Sue Feng Design

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Emotional Design Part II Chapter 5 and Epilogue

While I was reading chapters 5 and 6, I looked ahead to the other chapters. Chapters 6 and 7 seem to all be about robots and emotions. I didn’t really want to read about robots having emotions since it didn’t have much to do with emotional design in terms of products outside of the robots realm. Say what? Yeah I decided not to read the rest of the book because it’s about robots. Sorry Stephanie, I know you like robots. Maybe you would be interested in reading the book. Chapters 6 and 7 are about robots. I did decide to skip ahead to the Epilogue though, titled “We Are All Designers.”

Chapter 5: People, Places, and Things

This chapter is about our tendency to read emotional responses into anything. This includes animate and non-animate animals and objects. This chapter also talks about blaming inanimate objects, specifically technology like computers and cellphones.

According to this chapter “When it comes to a lack of trust, the worst offenders of all are today’s electronic devices, especially the computer…The problem here is that you don’t know what to expect. The manufacturer promises all kinds of wonderful results..” but we tend to see contradictions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think my computer is untrustworthy. It hasn’t failed on me before so I guess I’m lucky. My computer has had some problems with it, don’t get me wrong, but that doesn’t make me like it less. I don’t think I was ever mad at it like the book suggests we get made at our computers. Sometimes I may be impatient with it if it’s slow, but most of the time, using it is enjoyable.

The book mentions that trust implies reliance, confidence, and integrity. When designing a conceptual model of a product or service, one should gather feedback and establish and maintain trust in the product during its making. The conceptual model should convey what the product is and how it works, and if it’s accurate, then you won’t be surprised by the results when it is made.

In the world of communication, distance between you and the people you keep in contact with mattered. If you moved away from your family and friends, the contact between you waned. But now, there are so many different ways to communicate. No matter where you are, no matter what time of day it is, you can stay in touch with anyone on a continual basis. There are so many options like email, text messaging, phone calls, instant messaging to name a few. Traveling is relatively easy too, by car, train, or plane. The mail system is pretty reliable as well.

On the whole though, frequent messages in communication is not “information sharing,” but rather, it is “emotional connecting.” People need to communicate continually, for comfort and reassurance. The cellphone is an emotional tool as it keeps people in touch with one another. Even if the conversation topics are vague, emotional content is high. It is really used to let us share emotions. I think this is pretty true, since a lot of the times, the conversation topics I have with people are not that deep, but rather about our day and how we are doing. It’s a way to connect, and that sense of connection is emotionally satisfying.

The book also mentions that “keeping in touch” is another person’s interruption. It’s positive to the person keeping in touch but negative and disturbing to the person being subjected to interruption. I think this may be partly true. But sometimes we tend to schedule our calls or chatting times so as not to interrupt each other. Also, even when interrupted, sometimes it still benefits both people.

Many of the modern technology centers around social interaction. The technology is of trust and emotional bonds. But neither social interaction nor trust were designed into technology, or thought through. They came about as a byproduct of deployment. The next step is to create technologies that provide a rich power of interaction without the disruption, so we can have control over our lives.

Epilogue: We Are All Designers

People can be passionate about their belongings as well as the services they use. The book mentions a good question: “how can mass-produced objects have personal meaning?” Well, that is up to the users, not designers, to attribute meanings to objects. There are instances where objects and services can be customized though. Many manufacturers have tried to offer customers customized objects, such as the color, or accessories, or extra features. Customization doesn’t guarantee emotional attachment though.

Users make their homes and places more personal by the choice of what items to place in them and how they are arranged. Also, objects themselves change over time. They can have dents, stains, marks, and burns on them. They give the objects a story that makes them special. The way objects grow old with their owners creates a personal and emotional significance.

There are five ways to deal with objects and the problem of mass production:

  1. Live with it
  2. Customize
  3. Customized mass production
  4. Design our own products
  5. Modify purchased products


How are we all designers? We manipulate the environment to suit our needs. We select which items to own, which to carry with us. We build, we buy, and we arrange items. All this is a form of design. Though we may not have control over the design of many objects we purchase, we control which items we select, and how, where, and when to use them. The best kind of design is its process, if its dynamic and adaptable. The best designs are the ones we create for ourselves, in tune with our individual lifestyles. We make objects personal, something we bond to. Professional designers cannot do this for us.

Personal web sites, for instance, provide a powerful tool for people to express themselves and interact with others all over the world, and find communities that value their contributions. They along with other Internet experiences, provide a powerful personal experience with strong emotional feelings. They are personal and yet shared. They are an extension of our selves.

The author leaves with this golden rule: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” in the words of William Morris.


Posted on: March 9, 2013Categories: ReviewsTags: books
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