Orchestrating Experiences Cover

Orchestrating Experiences

Collaborative Design for Complexity

By Chris Risdon & Patrick Quattlebaum

Published: May 2018
Paperback: 336 pages
ISBN: 978-1933820-73-6
Digital ISBN: 978-1933820-74-3

Customer experiences are increasingly complicated—with multiple channels, touchpoints, contexts, and moving parts—all delivered by fragmented organizations. How can you bring your ideas to life in the face of such complexity? Orchestrating Experiences is a practical guide for designers and everyone struggling to create products and services in complex environments.

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More about Orchestrating Experiences


Hands down the best hands-on guide for service design. Love the in-the-trenches advice and step-by-step details.

—Jess McMullin, Principal, Situ Strategy

By including workshop plans throughout Orchestrating Experiences, Patrick and Chris give the reader a way to make complex ideas immediately actionable.

—Jon Kolko, Partner, Modernist Studio

Orchestration is the perfect metaphor to encapsulate the teamwork, coordination, and alignment required for organizations to deliver great customer experiences.

—Ben Reason, Managing Partner, Livework Studio

You’ll blow past your competition, as you shift from shipping discrete functionality to seamless end-to-end experiences.

—Jared Spool, Maker of Awesomeness and Co-CEO of Center Centre/UIE

This practical, inspiring, and innovative primer should be required reading for everyone who cares about the end user.

—Samantha Starmer, Experience Design Executive

Every interaction the customer has around your brand contributes to the story of their experience. This book provides actionable advice to tell a powerful story your customers will love.

—Katie Dill, Vice President of Design, Lyft

Table of Contents

Part I: A Common Foundation

Chapter 1: Understanding Channels
Chapter 2: Pinning Down Touchpoints
Chapter 3: Exploring Ecosystems
Chapter 4: Orienting Around Journeys

Part II: Insights and Possibilities

Chapter 5: Mapping Experiences
Chapter 6: Defining Experience Principles
Chapter 7: Identifying Opportunities

Part III: Vision and Action

Chapter 8: Generating and Evaluating Ideas
Chapter 9: Crafting a Tangible Vision
Chapter 10: Designing the Moment
Chapter 11: Taking Up the Baton


These common questions and their short answers are taken from Chris Risdon and Patrick Quattlebaum’s book Orchestrating Experiences: Collaborative Design for Complexity. You can find longer answers to each in your copy of the book, either printed or digital version.

  1. Do I have to do all these things in this book to orchestrate experiences successfully?
    We cover many frameworks and tools, but you will likely gravitate to approaches that meet your unique needs. For example, you may find ecosystem mapping (Chapter 3) and storyboarding (Chapters 8 and 9) help you get the job done, while touchpoint inventories (Chapter 2) or improvisation (Chapter 8) don’t resonate in your culture. The key: try out different approaches and build the toolkit that works for you.
  2. Isn’t this just a lot of deliverables?
    No! Working collaboratively with your colleagues is critical to orchestrating experiences. It takes effort and skill. What you do make—such as experience maps (Chapter 5), experience principles (Chapter 6), and opportunity maps (Chapter 7)—should be approached as tools to build empathy, inspire ideas, create alignment, and take action towards the same outcomes.
  3. You didn’t mention [insert tool here]. Does that mean I shouldn’t use it anymore?
    We are constantly adding, dropping, and modifying design methods in our own toolkits. Those presented in this book have proven to be predictably effective when designing for complex ecosystems with cross-functional teams. In some cases, these approaches may displace other things in your toolkit. We think you will find, however, that most will complement other methods and tools that you commonly use. We also hope the book inspires you to nd or invent additional approaches to orchestrate experiences better.
  4. Does this take a lot of time?
    More complex design problems in large organizations require more time as a rule. However, you will nd that the approaches we cover can be leveraged when you need to run fast and lean. For example, you can use portions of the example workshops (Chapters 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 8) to design small working sessions. Or you could use the ideation techniques (Chapter 8) within a small team.
  5. Isn’t this service design? (Or isn’t this just UX design or customer experience?)
    Yes! And no! We’ve intentionally approached this book as a synthesis of best practices, regardless of tribal affiliation. The service design, user experience, customer experience, and other communities have contributed to the growth of the orchestration mindset. And you’ll see us reference these practices and others (for example, see Chapters 1, 2, 7, and 10). At their heart, what they all have in common is human-centeredness. We will show you how to put it all together in action, regardless of whether you feel you’re doing user experience design, service design, interaction design, or [insert discipline here].


Dear person who just bought this book,

I’m a little worried about you.

I’ll say why, but I should first say that this is a good book. It is one of the few books about the place where the frontiers of design, management, and a systems view of innovation all come together.

You may already know that the world of design is embracing a systems and relationship view and that the same is true for management. The new practices involve orchestration—creative cooperation by people from across the old boundaries of roles, departments, and inside-or-out.

Let’s look at some of the transformations described in these pages:

  • From an us/them view of company and customer to an ecosystem view that tangles their world and ours
  • From a focus on product to a focus on the way we participate in people’s moments, days, weeks, and years
  • From primacy of concepts to an emphasis on stories that matter to everyone who works to make them come true
  • From specialized teams making specialized results to orchestrated teams who bring quality to each touch between people and organization
  • From technical and usability metrics alone to including values and principles as new criteria for quality

In actual application, these are big changes for most organizations—not only because people resist the ideas, but also because shifting “the way we do things here” is uncomfortable. These approaches invite us into new ways to see roles, the definition of “good work,” and what it means to be a thriving organization. And that is both exciting and scary.

Actually, that’s why I’m worried about you.

I imagine that you are buying the book because you’re excited by what it describes, and you aspire to implement these practices. But it will take time to see these ideas grow from the seeds in this book to exploratory sprouts and then to full flower in your organization. You’ll need patience and persistence, and a habit of celebrating small steps. When persuasion doesn’t work, you’ll need other tools: story, vision, and invitations to the sandbox. And at the risk of being cliché, you’ll need to find joy in the journey. This won’t be easy.

So I ask myself, what could help? And here’s my advice:

  1. Find a collaborator or two. Don’t try this alone.
  2. Don’t launch straight into one of the workshops. Use Chapter 11. Use it all year as the brief for applying the rest of the book. In our office, we often ask ourselves, “What conversation could we have in the next two weeks that would contribute to bringing our idea to life? Who needs to be involved, and do we need to make anything to support that conversation? Should it happen at a bar, in front of a working wall, or on a long walk together?”

These ideas can improve your ability to produce results that matter and last. But when you first pick up the book, there’s no way to predict the particular way it will take root in your work. You have to live through the process of change to find out. That may take a bit of courage and persistence, but what does it serve you to play small?

And, of course, you’re not alone. This book condenses the knowledge and experiences of a great number of people. With so many people setting out on this road, with a community of practice growing around these ideas, with so much enthusiastic exploration and imagination being captured in books like this, there is really no need for me to worry. I know you’ll be fine.

—Marc Rettig, Principal, Fit Associates and Faculty, SVA Design for Social Innovation

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