Our design consultancy of “travelers” can enrich a companies’ products by holistically teaching emotional designing, creating market advantage.By Sophie Brenny and Marjolein Wintermans
Part 1: What and Why (meaning of)
Part 2: Who and How (positioning)
I) The Strategic Value of Emotional Meaning
The Evolution of the Meaning of Industrial DesignThe value and uses of Industrial Design has changed a lot since the Industrialisation period in the 19th century. The past is defined by the evolution of mass production and fifty years ago by user satisfaction.
Currently we are in the digital revolution. Focus on services has appeared but is very general. We see this as a dehumanizing event as it is individualistic. In other words user-centred in a non-physical and impersonal way.
We see a trend that is developing towards the need of open processes, and a departure from mass production towards emotional and meaningful production. An evolution of services and products that will grow into a personal, social physical network resulting in an increase in emotional meaning.
What is Emotional Designing and Emotional Meaning?Consumers are complex beings. Each is unique because of their thoughts, emotions, attitude, beliefs and culture . Memories and past experiences shape our overall impressions.
Individuals choose and use products because of these aspects of their nature . As Pieter Desmet says:
“Even conventional products such as mobile telephones and fabric softeners can evoke complex and layered emotional profiles” .
This could be translated as emotions being the ultimate reason people buy a product . Emotion creates a dialogue between a consumer and a product or service in a specific context.
It is important to note that you can’t design emotional meaning but you can trigger it.  According to us this means humanizing the product or service will generate enjoyfull experiences.
Why is Emotional Meaning Relevant?
“Emotional attachment to products can encourage people not to discard a product” [Desmet].
People value it more, which means that the products lifecycle is prolonged.
“When low prices is the result of meaningless cost cuts, then the consumers clearly feel miserable and envious of more meaningful and valuable products” .
Creating personal products that fit a consumer’s identity makes them feel understood.
When there is emotional meaning and attachment to a product it creates a competitive advantage. Desmet states that
Meaningful products and services create an increase in customers, customer loyalty and brand name. This in turn increases the revenue for the company and creates a high valued competitive advantage that cannot be successfully duplicated .
“Some products are more exciting than others, and this experience of excitement is often seen as something that should be strived because it motivates customers to prefer one product over another” .
II) Positioning Ourselves in this Strategic Value
Who are we as designers?To position ourselves in relation with this discovered strategic value, we see ourselves as a Design Consultancy. The skills that we would need to achieve this role are varied.
First of all the designer need to be empathy-driven. This links to the second necessity, which is being a good correspondent between various branches of a company and disciplines. If needed the designer can be the translator that ensures each part of the company understand each other. This can be connected to a way of thinking which we call “the traveler”.
This is a designer who dares to experiment, explore and is able to trace and communicate the design process from both an involved and holistic view. As such, our role as emotionally driven travelers will be to inspire and guide small companies (3 to 10 people) in an early project initiation.
The importance of the mentioned roles was confirmed when talking to companies during the “Bedrijvendag” at the TU/e on the 26th of February 2013.
Companies interested in Industrial Designers stated that their holistic skills and their ability to communicate and translate between different branches and disciplines was key. It was also seen as a great resource that designers communicate with users and understand them on a more personal and holistic level.
How would we use the Defined Strategic Value?Being empathy driven, as travelers, it is our opinion that face-to-face quality time is imperative. Therefore a simple telephone call would be too impersonal in our envisioned total process. Instead, we would use various physical touch points that would have different focal points.
For instance, start with a general contact aimed at intriguing a firm, which could lead to a meeting where we would explain in detail the “why” of emotional designing. This would than be followed by us organizing a workshop to teach them methods and a concluding consult.
Since we find it important that the companies apply and become immersed in the theory, we would give them hands-on exercises. One possible example is letting them choose an existing product and combining it with a or several emotion(s) . We would want to implement this as a rapid 1 hour session. The goal being for employees to understand how they can apply such a tool into their own New Product Development (NPD).
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