Back to the F**kture: Adam Scott and David Waddell

type - podcast
Design and experience strategy isn’t a top-down process for the privileged few, but a collaborative engagement along a narrative arc of surprise and transformation that changes audience and designer alike, according to The Experience Book authors Adam Scott and Dave Waddell.


The age of experience, as I learn in my latest LS:N Global Back to the F**kture podcast, has been replaced by the age of transformation. Or rather, as The Experience Book authors Adam Scott and Dave Waddell explain, one has been subsumed into the other, so that when we speak of experience, we are really speaking about transformative moments that take us along an unexpected, and sometimes unknown and unknowable journey of change, challenge, and if we get it right, catharsis.

To be truly transformative in the audience sense, experience needs to begin with, and embrace, the audience it is targeting, says Waddell. ‘It needs to be a co-created and co-conceived journey that follows a narrative arc of exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action resolution and dénouement – but that arc needs to be set by the audience as much as by the design or experience strategist. In other words, a more collaborative, interactive and shared narrative approach than the one used by more traditional experience designers and strategists. 

 ‘All great stories that follow a narrative arc need to attract (= engage the audience), they need to involve us (= challenge our passivity) by drawing us in, and crucially – forward and further into the labyrinth – ‘it requires that we as protagonist, actor, reader, proxy – negotiate an interrelated series of problems’ which initiate our engagement and cause us to lose ourselves in, and thus become an intrinsic part of, the experience.’ 

They’ve  even developed an experience map (see illustration), which allows you to imagine a user journey, action or emotion, from awareness (= engagement) to loyalty and advocacy (= belonging), so that we see experience not just as a mood, says Scott, but as a story that contains and stimulates emotions in a particular and orchestrated manner because they are triggering very human and universal moods. 

This is a core lesson from their understanding of how experience works and recent computer analysis of 40,000 narratives from around the world suggests that this holds true for all stories. They draw us in. We shape the ensuing experience together and thus we are transformed by the encounter.  

Published by:

20 July 2023

Author: Martin Raymond



But in good and bad ways, they warn. While they cite case studies of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Argent St George’s development of Coal Drops Yard at King’s Cross, and the revival of Western Australia’s malingering Curtin University Campus as joyous and collaborative moments, they also remind us that the same principles, when darkly applied, can lead to Trump on one hand or the Nuremberg Rally on the other. As George Monbiot, the environmentalist and social philosopher, reflects in their book, ‘those who tell the stories rule the world.’  

But to tell them well, they argue, we need the kind of strategy that takes people or brands on a journey of exploration, discovery, challenge, change and ultimate transformation. 

Finally, it needs to be a strategic model that is all about embracing multiple storylines (scenarios) with a built-in capacity for going off-script. ‘Once deployed, it needs to accommodate multiple complex relationships, account for the unexpected, flex with time, and above all, make room for the imagination…’ 

The Experience Book: For Designers, Thinkers & Makers is published by Black Dog Press, and can be ordered from here. Use the following discount code to claim your TFL membership discount: it is: BDP20

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