For those serious about learning about the future of customer experience, I have just the book to buy – for yourself or a business colleague as a gift. I don’t often consider business books to be ideal gifting items, but X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, by Brian Solis, is the rare exception.

Experiences are a large part of what constitutes your brand, and are unbelievably important to your customers. Without a strong customer experience, I would argue that it’s impossible to have a strong brand. And branding, at its core, is all about differentiation. X: The Experience When Business Meets Design presents a strong case that great products alone will not make your brand successful; rather, creating and cultivating powerful experiences are what will drive your brand forward.

If you’re intrigued by the book’s position that strong experiences are a major factor in strong branding, then you’ll appreciate the different angles Brian takes in order to present his case. X is all about the future of customer experience, touching on varied topics such as:

  • How to visualize an experience to better build it
  • What a detailed experience map is, and how to build one
  • How to create organizational alignment to better architect experience
  • Developing personas for your customers in order to truly walk in their shoes
  • What human factors you’ll need to address in order to optimally design customer experiences

How X Embodies Customer Experience with its Design

One of the best things about X is that it is quite different from the typical business book. It comes across as if it was designed to actually be an experience. It is aesthetically gorgeous, designed to appeal to the reader emotionally. At the same time, it’s not just a pretty face; it is quite heavy on substance as well. The cover and interior design by Mekanism, the San Francisco award-winning creative agency, is the most powerful I have seen in a business book, quite possibly ever.

“Over the last couple of years, Mekanism and I worked together as if we were designing a mobile app,” Brian shared in a recent post. “In fact, our working premise was how to make print feel as intuitive as anything on your smartphone or tablet. And more so, how do we make paper relevant in a digital economy.”

Customer Experience in Action

In addition to the physical beauty of the book itself, busy businesspeople like you and I will love how segmental this book reads. You can pick up one page, absorb the whole thing, and then skip ahead 35 pages and read an entirely different, yet connected, substantive idea. On one page Brian might be arguing that smart phones aren’t even primarily phones anymore, and only 28% of your customers prefer to address customer service problems by means of a phone call. A few pages later, he’ll be educating you on how your customers will utilize Twitter to criticize your brand about negative customer experiences they’ve had with your brand.

In fact, that’s exactly what Veronica and Ryan Block did. The couple was so frustrated about being unable to cancel their Comcast service over the phone, they recorded their ridiculously poor customer experience and shared an audio recording of the experience to Twitter. The recording went viral in part because Comcast wasn’t focused on the overall customer experience; in fact, the department was focused on customer retention, and made it so difficult for the Blocks to quickly cancel their Comcast service. Rather than give a good experience to a household that might return to Comcast in the future, the company instead opted to be embarrassed on Twitter in front of an audience of millions. This is why customer experience is crucial to your brand’s future, and Brian delivers this message again and again in different ways across his informative and useful book. The easy-to-digest case studies from market leaders like Apple, Telstra, and Disney certainly don’t hurt.


The fact that there really isn’t anything else out there like X makes me tip my hat to Brian; I give it my top recommendation. Whether you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day present for that special someone or you just want to be good to yourself, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design is a pretty solid place to start.