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Emotion gives direction to the design research

The research on the grey area between interaction- and visual design is full on. I started reading articles and books. Critically evaluating the articles and looking for authors can help me in my research on user experience and graphic design. This way I try to give direction to my path of design research.


The different trails

For now, I work with the premise that emotion can be the binding factor between interaction- and visual design. I have written out trails I would like to look deeper into and explore what literature I want to use for that. These trails I have split into smaller trails. In the main trail I want to look into whether emotion can be a binding factor in interaction and visual design. To look into this a bit deeper I have set out two side trails. The first side trail is: how workflow and processes (such as agile, Co-design) have been set up and what can be done to get these two workflows closer together. While I was doing my research in the library I walked past a rack with gaming magazines, I came up with the idea to deepen how other sectors (such as gaming and product design) deal with emotion and flow. I have the feeling that within the designing of games emotional and rational thinking are more linked. So this will be my third trail.


How do other sectors deal with emotion

Because I wanted to look into the side trail; how other sectors deal with emotion, I started reading “To sell is human[1]” from Daniel H. Pink. Daniel H. Pink has a background in law at Yale Law School. He was speechwriter of Vice President Al Gore. Has worked at The Sunday Telegraph, The New York Times and National Geographic Channel (mostly traditional right-wing organizations). According to him, sales also involve emotions. He also says you should treat everyone like you would treat your grandmother and, as a salesman, you need to ask yourself two questions: Will this better my life? Will this make the world be a better place? It comes down to three basic principles that are necessary to make an emotional connection with your customers.

  1. Attunement
  2. Buoyance – Make it targeted so that people have reason to understand the announcement.
  3. Clarity – Make it personal, try to move people through empathy.

I did also read “Customer Emotional Needs in Product Design[2]” from H. M. Khalid and M. G. Helander, a scientific article from 2006. Martin G. Helander works at the Technical University of Singapore and there he is doing research in the field of human factors engineering and ergonomics. He has previous published articles and books at Elsevier. He also published “A Guide to Human Factors and Ergonomics.” He wrote this article with Halimahtun M. Khalid, who is director of Damai Sciences Centre For Industrial Research and she is an independent researcher with experience in experimental psychology. She has published previous articles and books at CRC Press, before they published: Advances in Modeling Ergonomics and Usability Evaluation.

In their opinion we do not look into emotion in products enough and they wrote that emotions are one of the strongest differentiators in user experience. It calls on both conscious and unconscious reactions to a product, website, or system interface. Emotions are twofold. On the one hand you have the affective system that reacts intuitively and out of experience, this something that happens quickly. On the other hand you have the cognitive system, it responds analytical and rational, this something that happens more slowly. There are five criteria that must be taken in account when it comes to measuring and evaluating emotions, namely: dynamic, context, reliability, validity, and measurement errors.

They often refer to Don Norman, who has written a lot about emotion. Therefore, it was logical that I would read his book “Emotional Design Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things[3]‘, Don Norman is director of The Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego and is known for his expertise in the field of design, usability and cognitive science. He is also co-founder and advisor of the Nielsen Norman Group. In his book “Emotional Design”, he stresses that we should include emotion in any form of design and therefore it is a binding factor. Design consists of three different aspects: emotional, behavioural, and reflective:

  • Intuitive (emotional) design has to do with the visual appearance of the design.
  • Behavioural design has to do with the pleasure and the efficiency of the usage.
  • Reflective design has to do with rationalization and stepping away from the emotional aspect of a design. Can I tell a story with it? Does it tell who I am as a person?


Looking deeper into the mail trail

While I am researching the emotional aspect I am wondering more and more if this is the binding factor. Does it not transcend emotion? Just at that moment I read Don Norman quoting Herbert Read in his book. In the early twentieth century, he wrote numerous books on art and aesthetics, and he says this: “it requires a somewhat mystical theory of aesthetics to find any necessary connection between beauty and function”[4]. This quote makes my point. In my opinion I will have to look at it on a higher level and look into what that mystical theory of aesthetics actually is. The book “Art and industry, the principles of industrial design” by Herbert Read will be a good starting point.

[1] Pink, Daniel H. To sell is human: The surprising truth about moving others. Penguin, 2012.

[2] Khalid, Halimahtun M., and Martin G. Helander. “Customer emotional needs in product design.” Concurrent Engineering 14.3 (2006): 197-206.

[3] Norman, Donald A. Emotional design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things. Basic books, 2005.

[4] Read, Herbert, and Herbert Edward Read. Art and industry: the principles of industrial design. Faber and Faber, 1966.

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