The two comments below from a Planner and and Experience Designer point to what I think is a fundamental truth about the starting point for everything we do: begin with thinking about what we want an audience to feel, and work backwards to figure out how to get there.
Dylan Williams from Mother on planning and making people feel something:
We in advertising tend to start with our message and work outward. We are spending too much time on what we want to say, rather than what people want to hear. Maybe we should flip the traditional planning process. From message-out planning to audience-back strategy. Dispense with propositions and focus on more thoroughly understanding what people are into. Spielberg said he wanted to make everyone in a cinema feel joy. Then worked back to ET. What would we make if our development process worked this way around?"
and Dan Shaffer on web applications and game design (via Russell):
we should really be designing like game designers do: you start from the opposite
side of the equation. We should figure out the aesthetics--what should this feel like? what
is the emotional response to this application?--and work backwards from there. What
dynamics will create these feelings? And what mechanics will support that?
(here is the source of the image. I included it a sneaky way to say that for a DJ the audience is always the first thing we think about as well: how do we want them to feel? what emotion should they take away with them when they leave the club? The creativity comes in doing that-getting there in a more interesting way than another DJ would)