As a computer scientist trained in the field of tech desirability,
I realize that I have long conflated product usability with product experience.
Perhaps this is because with tech products, there is a certain end goal that is
vital to its success: get more people to use it successfully. As I orient
myself towards a career in technical product management, Desmet and Hekkert’s
concepts of instrumental interaction (58) and their subsequent affective
experience (59) are engrained in my design point of view because they lay the groundwork
for overall product usability and thus desirability. Desmet and Hekkert point
out that usability, which is driven by goal attainment, is actually underscored
by “emotion eliciting appraisal (63),” one of the foundational pillars of their
product experience framework.
While I have grown to dramatically improve on my aesthetic
understanding throughout the challenges in this class—particularly challenges
2, 4, and 5—my what I’ve got’s still reveal a heavy bias towards meaning and
emotional levels in designs. This certainly harkens back to a PM mentor I had
two years ago, who said that the best product designs are those which illicit a
positive emotional reaction from the user.
Desmet and Hekkert’s definitions for meaning and emotional
levels certainly agree with my design philosophy: design to invoke an emotional
experience. In particular, they say that meaning products “assign personality
or other expressive characteristics, and assess the personal or symbolic
significance of product (60).” Meanwhile, emotional products work in a very
similar fashion in that it’s the “personal significance of a product, rather
than the product itself, which causes the emotion.” The skills I’ve learned in
this class have continued to reinforce my emotional and meaning level design thinking.
From designing an immersive experience to social signaling to behavioral
change, I focused primarily on creating products that were simple and evoked an
emotional response in the user. For example, my latest challenge focused on changing
the meaning/emotional narrative of the Harvard H sweater to one of school pride
Looking back at my What I’ve Gots, the trend for designing
for usability (and thus an emotional and meaning level) is clear. In week 1, I
was interested in the S’well because it doesn’t force the user to think about
what temperature liquid they’re filling the bottle with, since it’s capable of
handling both. The upcycled plastic cup was full of meaning levels, in that it
mimicked a popular disposable cup design. The Ivy Design Picture Table was primarily
a sublime example of excellent instrumental interaction in that its function
and dual purpose were very clear and efficient. I was interested in the Slinky
because the way it was marketed assigned it a personality, thereby invoking meaning
levels. Lastly, the Liftware Spoon intrigued me because it still resembled a
spoon and yet adapted around the user, rather than forcing the user to adapt
around the spoon. This was a double whammy of meaning (the spoon shape invoked
memories of original spoons) and emotion (the user is not forced to think about
their Parkinson’s disease as they eat).
In conclusion, my design point of view is heavily centered
around emotional and meaning levels of the design. Learning underlying behavior
patterns like Fogg’s Behavior Model has allowed me to deliver more poignant
emotional and meaning levels in products. Furthermore, the focus on aesthetic
representation at the beginning of the semester has allowed me to improve on
the tool that I use to best communicate the emotional and meaning significance
behind a design.
Desmet, P. M. A., & Hekkert, P. (2007). Framework of
product experience. International Journal of Design, 1(1), 57-66.
BJ Fogg, “A Behavior Model for Persuasive Design”