I read The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman quite some time ago, but I never had the chance to read his follow up Emotional Design.
While not being as great, the book is really ahead of its time and still worth reading: a lot of the ideas discussed here are now part of reality. For example, Norman predicts “that automobiles will drive themselves. When? I have no idea: it might be twenty years, it might be one hundred.”
The second part of the book, however, spends too much time with robots, wondering about futuristic predictions that will not come to be for centuries at least. I can see why emotional robots are appealing (we’re still trying to create them today), but more concrete examples would have helped.
That being said, there’s still a lot to save from it.
Some useful definitions of different levels of design:
- “Visceral design is about initial reactions, […] immediate emotional impact. It has to feel good, look good. Sensuality and sexuality play roles.”
- “Behavioral design is all about use. […] The very first behavioral test a product must pass is whether it fulfills needs.”
- “Reflective design > Self-image, personal satisfaction, memories.”
Why some products will never be satisfactory:
With the large range of individual, cultural, and physical differences among the people of the world, it is impossible for a single product to satisfy everyone. […] The only way to satisfy a wide variety of needs and preferences is to have a wide variety of products.
Why physical feel is important (yet, it’s mostly missing from our devices):
Physical feel matters. We are, after all, biological creatures, with physical bodies, arms, and legs. […] Touch, vibration, feel, smell, sound, visual appearance. And now imagine doing all this on a computer screen, where what you see may look real, but with no feel, no scent, no vibrations, no sound.
On social interaction and the fear of distraction:
William James, the famous philosopher/psychologist, once said that his attention span was approximately ten seconds, and this in the late 1800s, far before the advent of modern distractions. […] If all my friends were always to keep in touch, there would be no time for anything else. Life would be filled with interruptions, twenty-four hours a day. […] We need technologies that provide the rich power of interaction without the disruption: we need to regain control over our lives.
An anecdote about the telephone:
The telephone was thought to be an instrument for business, and in the early days, telephone companies tried to dissuade customers from using the phone for mere conversation and gossip.
And finally, the tie between usability and emotions:
Emotions are inseparable from and a necessary part of cognition. […] Usable designs are not necessarily enjoyable to use. […] Being happy broadens the thought processes and facilitates creative thinking. […] Things intended to be used under stressful situations require a lot more care, with much more attention to detail.
If you need a more recent, practical book about emotional design you can try Designing for Emotion by Aarron Walter (A Book Apart, 2011).