Notes on Design & Emotion 2014

From October the 6th until the 10th, the 9th edition of Design & Emotion conference took place in Colombia. The conference was preceded by several workshops that happened in some of the main Colombian cities (Medellín, Cali and Bogotá).

The 2014 conference theme was the colors of care and it aimed at opening the discussion on Design, Emotion and Social Innovation. The main subthemes included: design for social innovation, theoretical and methodological issues of design and emotion, well-being and sustainability and experience and interaction. The event brought together a quite international community of practitioners, researchers and industry representatives, which allowed cross-disciplinary knowledge exchange and discussion.

How to use emotions to reach better designs was one of the research questions addressed in many papers. In these cases, authors borrowed from emotion theory and presented proposals in which emotions were identified at the very beginning of the design process in order to find conflicting concerns among end-users (examples of this approach can be found in the work of Deger Ozkaramanli, Elif Özcan and Pieter Desmet). A different approach was adopted by Steven Fokkinga, with a paper co-authored by P. Desmet, who explored how to use negative emotions, such as fear, to enrich product users’ experience. In this case, the design researcher presented a mobile app that intended to add engagement to running by simulating the experience of being chased. It is interesting to note that, according to these authors, emotion approaches can help improve a design not only at the initial stage of the project, but also to elaborate the design concept into final products.

Emotions are strongly connected to user experience (UX). In this regard, researchers were analyzing the role of emotions from a product design approach, as well as from an interaction design perspective. Some of the presentations focused on providing new models for holistically assessing the UX. An interesting review of the state of the art of UX models was provided by von Saucken and Gomez (2014) who presented an unified model that took into consideration contributions of previous models. Beyond the adoption of a certain model, understanding what is and what characterizes an experience is a key aspect of any design process. The definition provided by von Saucken. C. & Gomez, R. can give some insights about what elements should be considered when talking about experience:
“Experiences are situated in a real life and need to be considered from this perspective, and due to their nature are complex, contextual, evolving, dynamic, short and long-term, and deal with the issue of time” (pp. 631, 2014).

The issue of time seems to be also a crucial aspect when designing for behavior change. In this case, the work of Geke Ludden builds on health psychology, concretely on the Transtheoretical model of behavior change proposed by Prochaska and di Clemente (1992), to design products that influence people’s behaviors. According to this model, people go through the following five stages when engaging in a behavior change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. Considering people’s different attitudes, specially regarding motivation, in each of the states, Ludden highlights the need to design accordingly and adapt the designs to the way people actually behave, instead of forcing them to act in other ways, independently of how desirable and beneficial they might be. Although it can be difficult to tackle users’ evolving needs in one single design, it would be good to consider the time slot for using a product, as well as the particular user state – motivation – for using that product/service.

Design for behavior change links with approaches based on data monitoring, such as quantified-self, that take advantage of user’s data to create awareness, encourage reflection and / or suggest different behaviors. In this regard, wearable technology is regarded as a promising option for designing new interaction concepts that enrich the overall UX.

Our contribution to the conference discussions was focused in the methods. In this occasion, we presented Feeler reflection game, a case study on a design game for participatory design. The paper was co-authored with Teemu Leinonen and J.F. González. The use of design games as a technique for achieving an empathic understanding between designers and users during the contextual inquiry was considered promising and we got some valuable feedback. Session attendants shared a similar view about the role of game materials as objects to think with and were interested in how to design them in order to engage different stakeholders.

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