If everything is experience, then nothing is experience.
That’s from a presentation [PDF 1.9MB] by Anna Snel at PicNic 2007. The quote pretty much sums up my feelings about the term “experience.” Technically, I suppose every moment of human consciousness is experienced in some way. From that point of view you could make the case that everything is an experience, even if only incidentally.
But from a design perspective, an experience is more focused than that. It’s something memorable. Something special. Those moments in the day-to-day flow of sensation that stand out. Moments that are emotionally resonate. Moments that matter.
The quote reminds me of an old joke from graphic design about the client who wants to make everything more prominent.
You have to be selective about doling out emphasis or the effect is lost. There’s value in addressing the day-to-day flow of incidental experiences as long as they don’t blind us to the power of designing for explicit experience.