October 14, 2010

Emotional Design - by Donald A. Norman

Why we love (or hate) everyday things.

[discuss three levels that we internally use to decide about any objects]

Visceral, behavioral & reflective are the three very different dimensions are interwoven through any design. The visceral level is fast; it makes rapid judgments of what is good or bad / safe or dangerous. Behavioral level is the site of most human behavior which is control signal to brain to rejudge the earlier decision. The highest layer is reflective layer or thoughts which watches over, reflects upon and tries to bias the behavior level. Of the three levels, reflective one is the most vulnerable to variability through culture, experience, education and individual differences.

Visceral design - appearance
Behavioral design - the pleasure and effective of use
reflective design - self-image, personal satisfaction & memories.

When activity is initiated from the lowest layer - visceral level, it is called bottom-up and when it comes from reflective level, it is called top-down behavior. Bottom up behavior /processes are those driven by perception whereas top-down are driven by thoughts. The result is that everything you do as has both a cognitive and and affective component - cognitive to assign meaning and effective to assign value.

Design requires creative thinking followed by considerable period of concentrated, focused effort. This is the reason when brainstorming is done, no criticism is allowed because it raise the level of anxiety among the participants.

Although the visceral level is the lowest, simplest and most primitive part of the brain, it is sensitive to a very wide range of conditions. This level is incapable of reasoning , of comparing a situation with past history. It works by 'pattern matching'. What are people are programmed for?

These conditions that arise positive effect include:
warm. comfortably lit places
temperate climate
sweet tastes and smells
bright, highly saturated hues
soothing sounds and simple melodies and rhythms
harmonious music and sounds
smiling faces
rhythmic beats
attractive people
symmetrical objects
rounded, smooth subjects
sensuous feelings sounds and shapes

Attractive things do work better - their attractiveness produces positive emotions, causing mental processes to be more creative more tolerant of minor difficulties.

Conditions that create negative effect include:
sudden, unexpected loud sounds or bright lights
looming objects (objects that appear to be about to hit the observer)
extreme hot or cold
extremely bright lights or loud sounds
empty, flat terrain (deserts)
crowded dense terrain (jungles or forests)
crowds of people
rotting smell, decaying foods
bitter tastes
sharp objects
harsh, abrupt sounds
grating and discordant sounds
misshapen human bodies
snakes and spiders
human feces (and its smell)
other people's body fluids

We like to keep souvenir which may not be attractive (e.g. Eiffel tower); the reason is it is rich in emotional meaning because of the memories they evoke (site visited)

At visceral level, physical features matters - look, feel and sound- dominate.

The four components that matter in behavioral design are function(performance), understandability, usability, and physical feel.

Reflective design, is all about message, about culture, meaning of a product or its use, its image(brand). "When you are wearing a 1000-dollar suite, you project a different aura. And then people treat you differently. You exude confidence and if you can feel confidence, you will act confident" said Mort Spivas (a super salesman). For fashion, emotion is the key.

'In designing pleasurable products' one of the few scientific studies pf pleasure and design, it lists four kinds of pleasure:

1. Physio-pleasure - pleasures of the body, sights, sounds, smells, taste & touch
2. Socio-pleasure - social pleasure derived from interaction with others
3. Psycho-pleasure - pleasure deals with people's reactions
4. Ideo-pleasure - this is where one appreciates, the aesthetics, or quality or enhances life.

In the famous book 'A pattern language' by Christopher Alexander describes 253 different design patterns derived from their observations and analysis. One of the 253 is pattern number 134 deals with the problem of overexposure.

pattern 134: Zen view. If there is a beautiful view, don't spoil it by building huge windows that gape incessantly as it. Instead, put the windows which look onto the view at places of transition - along paths, in hallways, in entry ways, on stairs, between rooms.

If the view window is correctly placed, people will see a glimpse of the distant view as they come up to the window or pass it: but the view is never visible from the places where people stay. the conclusion has two important implications. First the object must be rich and complex. Second, the viewer must be able to take time to study, analyze and consider such rich interplay: otherwise the scene becomes commonplace. If something is to give a lifelong pleasure, two components are required: the skill of the designer in providing a powerful, rich experience and the skill of the perceiver.

The factors of such the design skill are
1. Entices by diverting attention
2. Delivers surprising novelty
3. Goes beyond obvious needs and expectations
4. Creates an instinctive response.
5. exposes values or connections to personal goals
6. Promises to fulfill these goals
7. Leads the casual viewer to discover something deeper about the juicing experience
8. Fulfills these promises.

Books mentioned in this book (to read)
- The meaning of Things by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi & Eugene Rochberg-Halton.
- A pattern language' by Christopher Alexander

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