Oh, so you design experiences?

Try to explain to some what experience or interaction design is and watch the looks and questions you get. Design, to most people means graphic or web design--basically the obvious facets of visual design. You mention experience design, and it's as if you have pulled the plug to that little light bulb that goes off in their heads each time they think of design.

I recently had an experience with a particular individual. I was explaining to him what Human Computer Interaction consisted of and what User Experience (UX) design means. In the early phase of the conversation, he mentioned "What software program do you use?" I was puzzled for a second since I didn't really understand the context of the question. "What do you mean?" I replied. "Ummm, like what software do you use to design, ummm, experience and stuff?", he said. Of course this led to a conversation which consisted mainly of me trying to explain the UX field. 

On the other hand, earlier this year as I was doing my taxes, I had a similar but opposite experience at an HR Block store. The tax preparer asked me what I was studying at IU. I told her Human Computer Interaction Design. Unlike my previous experience(s), she wasn't puzzled. She pointed at her screen, which had the tax form she was filling out, and said "do you design how I interact with stuff like this?". That was not the exact quote, but she put it in such perfect terms, I was shocked. To her question, I replied with a resounding "exactly!" I was amazed at her genius--she has a partial idea of what HCI, UX, Interaction Design are (at least, I thought). That made my day. Until she started complaining about how she hates the tax software, and watching her incorrectly input my tax information into the software did not help either. She literally started inputting my tax information under a 50 year old woman by the first name Lola, until I pointed out the discrepancy. And by the way, the tax form is UGLY! I don't know who makes this stuff. I am pretty sure some amazing UX designers put it together but are hampered by the process...and/or politics, as it often seems to be.