Experience design in 2020: Ecosystems, ethics and true collaboration

Aleksandra Melnikova, Head of Experience Design at Publicis•Poke explores the rapidly changing experience design landscape and what’s in store for the year ahead.

Aleksandra Melnikova, Publicis•Poke

Head of Experience Design


The experience design landscape is rapidly changing; practice is broadening to include everything from business strategy to interaction design. But more importantly, it’s becoming absolutely intrinsic to the way businesses operate, as ‘customer experience’ is predicted to overcome price and product as a key brand differentiator by the end of 2020.

Everyone from B2B to governments is getting serious about the discipline that is core to creating outstanding customer experiences. So, when it comes to experience design, what are the trends we should care about in this upcoming year? Here are my top three.

1. Celebrating the end of presentation culture

The era of Mad Men in experience design, or be it any design-related disciplines, is over. More and more agencies are voicing their concerns around the pitching practices, some are turning their gaze to a model where a collaborative workshop becomes a place to evaluate whether the agency and client are right for each other. So, instead of seeing glossy, and most often irrelevant, deliverables, the results of our joined thinking bring us one step closer to the desired project outcome. In other words, the supplier/buyer relationship becomes more symbiotic, honest and productive.

What does this mean for experience design?

We will see agencies building closer bonds with businesses, and vice versa:

⁃          In relationships, learning and growing together, with no hesitation to embrace imperfections along the way

⁃          From initial brainstorm to implementation, focussing on delivering experiences that fit the business model and are easy to maintain, all in line with business KPIs

⁃          In content, being outcome oriented (what would we like the person receiving communication or service to think/do), not deliverable oriented (instances of digital product or a piece of communication to be designed, based on the “best practice” in the sector)

2. Embracing ecosystem thinking

Ecosystems for content, ecosystems for communications, ecosystems for mapping interactions between people, flows of information and platforms used. Let’s face it, the world is an ecosystem. Taking into account everything from supply chains to business direction certainly contributes to a more considered work outcome. Therefore, instead of building websites and apps, we will focus on providing solutions to client pain points in the best shape that suits their business needs and their teams.

What does this mean for experience design?

We will see more schemes being drawn, where all parties have full visibility of dependencies:

⁃          In content, it will enable a scenario of less waste, where content created once, and thoughtfully, can live on multiple platforms

⁃          In team’s skills, thinking in maps and connections becomes part of our daily project toolkit, paramount to designer’s skillset

⁃          In advertising or experiences, anything and everything involves a person’s journey through an interconnected system of messaging and content, so knowing how to design for that system becomes key to designing anything sustainable, in line with the business operating model.

In a way, experience designers become the architects of possible futures, carrying the responsibility of being conscious about the decisions made, collaborative at every step of the process.

Aleksandra Melnikova

3. Championing the fourth dimension; an ethical dimension

We can’t ignore the impact of the design decisions we make and campaigns we choose to focus on; it’s now more amplified and interconnected than ever. This is happening for multiple reasons, one of them being simply the maturing of the world wide web, allowing us to witness and track the direct consequences of anyone’s actions. But it also means we can draw connections to the past and understand the reason for some business models and services we have today.

We live at a time when purpose is critical to the businesses to attract a good workforce, when adherence to values is paramount for reputation and thinking about the consequences of design decisions is slowly but surely becoming an intrinsic part of any design project.

What does this mean for experience design?
We will see agencies introducing an ethical layer to their work more and more prominently:

-          On projects, spending a lot of time asking questions, talking to people and delving into subject matter, as well as promoting healthy working practices

        In research, checking information sources and stating methodology, not relying on abstract and meaningless best practice, especially as technologies like Deepfake become widely available

-          In design, treating ethical considerations as an integral part of any deliverable or thinking process - Erica Hall brilliantly does it introducing a technique of mapping ethical hazards

-          Internally, coming up with new, meaningful ways to measure team effectiveness

Bonus trend: Prototyping as a mindset

Voice, AR, VR, and other technologies enable us to prototype the impossible, bringing it one step closer to being true. However, prototyping is more than a method; it’s a mindset, enabling the company to get to grips with quickly bringing things to life by trial-and-error method and becoming more comfortable with failure as a part of experimentation process.

Agencies, businesses and civil bodies embrace, practice and adapt a prototyping mindset, equipping themselves with ways to make futures tangible and investable in a short space of time. So, in a way, experience designers become the architects of possible futures, carrying the responsibility of being conscious about the decisions made, collaborative at every step of the process.

Visual © Simon Bauchet

Guest Author

Aleksandra Melnikova, Publicis•Poke

Head of Experience Design,


Aleks is an Experience Design Director bringing the power of connected disciplines into design, research and team management. Being trained in Arts and Product Service Systems design is a combination that enables her to make any project, no matter the size, her playground by creating new methods, tools and approaches, frequently challenging the existing structures and status quo. Over the last 10 years, she has worked both client and agency side and has led and successfully delivered (digital) experiences for companies like VISA, Lloyds, TSB, SKY, Aviva, VSO, GSK and British Airways. Aleks currently leads the Experience design team at Publicis•Poke, her role being to drive experience excellence and human-centric approach to challenges, developing key client accounts and being an inspiring leader for the teams. When not at work, she collaborates with a few UK universities, blogs about the connections between literature, art and design and spends time suspended in the air trying to become a pro at aerial arts.

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