Emotional Design

Emotional design, or should I say, emotional technology, sounds like a concept or thought up by hippies, or some Japanese scientist on a remote island (Aibo anyone?). Though in his book Emotinal Design Donald A. Norman explains that, although most technology is without any soul, we humans, trained for social interaction, are capable of putting a soul into everything. It is therefore that we judge the technology around us, in a similar way as we judge the people with whom we interact.

So just as you can like, love, dislike, hate or be indifferent to people around you, objects (or in this case, software) can create a similar emotional response. How software creates this response depends on our own value projections on the software. If the product manages to surpass our expectation we might start to love it, if it under qualifies our expectation we might slightly dislike it, and if it turns out to be counter productive, we might start to hate the damn thing. How our expectation are raised depends on a collection of variables. Maybe its the price we paid for it, the good reviews we read about it, the design of the product etc. As Norman states ‘well designed technology works better’, although Norman isn’t that clear about what he means with well designed, if this is a statement only about the visual side of the product, or also the interaction design, it’s not hard to argument why well designed products work better. For the second time we can compare technology with its social counterparts. We have no problem paying extra for well dressed, smart looking people, (doctors, bankes, lawyers) and if they make mistakes, we are more likely to forgive them for their actions. (We might be entering the field of reputation here, but that’s not the direction now) Well designed technology makes us more happy, and less stressed about handling it. It works better because we are more calm in exploring the way it works.

Norman’s book includes so many interesting cases that I most likely have to separate them in multiple articles. Subjects that I would like to discuss are: Why software design is so much harder to understand than hardware. How actions have changed through the years, but goals have remained more or less the same over the millennia. Why, therefore we should focus on goal oriented design. The multiple level of human understanding of things.

Three levels at play in design: visceral, behavioural, and reflective. (source)

And how we can use all those concepts to recreate a frame work for user experience design.

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