Academic journal article International Journal of Design

From Abstract to Tangible: Supporting the Materialization of Experiential Visions with the Experience Map

Academic journal article International Journal of Design

From Abstract to Tangible: Supporting the Materialization of Experiential Visions with the Experience Map

Article excerpt

Introduction

In experience-driven design, designers aim at creating products that trigger rich and engaging experiences for people (Desmet & Schifferstein, 2011). For example, designers may want to wake up people ‘with the light of sunrise’, like in the popular ‘Wake-up’ lamp from Philips (Hassenzahl, 2011). Or, they may want office workers to engage with a copying machine as if they were ‘dancing’ with it (Hekkert, Mostert & Stompff, 2003). These descriptions envision novel experiences that designers aim at during users’ interactions with products (Schifferstein & Hekkert, 2008). The experiences that arise from these interactions are subjective and context-specific, dynamically evolving over the course of product usage, and often influenced by multiple factors (Desmet & Hekkert, 2007; Hassenzahl, 2011). Hence, designing for novel product experiences can be highly challenging to pursue.

Over the last two decades, several design methodologies have been proposed to support designers in this process. These methodologies differ on premises and outcomes, whether targeting a material’s unique expression, a specific emotional reaction, or a multisensory experience (Karana, Giaccardi, Stamhuis, & Goossensen, 2016; Desmet, 2002; Schifferstein, 2011), but they all share the goal of guiding designers through the process of designing for novel and meaningful experiences. They describe some steps that designers should go through, and some general activities that can assist them during specific moments of the process, such as user studies to explore users’ perspective in-depth, or mind maps to organize creative thoughts. Other tools offer instead support for more specific issues, such as material considerations related to the meaning people associate with products (Karana, Hekkert & Kandachar, 2010), the tactile aesthetics of a product (Sonneveld, 2007), or the design of the product’s interactive behavior (Colombo, 2014; Lim, Lee & Lee, 2009; Diefenbach, Lenz & Hassenzahl, 2013). Meanwhile, another part of the literature, prevalently related to interaction design and human-computer interaction, suggests the consideration of experience from an embodied cognition perspective. In this perspective, experiences are seen as complex phenomena that are lived through the body and that are difficult to capture and represent through user research (Klemmer, Hartmann & Takayama, 2006). This approach suggests to rely less on logical thinking and more on the use of the body as a means to materialize conceptual ideas, for example through experience prototyping (Buchenau & Fulton-Suri, 2000; Camere & Bordegoni, 2016), enactment (van Rompay, Hekkert, Saakes, & Russo, 2005), and thinking through doing (Klemmer et al., 2006). These approaches are particularly relevant to design with a focus on the performative qualities of products (Giaccardi & Karana, 2015; Karana, Barati, Rognoli, & Zeeuw Van Der Laan, 2016), when designing novel wearable technologies that aspire to be ‘worn’ and taken ‘close to the body’ (Tomico & Wilde, 2016) or with a focus on movement and spatial relationships (Camere, Caruso, Bordegoni, Di Bartolo, Mauri, & Pisino, 2015). To transform these experiential explorations into more tangible ideas, some research groups suggest the use of design schemas (Biskjaer, Dalsgaard & Halskov, 2014), interaction quality frameworks (Ross & Wensveen, 2010), user experience sketches (Buxton, 2010), or low-fidelity prototypes and material artefacts (Hummels, Overbeeke & Klooster, 2007; Isbister, Höök, Sharp, & Laaksolahti, 2006; Bergström, Clark, Frigo, Mazé, Redström, & Vallgårda, 2010).

All these methods and tools aim at assisting designers in the experience-driven design process, either at the initial stage of idea generation or in the final step of embodiment design, i.e., detailing the product design. However, we propose that between these stages there is a transition phase, during which designers can explore several alternative materializations of their initial idea. …

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