Experiential interior design

Your ultimate guide

Experiential interior design, or experience interior design, is at the heart of our approach to creating spaces. In our latest blog, we’re answering questions like “what is experiential interior design?” as well as exploring why it embodies our values and is so much more than the latest interiors trend. Read on for your ultimate guide to experiential interior design.
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What does experiential interior design mean?

Experiential interior design, also known as experience design, is a human-centric design process that recognises how our surroundings can affect our mood and behaviour.

Sometimes referred to as EID, it considers how spaces can impact each of our senses and takes a scientific approach to adding more profound value beyond aesthetics and functionality.

What are the principles behind experiential interior design?

It has been scientifically proven that our surroundings prompt emotional triggers in our minds. So, when an interior designer takes an experiential approach to shaping a space, they strive to understand these triggers and use this knowledge to create a more meaningful experience for the end-user.

In considering the different sensory, emotional, intellectual and social objectives of a project, as interior designers, we are able to design spaces that encourage users to feel or act in specific ways. Design choices can make you feel excited, curious or happy, encourage you to stay longer, converse more deeply, spend more money or even heighten your enjoyment of different tastes.

In short, experiential design - when done correctly – leads to a higher level of engagement with the places we encounter, enabling contractors, business owners and developers to achieve more from a project.

While it’s a term frequently used in interior design, experience design is also common in architecture, product design and branding.

Why we embrace experiential design

Before setting up Jolie Studio in 2018, founder and creative director Franky Rousell was all-too-aware of the shortcomings of an aesthetics-driven approach to design.

Franky saw how this focus on form and function didn’t consistently deliver concrete benefits to end-users, as it failed to delve beneath the skin of a project and deliver on its true objectives.

At the same time, we saw the “Google effect” usher in a new wave of workplace design with its trademark bright colours and ball pools. Undoubtedly, this looked visually thrilling, but we felt it lacked depth and empathy. After all, studies have shown high levels of neurodiversity among Silicon Valley developers. Yet, its characteristically brash interiors were bound to feel jarring and counter-productive to the task in hand.

We established Jolie Studio to do things differently.

Our purpose is to create a natural alignment between function and feeling, digging deeper into what makes people feel the way they do and ensuring harmonious, balanced environments that simply feel right.

By taking a research-driven, neurological approach, we are sensitive to every texture, colour, sound, scent and taste. In a disconnected, swipe-weary world, designing for the senses creates real, emotionally charged reactions when people set foot inside a space.

Benefits of experiential design for developers and end-users

When we start working on a new project with a client, experiential design is at the forefront of our approach. However, it isn’t always a primary concern for developers and business owners.

So, how do we communicate the benefits of experiential design to our commercial clients?

Ultimately, experiential design offers a tangible return on investment, which speaks to our clients’ priorities.

Talking about emotions may seem frivolous. Yet understanding your audience and how you want them to feel and behave as they enter, transition through and leave a space soon leads to concrete choices that influence behaviours where simple function and form don’t.

By discussing this in business terms and showing the client how this plays out, developers and business owners see first-hand the genuine scientific and financial benefits of experiential design, rather than seeing it as “nice to have”.

Is experience design a trend?

Right now, there’s debate around whether experiential design is the latest interior design trend.

For us, the answer is a complex one.

While it’s true experience-based interior design is gaining in popularity, it’s an approach we’ve embodied since our inception, so it isn’t a fad for Jolie Design: it’s the substance from which all of our work stems.

Health and wellbeing were growing considerations in all areas of life pre-Covid. Even the more old-school workplaces were taking notice of their teams’ physical health through ergonomic furniture and biophilia, and mental wellness was gaining serious traction among more progressive businesses.

With the pandemic came an acceleration in the need for us to reconsider how commercial spaces nurture our emotional needs.  

If our homes can pivot to become the place we work, relax, socialise, celebrate and everything else we’ve achieved from the comfort of our sofa mid-pandemic, what can commercial spaces do to compete?

While the aforementioned “Google effect” challenged the traditional office layout, the wellbeing movement took it a step further to create a need for us to demand more from our workspaces.

Our biggest takeaway from the pandemic? Workplaces need to have a private members’ feel to tempt us out of our home offices and into a wider community with exclusive amenities and longevity.

Both office spaces and residential developments are seeing more cross-generational use, so spaces suddenly need to work a lot harder to attract and retain diverse demographics.

