To journey is to explore: Dispatches from GEL 2016


Adin Heller

Senior Research Executive, New York

Categories News

We attended this year’s Good Experience Live (GEL) conference in NYC and came away inspired by this year’s theme of ‘Journey’

Last week, I was back at the GEL (Good Experience Live) Conference for my fifth time, ready to hear all about this year’s theme: Journey.

This is an extremely fitting theme for a conference about experiences, since nearly every experience is a journey in some way, and not only impacts the person taking the journey, but also the people around them. Journeys are, if not individual undertakings, then at least experienced by each person differently.

The theme of ‘journey’ really resonates with the design researcher side of me. As speaker Gui Trotti pointed out at the conference, the purpose of taking any journey is to explore, to go somewhere you haven’t gone before, to discover something new.


As researchers, we’re always trying to understand the journeys our consumers go on, both within the ‘research session’ and beyond it. To truly empathize with consumers, we need to understand where they are coming from (and where they might be going).

But GEL didn’t just speak to the researcher side of me, it also tapped into my designer’s consciousness: Gui Trotti again imparted words of wisdom when sharing his belief that going back and learning from history is critical to design success. Even when designing something new, it is important to understand what has come before – and then engage in an iterative design ‘journey’ that builds on this learning.

Finally, j.views’s inspiring talk about his journey in making his new album included two important reminders:  “A lot of the magic is in the risk” and “Trust what you don’t know and go for it.”

In research, we often have to “trust what we don’t know” (after all, if we knew the answer, we wouldn’t need to do research!). But embracing the unknown, taking the risks, and giving ourselves over to whatever the journey may have in store are all key to extracting the richest learnings – about both our projects and products, and about ourselves and our fellow humans.