How to make the best anniversary ever

Updated: Sep 26, 2018

One of my best friends talked about this experience I gave him in this TED-talk. This is the story of how I made it and why I think everyone should create some more magic for those they love.

When an anniversary comes up, people buy flowers. They make reservations at their favorite restaurant. They buy a small gift, maybe - it’s been ten years, after all. From the first anniversary me and my girlfriend celebrated, I wanted to do it differently. Still very much in love, with time to spare, I created a day-long treasure hunt along a year of memories. Hints frozen in ice, a mysterious letter taped under a café table, messages hidden inside our favorite song - it was a great way of saying “I love you”.

Creating an experience for each other has been our tradition ever since. In the past seven years we’ve recreated our first date, been kidnapped to a private dinner in a restaurant, got fooled into showing up in a romantic film set and made several elaborate treasure hunts. Each time, designing and making the experience was just as much fun as getting it.

Since joining an experience design training earlier this year, I’ve started creating with the XD framework in mind. While having done lots of things right intuitively, I also discovered how much more an experience can be when it’s designed with the right toolbox.

Back to the TED-talk above. I had known this friend ten years at the time. Feeling slightly uncomfortable calling this an “anniversary”, but not wanting to let the moment go by unnoticed, I started designing something. The first thing that came to mind was “this friendship is immensely valuable to me”. So, a treasure, something of enormous value: the Holy Grail.

What emerged was a story my friend received in a dozen letters, in which a private detective asked him for his help in discovering “something that, once I find it, will be world news”. Over the course of three weeks, letters kept coming and messages kept showing up in unexpected places. Eventually, he was led to a train station locker, where the last letter told him what people have been looking for these past 2,000 years: the true Holy Grail is friendship. We ended up in Paris toasting ten years of adventures together.

I strongly believe we need more magic in our lives. Times and places that take us away from our rational, structured and hectic lives and immerse is into a mesmerizing reality for a while. And I do believe experiences are a great way to do so.

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This article is part of a series on different perspectives on Experience Design. It aims to show how you can create value and impact by consciously designing meaningful experiences: in education, business and personal life.