Experience Design for Irvine Spectrum

How to offer shoppers a hassle-free shopping experience?


First established in 1995, Irvine Spectrum Center is a shopping mall built over a 10-year period with three major construction phases by three different Architecture firms. Envisioning this center to be built as a Spanish village with a town center, pedestrian streets and squares decorated by plants and seasonal ornaments across the entire mall, this shopping center features the Edward Cinema’s 21-screen multiplex, a Giant Ferris Wheel design and crafted in Italy, and a Carousel fabricated in San Francisco.

As the popularity of this shopping center grew more parking structures were added for visitors’ better access to various stores. Parking structures all have sensors that determine how many vehicles are inside and how many more parking spaces are available, giving shoppers a hassle-free experience entering the center.

Experience & Discovery

To experience and fully explore the design, constraints and challenges of people’s shopping experiences at his mall, I used mapping, a design method that helps researchers and designers to measure, describe the landscapes, buildings, directions, space, and boundaries of an environment under a defined context. In this case, the context is the experience of visitors to Irvine Spectrum Center.

There are several prominent features of this shopping center that especially captured my attention. Here, I defined these attractive experiences as the force. Figure 1. Is the mapping of the following five forces:

  1. Purchasing power
  2. Clusters
  3. Happiness
  4. Adorableness (warm and friendly)
  5. Diversity

These forces describe store locations and visitors’ movements. For example, when walking towards Apple store, one can see crowds are gathering and moving in and out of the store. And next to this popular store, is the famous Spectrum Ferris Wheel, where loud music and cluster of people are presented.

The purchasing power, happiness, and adorableness forces are telling stories of the shopping’s target audience: they are young professionals and family. And the diversity shows various of restaurants and building designs are installed in the mall to cater to, and capture a broad variety of audience’s interests.







* This image is presenting intersections that cause confusions and make people stop their activities to look for directions.

While matching observation activities to the force distribution and strength of the mapping, several findings are implied:

  1. The mall has a long shaped layout, visitors’ movements from North to South side requires good directories.
  2. Parking needs to be clearly marked or guided, so most shoppers can easily identify the nearest parking lot with access to their targeting stores.
  3. This shopping center is designed to have many small pathways resembling the Spanish village town. This also means intertwining pathways cause certain food traffic congestions, sometimes it may also be confusing for visitors to locate stores they are looking for.
  4. Street signs” of the mall directories are installed on high street polls. In the night time, these signs are difficult to read with distractions of other lighting decorations. They could be simply invisible to shoppers because most people are attending to their personal properties or talking to each other.
  5. Irvine Spectrum Center has an app that gives directories and offers store deals. But most people do not know the app exists.

Design Opportunities

To design for users’ better experiences at the mall, we always have to understand “why my audience care?” As Irvine Spectrum Center is targeting the young professional and family group, why people from these groups come visit the center rather than other choices, are crucial for designers to understand. Using Alexander Manu’s five stages of experiences, here we can understand how design opportunities emerge from people’s motivations, and what makes them care about Irvine Spectrum:



What makes people think about the mall when they have certain tasks and goals need to be accomplished?

  • This shopping center carries majority of big brand stores.
  • People can eat, shop, do chores with friends and families. It is convenient and saves time


What makes people enter the mall?

  • Easy access (major freeway access) and close enough to people who lives around. Parking should be carefree, not congested, no fees being charged.


What makes people purchase and attend activities at the mall ?

  • There are so many things to do at Irvine Spectrum. Dining, entertainment, and shopping can all be done at one location.


What makes people leave the mall?

  • Didn’t achieve goals
  • Promotions and price competitions from other shops
  • Complete tasks
  • Change mind


What makes people come again and recommend this mall to friends and families?

  • Able to fulfill goals every time at the shopping mall
  • The mall is close enough to where I am. I will still go there for shopping

Design Proposals


Large signs are only located outside each parking lot and at major intersections. After leaving the parking and starting to entry the main shopping area, visitors have to reply on street signs to tell directions. But the installments are those signs are quite high, in the daytime, the visibilities of those signs are ok, but during the night time, other store and decorative lightings are distracting attentions away from those signs and make them invisible.

Several suggested arrangements could be made to improve the readability of signs:

Clean up

Clean up unnecessary excessive decorations around the mall. There are way too many ornaments, huge plants and small individual stands in the middle of the walking path.

Mark directions

Mark directions and points clearly with color labels or a set of consistent visual cues on the map and around the mall. Signs in front of the parking lot only offer temporary solutions to lead customers initial directions. Clear directories are necessary for shoppers on-site.


Lightings in the night time are important. The mall has an overall warm and high-end feel. The place would be even more visitor-friendly with good lightings assisting visitors with their directions.

Signs & installations

More visual signages /installations relevant to directories at shoppers’ eye level, instead of large decoration objects are needed around this place. This will give shoppers’ a carefree mall experience.

Promote the mobile app

Put advertisements online and on-site to let users know about the mall’s mobile app.


A less intrusive way (no physical arrangement change of the current mall structure) to improve shopper’s experiences at Irvine Spectrum Center will be adding features and redesign the user-interface of the current mobile app.

By implementing the Beacon and augmented geospatial reality technology, users will be able to customize their experience at Irvine Spectrum whenever they visit. A smooth and personalized shopping experience, visitors will to come back more, and they will most likely recommend this special experience to friends and families.



A fresh, modern introduction page to attract users to explore further. One doesn’t need to sign up, he/she can explore the app as it is.


Attraction + Entry + Engagement + Extension

To keep shoppers engage with the mall more, reward points should be clear and easy to see. This also gives people incentives to purchase more.


Entry + Extension

Based on individual’s shopping/app searching data, a recommended parking location should be shown on mobile devices in a notification format. This can work side-by-side with the current sensor systems. This is also a record to remind visitors where they parked their cars.


Here you will find store directories and interactive map of each shop, as well as store information. This is consistent with the current app feature.


Attraction + Entry + Engagement + Exit + Extension
Discounts and mall promotions are all shown here. Fast and easy for people who are on deal hunts. But please be selective in terms of deals to offer. People may not like to use this if nothing good could be found.


Entry + Engagement
The force map designed in the previous experience & discovery stage is applied here. People who come here casually looking for things to do will be able to discover what most people are doing now through color and dot density. Or, if one doesn’t want to be at anywhere crowded, this will help you to find a quiet space just to yourself.


Attraction + Exit + Extension
This unique feature allows shoppers to quickly drop by to make a purchase or pick-up items they’ve ordered online. Here the app features Beacon and augmented geolocation map to help you navigate through shortcuts to your favorite stores.

Featured Mobile App

The Best Mall Experience

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Shop at Irvine Spectrum to earn reward points.


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Everything about your favorite stores.


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