I have written about nuts, locks and slides, about how we can find quality in studying the ways stuff is held together. Emotions are personal reactions to events, people or objects as deeply integrating symbols and even if shared as they are by many people such as the fear, pain and sorrow for the catastrophe in Japan remains a work for the each person. Because this area is so complex, I will use a few examples of emotional connection.The shark fin tea infuser above: Humor is important in product design to bring new perspectives, new connections and reflections. A warming tea moment mixes in your cup with a danger of a shark fin and tail.
The friendship ring belongs to american teenage experience and has been around along with the Letterman’s jacket since the 1950s. The friendship ring is a gift which like all rings displays the commitment between two and symbolizing possession of the other. Fun, showy and embedded with romantic symbols it is a typical product as a sign, accessory and binding object. Double edged, the ring as a connecting symbol of meaning belonging with a loved person switches to very negative with the break up and reinforces the abyss between afterward.
Skateparks, half-pipes, climbing gyms and other designed sport/hang out scapes are places to show physical competence and competition. Each venue makes its own culture with gestures, product lines, events and customs. Experience/adventure design talents work to bring a totally integrated experience from: raw physical expression, demonstration and marketing of products, creating an attractive show venue. The concept came from seeing how urban and sports groups generated their own culture, identity and product symbols to mirror their groups ID.
Designing your own party. With lots of suppliers and event makers and people who want to share their special days with others there are opportunities to design the birthday experience anew. By making a special event for someone and creating a one of a kind gift you increase the giving significance and probably the emotional connection by showing commitment between friends.
Liminal spaces. (for a german ref. see in Wikipedia)
Today we live half of our lives in a removed world and sometimes forget that we enjoy sunshine. Apple excels at bringing us simple thoughtful tools for enjoying that thin screen virtual world which attaches us to our favorite games, friends and fun/free time planning. Watch the iPad 2 ad to see why you truly believe these guys when they tell you how they designed it as a gift for us. The emotional side of product design is taken very seriously by Apple as part of their company culture. And we feel it because they create new ways to simplify and improve the look, feel and performance of their products before we ask for it. Even their advertising creates an integrating experience.
Because design uses form and interaction languages to shape our behavior there must be an emotional side to the product. When you look at a product ask yourself how it makes you feel aside from the drive to have it. How does the product speak to you and what does it say about its character and therefore about your character.
But beyond or before the social/culture generated emotions which are,, in a way manufactured at events like rock/pop concerts, there are the genuine feelings we share from simple acts of kindness, of presence, of acting to protect, preserve or provide. Designed caring is difficult as we see in TV series or at the movies and becomes paper-thin clichés. But somehow people everywhere find new ways make life fresh again. Sometimes it feels a bit typical/theatrical to give flowers or a smile; to stop and take time to talk with a neighbor or a shop keeper but as a caring habit over a time it grows into the most essential of experiences, the sense of belonging and being connected to lots of good people. Worried people generate fear and opposition. The positive smiling person is an Ambassador of good will, confidence and generates security. The smile is the most essential gift one can give and receive with a smile in return. Artifacts, smells, memories, pets and all types images present us with a rich referencing fabric of association through emotion and perception. A product launch by a big company is about building an emotional connection to you by all types of designed communication and tools.