To all who come to this happy place – Welcome!

Dedication plaque at Disneyland

Is this site really about Disney parks?

Partially…yes. As product and interaction designers, there is something we can learn by studying the methods and creations of others before us. There are many excellent resources that examine both good and bad design, whether it be for web sites or other individual products. But there are very few that look at macro-level experiences, and how we can leverage those insights in our work.

There are few better examples of a completely designed, all-encompassing user experience than time spent at Disney or other major theme park. With the focus within the User Experience community on service design, now is the time to examine it in greater detail.

Not a Disney Fan?

Grand Canyon and DisneylandPerhaps you share the beliefs of one hardened corner of the population? Some people would rather stick a needle in their eye than spend time in a Disney theme park. Certainly the crowds, heat, and lofty prices do a lot to fortify these beliefs. Likewise, others may be skeptical of Walt’s ethics or have some other principled stand on the appropriate place for a vacation. These articles are not an attempt to persuade you otherwise. If you take only one vacation this year, go to the Grand Canyon and enjoy the wonders of natural creation. But, if you take two…

While many may bristle at the overt capitalism and artificiality of these experiences, there is no denying their success. Millions of people flood Disney theme parks every year. Many are repeat visitors (some studies suggest 60 to 70%) who come back often and continue to spend their hard-earned dollars at the parks. In addition to the theme parks, millions more spend money on Disney movies or other licensed merchandise.

As designers, most of us are hired to help our companies or clients become more successful by making their product attractive to consumers, thereby increasing sales. But even more than creating financial success, who among us wouldn’t want Disney’s expansive and dedicated fan base?

Have a different suggestion? Yeah, we can cover that too.

You’re right. There are other great examples of macro-experiences other than Disney. Other theme parks like Universal Studios, Legoland, and Sea World also provide many great examples. Even your local zoo, mall, or arboretum may have unique and engaging experiences. Designed consumer experiences can be found in all kinds of entertainment. Friends who are aware of my U2-fandom and will not be surprised to hear that I think their their recent 360 tour was an extravaganza of amazing multisensory experiences.

You could argue that Las Vegas is the ultimate artificial experience. A glitzy oasis in the middle of the desert is Las Vegas Stripcertainly an unnatural act of design! My hunch is that at these early stages of discussion we might discover that Las Vegas may be the Darth Vader to Disney’s Yoda. While Disney may employ clear navigation to help people move easily through their parks, Las Vegas designs its casinos to “encourage” people to become lost inside. They both work to appeal to the consumer and hold people’s attention, but use different methods.

We’ll talk about all of these things. For the most part, Disney simply serves as a reference point that many people (and potential readers!) have in-common, and it is where we will begin the journey.

Be our guest, be our guest!  Improve your stay

Use the “Suggest” area as your forum to suggest new topics for possible future articles–my own experiences are limited by age, budget, and interest. I’m also looking forward to reading your comments. Ideally, I would like to keep the discussion positive and focused on examples you’ve seen which exhibit a successful design principle.


It should be noted that I have no direct financial stake in Disney or these parks–I’m not an investor and am not getting paid by them in any way. However, should these fine people want to send me to their parks for, ahem, “research”, I’m all mouse ears.

Lead photo of the dedication plaque from Andy Castro.
Main Street Station photo from ToursDepartingDaily.
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