Academic journal article International Journal of Design

When 'Feeling Good' Is Not Good Enough: Seven Key Opportunities for Emotional Granularity in Product Development

Academic journal article International Journal of Design

When 'Feeling Good' Is Not Good Enough: Seven Key Opportunities for Emotional Granularity in Product Development

Article excerpt

Introduction

The role of emotions in human-product interactions and the benefits of design that evokes positive emotions have been discussed extensively in the design research literature (e.g., Crilly, Moultrie, & Clarkson, 2004; Desmet & Hekkert, 2007). Understanding user emotions has been shown to be relevant to design for several reasons. They strongly influence usage behavior (Tractinsky, Katz, & Ikar, 2000) and the richness of usage experiences (Fokkinga & Desmet, 2012). In addition, emotions influence brand loyalty (Chitturi, 2009), product attachment (Mugge, Schoormans, & Schifferstein, 2005) and users' subjective well-being in the long run (Desmet & Pohlmeyer, 2013). Inspired by these beneficial effects of emotions in user experience, designers have pursued emotion-focused design processes with the intention to design for positive user experiences. In practice, however, designers are confronted with various challenges throughout the design process in their efforts to deliberately evoke intended emotions (Goffin & Micheli, 2010; Yoon, Pohlmeyer, & Desmet, 2014b). An example is the challenge to ensure that all design team members have a shared understanding and expectations in respect of the intended emotional experience. Emotional design may not reach its full potential when these intentions remain unstated in the design process, which can result in unforeseen or even unwanted user behavior and experiences (see Jacobs, 1999, for an example). Hence, in emotion-focused design processes, it is beneficial to have the ability to specify and communicate the intended emotional impact of the design with clarity and precision. We postulate that one complicating factor in doing so is that designers are not equipped with an equally developed emotional granularity. Emotional granularity refers to the extent to which an individual can precisely and specifically interpret and articulate their own and other's emotional states (Lindquist & Barrett, 2008). We propose that emotional granularity can be of use as a contextualized competence in a design process to support designers to clearly understand users' emotions towards products and to envision particular emotions when conceptualizing designs.

Several frameworks have been proposed to guide designers to design products that stimulate positive experiences. For example, Jordan (2000) introduced four sources of product pleasure based on psychological pleasure theory. Norman (2004) proposed three levels of pleasurable product experiences based on neurobiological emotion theory. Hassenzahl (Hassenzahl, 2010; Hassenzahl, Eckoldt, Diefenbach, Laschke, Lenz, & Kim, 2013) suggested six universal psychological needs as sources of positive product experience. These frameworks enhance designers' understanding of emotional experiences by explaining how emotions arise in human-product interactions and how a design can affect users' emotions. However, they do not contribute much to the designers' emotional granularity because they mainly focus on general valance, experiences that are positive or pleasurable versus negative or unpleasant. In our view, helping designers to consider and communicate emotions in a more fine-grained manner can be beneficial because product emotions are more nuanced than what is captured with a general bipolar dimension of valance. Desmet (2012) showed that people can experience at least 25 different positive emotions in human-product interactions, ranging from pride, amusement and hope to love. Although these emotions are all pleasurable, they differ in terms of feelings, the conditions that evoke them and their influence on behavior and thoughts (Frijda, 2007; Lazarus, 1991; Scherer, 2005). For example, pleasant surprise pulls a person's attention towards a product, leading to increased product recall and recognition (Ludden, Hekkert, & Schifferstein, 2008). A product that evokes inspiration infuses a user with new and creative thoughts, facilitating a shift in perspective (Desmet, 2008). …

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