So, this is how we see the experiential design “trend” moving – and we use that word carefully, as for us, it’s here to stay.

The importance of the senses in experience design

Activating all five senses is a fundamental part of experience design, as this creates the most potent reaction in us as individuals.

Colour can determine our mood considerably. Different hues and shades can make us feel creative, reduce anxiety, calm or motivate us. When used correctly, striking an optimal balance, colour has an incredible potential to influence how we feel and behave in a space.

Smell is a sense often overlooked in interior design, but as our strongest sense it forms a crucial element of our experiential approach to spacemaking. By activating our olfactory systems through scent, we can spark nostalgia, excitement, comfort and much more; thus, shaping the atmosphere to reflect the intended mood for the space.

Closely connected to smell is our sense of taste, which is especially relevant when designing restaurants, cafes, hotels and bars. As our subtlest sense, we work hard to draw out the potential of taste to enhance users’ experience of a space. Therefore, we delve into the nutritional offerings of a venue to create the perfect opportunity for visitors to relish the different flavours on offer.

Touching different textures evokes powerful emotional connections. After all, our skin is our largest organ and acts as the interface between us and our surroundings. As interior designers, it’s our job to curate the right materials to send positive signals to the brain. Part of our priority as experiential interior designers is to strike the ideal balance between a material’s aesthetics, emotional drivers and sustainability credentials, as it’s not enough for a texture to simply look and feel good.

Did you know hearing is our fastest-working sense of all five? Sounds can make or break your enjoyment of a space, so it’s a crucial part of our experiential design ethos. As with our overarching sensory approach, we establish how our clients want users to feel and behave, then design a soundscape to elicit those emotions and actions.


The process of experiential design

When designing from an experiential perspective, we always start with the critical sensory considerations and what the end user’s experience should look and feel like. By aligning feeling and function, we inevitably discover how to connect humans emotionally to a space beyond aesthetics.

Once we’ve understood how we want users to feel, we look at the next layer: social sustainability. For us, this is about fostering positive attitudes, encouraging sustainable behaviours and building up communities.

Naturally, when we create spaces that bind people together and create a sense of community, people feel uplifted, empowered and comfortable. Now, more than ever, we want to move away from isolated living into communal ways of working, shopping, eating and socialising that will boost confidence and make people feel amazing.

In this way, it’s no exaggeration to say that experience interior design creates shifts in society. By bringing people together, we reduce waste, avoid duplication and establish a more circular society. When people are sharing amenities and spaces, a sustainable agenda aligns logically with sustainable design.

As the final part of our sustainable, experiential design process, we make responsible choices in colours, textures, materials, soundscapes. For example, if we know we want a wood floor, we explore which supplier will produce that in the most sustainable way. This process takes time and research, which happens later than the early, wider-reaching strategising. Crucial to this process is an interior designer’s rapport with their suppliers, who can educate us on a product’s recyclability, lifecycle and manufacturing processes.

Ultimately, we think of interior designers as chefs: our suppliers provide incredible raw ingredients for us to curate to create the perfect recipe for every space we create. In this way, it’s a highly connected process where nothing is left to chance or specified in isolation.

Is experience design more expensive?

The simple answer is no, experiential design isn’t inherently more expensive.

You don’t require a huge budget to design a space in an experiential way, but you need to understand your ultimate purpose so every element can contribute to the desired outcome.

When you have those fundamentals and the knowledge of how to create those emotional reactions by harnessing all five senses and making sustainable decisions, it will work for any space. As interior designers, it’s our job to assemble all of those elements in line with your budget.

For us, it’s essentially a question of the actual cost and value of certain products, pieces and materials. Cheaper options tend to be ripped out and replaced much more quickly than long-term investments, and our design approach isn’t trend-driven; it’s bespoke and designed to age gracefully.

Longevity isn’t simply about wearability. Interior design that offers true longevity is trend-proof, unique and experience-driven in an emotional way that speaks to your deeper ambitions and aspirations for your project.

Is experience design the right choice for my project?

We passionately believe in the power of experiential design for all interior design projects. It’s the definitive, proven way to achieve all of your project’s objectives and create timeless, meaningful spaces to which people feel a genuine, powerful connection.

To speak to us about creating the ideal experiential interior design strategy for your next development, call us on 0161 533 0366 or email

written by
Franky Rousell

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