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The 5E Experience Design Model

Published before on Medium



This article will go through the 5E model that can be used to design meaningful services, events, or learning experiences, whether digital/physical. It will help you communicate your experience design concept. The 5E model is really useful to help you align a team, access collective creativity and distributive leadership models, that enable collaboration and design in complexity. It is an integrative model that can add coherence, elegance and excitement to your service or experience. It is simply a framework for building holistic and meaningful experiences. As complexity increase in society, and the line between digital and analogue experiences blurs, we need to free experience design from the confines of the screen, and think about designing experiences more holistically.


Lets begin at the beginning:



The 5E model was first invented Larry Keeley in 1994, the Kaospilot have since evolved the model based upon extensive use.


1. Create a High Concept

The first step in ‘designing’ the experience is to create a High Concept — the easily pitched premise of an experience


The film industry invented the idea of a High Concept to organize a lot of peoples creativity into the creation of a coherent story. As experience designers, we work with many people and touch points to bring an experience to life. We also face the same challenge of bringing coherence throughout a whole experience. Creativity is an infinite resource, but in order to channel it, we need to give it frames. Complexity thinker Diana Nij’s, writes in her book, “…we need evocative images and language as the future oriented basis creativity.” These are some of the reasons why creating a High Concept is the first step in 5E Experience Model.


Examples of high concepts:

  • Ratatouille Film — A rat that wants to be a chef.

  • Global Social Movement 100 in 1 Day — 100 in 1 Day

  • The City of Antwerp — Antwerp is for everyone

  • Camp Grounded — A summer camp for adults.

What a high concept can do:

  • Create engagement, excitement and curiosity for your users

  • Clearly communicates the premise of the experience

  • Guides the experience design work of the staff/volunteers

  • Empowers users to co-create/contribute to the experience

  • Enables complex change

Questions to guide you in creating a high concept:

  • Is the potential of this high concept obvious?

  • Does the High Concept ask a What If… question?

  • Is the idea clearly stated in one short sentence? Yes or No?

  • Does it excite you?

  • Is it interesting to others?

If you answer no to any of these questions, go back and rework it until your High Concept pops!


“Experience like breathing is a rhythm of intakings and outgivings.” — John Dewey


2. The 5Es — Design the Touch Points

Once you have created the High Concept, the hard work has been done — celebrate your hard work! You can now start ‘building’ the experience, through designing all the touch points where participants will interact with the experience.



Below is a visual walk through of the 5 steps that make up the 5E model.









Creating a Journey Map — Adding Detail to the Design

You can use the 5E model as a high level outline of an experience, or if you are ready to take the next step as an experience designer, you can add another level of detail by filling in a Journey Map. A journey map is a diagram that illustrates the steps your user(s) go through while engaging with your experience. A journey map is not a result, but a tool for planning, understanding and evolving your customer experience. A journey map helps you identify users’ key interactions with your product or service, and how you can develop and evolve the experience. It is not perfect as it assumes a one size fits all model for designing, when each user will have entirely different needs, and desires. However it does give you the ability to have a greater level of ‘control’ and find the moments that matter most to your users. Here is the model that we use:


A great digital tool for creating Journey Maps is: Custellence.

This tools is truly versatile. We hope that you apply it to your professional work, and also to personal life. Let us know what questions or thoughts you have about using these models!


Kaospilot Experience Design Since 1991, Kaospilot have worked systematically with the management of change and co-creation processes. We are a creative and experience design driven school that makes professional training programs in leadership, innovation, creativity and experience design. Our professional programs are not create simply to prepare leaders for the future, but to help them design it.

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