Tips from the Design & Emotion Conference, 2016

October 31, 2016 § Leave a comment


As an independent practitioner, going to a conference is a chance to connect with relevant ideas and inspiring people. Last month I attended the tenth international Design and Emotion conference in Amsterdam. My mission was to learn of developments in design and emotion, present a poster (with Dr. Suzanne Oosterwijk) and test a prototype web app. This post partly summarises three days of presentations and workshops, with tips on how to use these in your own work. 


The future of communication is multi-sensory technology

Adrian Cheok presented his experiments on extending the senses. Send a hug or kiss to a distant recipient with the Huggy Pyjamas or the Kissogram. Smell can be sent over Internet with the Senti and needs a refill. Taste is difficult to send as chemical based but a simulator electrical on tongue is in development.

Consider the possibilities: touch, smell and taste will no longer be one-to-one, but one-to-many and many-to-one. Thousands of fans can send their hugs to a popstar who can return a kiss to them all. Check out Lovotics by Hooman Aghaebrahimi Samani.


The future is product as a service

Jodi Forlizzi spoke about how design and products began as craft at a local scale. With industrialisation, it moved onto manufacturing. Currently we are familiar with product as an experience where context of use, narratives and user-centeredness are factors. The future is unfolding as products will be services, built as platforms much like UBER. Challenge: UI/UX design needs to change as a practice to update user centered design for more mass services. Designers have to think of many peoples, groups and markets.

Designing for emotion is not about transmission but about experience

A traditional branding paradigm was of the passive receiver being bombarded with sensory inputs which translated to emotional responses. Do you want to change people’s behaviours and attitudes? Explore nuanced feeling and experiences through interaction, connection and memory within intentional social practices to elicit emotion constructively.


  • Emotions are framed by experiences. The social context of experience and emotion is crucial. Ask: where is the user, what is happening in their world? What social practices are happening here?
  • Half of the work is about considering the context and practice /experience itself,
  • Think more of situations practices, activities, experiences and interaction and less in terms of things, fabrics, construction and technology ( Marc Hassenzahl).


There’s an explosion of technologies for measuring emotions but proceed with care…

Measuring emotion is still a new area with many new players and emerging ideas. There is no definitive approach as yet.


  • Question the validity of emotion measurement technology tools. Ask if this an objective or subjective analysis?
  • Triangulate data from different aspects. A combination of measures is crucial for meaning. (Kathy Thoring),
  • Take meaning from measurements and look for new insights,
  • Be aware that what’s going on in the body can be caused by many factors. Ask about context: is this sweating happening because of being hot, or being nervous?
  • Take opportunities to explore nuances of experience: tease out broad categories “joy” for example and unpack into subtler surprise, wonder, curiosity… (Jay YoonPieter Desmet).


Happiness should be the ultimate goal of design

An emerging field is Design for Wellbeing, or Positive Design with key figures Anna Pohlmeyer and Pieter Desmet. 40% of happiness is intentional, the rest is beyond our individual control – genetic tendencies 50%, 10% circumstance (Lyubomirsky). But happiness is a vague term, still very much being defined. A more workable frame is subjective wellbeing which is a consequence of experiencing enjoyable (hedonicand meaningful (eudomonic) moments throughout the day (Anna Pohlmeyer). With things and products, satisfaction reduces over time and is liable to comparisons which reduce satisfaction. However, experiences are unique and not comparable, they have personal identity rather than ownership.  Experiences can be enabled through products.



  • Talk and consider the opportunities rather than the design itself,
  • Frame your research and ideate using the Positive Design Triangle (above),
  • Check out many frameworks and tools in Delft Institute’s Positive Design Handbook: PDF link.

Design for Wellbeing doesn’t have to be about ever more mindfulness apps but connecting theory with action

Design should not be about adding extra stuff like gadgets and meditation apps. It need not perpetuate structural consumerist madnesses. Let’s question the role of Design for Wellbeing as simply enhancing productivity for the Man and whitewashing over economic injustices (Sebastian Deterding). Social sciences know but they don’t act upon their knowledge. Design can do. It’s important to put the work out there in the world and not just in showrooms and exhibitions. (Marc Hassenzahl)

Tips from Marc Hassenzahl:

  • Work on the world not about the world. Research and develop concepts in the real world, action research, autobiographical design etc.,
  • Fill the gap between abstract and concrete. Start a dialogue with someone from another field. The strength of design is connecting theory with action – we don’t have to create the theories, we can bring that in from elsewhere,
  • Be a bridge. Life is what we suggest you make it – start a dialogue between you as designer and the user.

Were you there? Anything to add? Your questions and comments are very welcome!

Full conference proceedings: here  |  Photo credit Flickr: @designandemotion

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