Design with and for emotion

After reading The Design of Everyday Things, I knew that I would be reading Donald Norman’s follow-up, Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. My read did not disappoint either, and I have a number of principles to apply to a brand new project just getting underway.

In my semi-regular form, here is my list of takeaways:

  • Training is essential to operate under high stress where creativity is an unaffordable luxury. So the more involved my software is in helping my user accomplish an immediate or critical task, the more attractive, intuitive, trustworthy, enjoyable and efficient my software must be. It should enhance focus while not producing anxiety. “Attractive things do work better–their attractiveness produces positive emotions, causing mental processes to be more creative, more tolerant of minor difficulties.”
  • If my software makes it easy to quickly find pertinent content and metadata, then these assets will be continue to be valued. My software should look at this holistically (i.e. tackle the problem and not shift it from one place in a workflow to another). For example, the author gave print photography (e.g. shoeboxes) of pictures and digital photography (e.g. still need to have prints in hand) as examples of technologies that can do a better job of valuing the precious resource known as time: “One of the most precious resources of the modern household is time, and the effort to take care of all those wonderful photographs defeats their value…Digital cameras change the emphasis, but not the principle.”
  • “The real challenge to product design is ‘understanding end-user unmet and unarticulated needs.'”
  • “Learn once; remember forever.” This is possible with good understanding from a proper conceptual model (i.e. a good system image).
  • “Physical objects have weight, texture, and surface.” Software can lead to a sort of sensory deprivation caused by a lack of stimulating interaction (i.e. missing “tangability”)–abstraction instead of emotion.
  • “To the practitioner of human-centered design, serving customers means relieving them of frustration, of confusion, of a sense of helplessness. Make them feel in control and empowered.” So, how does the typical content management software frustrate the average user, etc.? What functions can offer the greatest value and therefore best address non-use?
  • “Artistic integrity, a cohesive thematic approach and deep substance seldom come from committees. The best designs come from following a cohesive theme throughout, with a clear vision and focus. Usually, such [visceral or reflective, but not behavioral] designs are driven by the vision of one person.”
  • “If you want a successful product, test and revise. If you want a great product, one that can change the world, let it be driven by someone with a clear vision.”
  • “Noise is a vast source of emotional stress. Unwanted, unpleasant sounds produce anxiety, elicit negative emotional states, and thereby reduce the effectiveness of us all.”
  • “Humans are predisposed to anthropomorphize, to project human emotions and beliefs into anything.”
  • Given that cooperation (e.g. between an end user and his software) relies on trust and that trust has to be earned, it’s important to provide consistent and responsive user experience continually during use.
  • My software itself is communicating with its users, apart from whatever content and/or metadata is involved. Users of my software are in communication with others, especially where content-centric processes and collaborative experiences are concerned. Without communication, loneliness sets in and the isolation that ensues quickly erodes individual and group productivity. Therefore, to provide highly successful software, I need to not only facilitate information sharing but also enable emotional connecting.
  • There is a difference between being connected in an empowering sense and connected in a distracted sense. The connections my software provides need to be real and satisfying and not shallow or overwhelming. For example, the necessary context to succeed at a content-centric task must be always on but necessarily always fully visible. An recent example of this for me is my new Apple Mighty Mouse with its side button click-squeeze feature to trigger Exposé or its “nipple” click feature to trigger Dashboard. Both Exposé and Dashboard can themselves be contextually useful applications.

It will be important to keep in mind that there are three levels of the human cognitive and emotional system as follows:

  • Visceral – design my software for appearance and initial reactions
  • Behavioral – design my software for pleasure and effectiveness of use (i.e. know how people will use my software and pass initial usage–does it fulfill needs?)
  • Reflective – design my software for self-image, memories and personal satisfaction (i.e. how can my software earn long-term use ad admiration?)

Update 12/1/2008: For more of my book reviews and to see what else is in my book library (i.e. just the business-related or software-related non-fiction therein), please visit my Books page.