Thursday, August 5, 2010

Task 6: Emotional Design

The human subconscious plays an important role in determining the interaction between people and design. By watching the video featuring Don Norman titled Emotional Design a better understanding of the relationship between design and the human emotional response can be gained. This would be a beneficial video for industrial designers in particular to view, as it gives a better insight into product personality and the different levels of emotional response that design triggers.

Don Norman believes that in the world of design many things are effectively functional, but ugly. Design should be fun. In product design the functionality of a product falls into last place on a hierarchical scale. Firstly for a product to be affective it needs to be pleasurable. It needs to stimulate the sensors and be visually appealing to its target audience. Secondly a product must have good usability. If a product appeals to the customers sensors and has a 'good feel' to it, the object has basically sold itself. But lastly the object must perform a function. A good example of pleasurable product design is the Alessi Juicer designed by Phillip Stark. The design stimulates the sensors but when it comes to the functionality of the product the user is informed that the object should not be used for its designed purpose ; to create juice, as the acid in the juice will damage the surface of the product. This proves the theory that functionality in design is of least importance on a scale with usability and pleasure.

There are three different levels of design processing that occur within the brain. The body's sensory organs are stimulated, causing analysis on three levels; visceral, reflective and behavioural. Norman discusses visceral analysis as being on a subconscious level, where the beauty of the design can be recognised and the aesthetic qualities can be appreciated. This differs to the behavioural level of analysis. Although they both occur on a subconscious level, the behavioural reflects usability and understanding, and the feeling of being in control. But finally the reflective level realises design association and image status. So all in all the analysis of a good product must look good, feel good and reflect well on the owner of that product.

An example relating to Normans theory that aesthetics matter and attractive things work better is a New York Times review written about the Mini Cooper. The article states that although the car does have several faults, the audience should buy it anyway. The playful design with rounded dials and curved edges create a fun aesthetic which, as Norman suggests override the functionality of the design.

Another level of thinking that Norman introduces to his audience is how different working environments can greatly affect the final result of a design. Using the analogy of walking across a plank of wood at great height, it is explained that stress can help to focus the mind. The environmental influence causes the designer to create a solution with little consideration of its aesthetic details, to produce an object with higher functionality than pleasurable qualities. On the other hand, an IQ test performed by a psychologist examining human emotional responses produced the result that happy people are able to more effectively problem solve. By giving an identical problem to two separate groups, the first group given nothing and the second group given lollies, it was determined when only the second group could solve the problem, that happiness encouraged brainstorming which lead to 'out of the box' thinking. Through this theory it can be assumed that creativity is released through happiness.

Through different levels of analysis, a products pleasurable, usable and functional qualities can be appreciated. Although many people believe that products with higher functionality represent good design, Norman sticks to his theory that pleasant things work better.

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