • Modern
  • Super futuristic
  • Creepy horror

How does the design look?

  • Aged
  • Shiny and new

What style do sounds create?

  • Futuristic
  • Wild west
  • Scratchy and degraded
  • Popular music

How well can people use the design?

  • Certain people are confused by the design
  • It is too large/small to operate

How well does the design match peoples’ preferences or needs?

  • It seems like a pointless or unneeded design

How well is the design maintained? What condition is it in?

  • Unkempt

Different Perspectives

Use these techniques to observe the environment in new ways. Experience differently to gain fresh insights.

How would someone shorter or taller than you experience this?

Is there a hidden experience that a device makes possible?

How would someone understand this if they were a first-timer?

  • If they did not know this character (Mickey, Chip and Dale, Captain Marvel)
  • If they had never seen the movie

Close your eyes

  • Listen deeply
  • Smell fully
  • Taste the ingredients


What kind of memory does this experience make?

How would it be different if you changed the conditions?

  • Weather
  • Crowds
  • Time of day
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Dennis Cheatham

Associate Professor, Communication Design

Miami University

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