SXSW 2008: From Frustration to Elation: Getting Emotional by Design

by danhon

From Frustration to Elation: Getting Emotional by Design

Room B
Sunday, March 9th
11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Dan Rubin  Black Seagull/Sidebar Creative

Eris Stassi   Interaction Designer,   Apple
Didier Hilhorst   Interaction Designer,   IDEO

[Best slides so far and typography]

ES: Introduction – this icon was put together by someone on my team. So you have an attachment to products you use – why? What causes that? In the US, in the western world, we don’t have a word for that – we assume relationships are with other people. In Japan, the word is aichaku. It’s love for a product.

Dan: Products tht make you happy – bodum, threadless, content, pleased appreciated, successful, delighted, rock band, (cool). These products all evoke some sort of emotional response. We know that. When it’s done right, we’re not usually aware of it, we feel it but we don’t feel like it’s purposely doing it. How do these products do that? First impressions.

ES: First impressions make such a huge impact: they make the same impact with products. The first time you plug something in, pick something up. All other lasting impressions feed off of that. A lot of times, we don’t think about the initial first impression. The first thing shouldn’t be to get batteries, a 10 hour install. What we want to do is make a positive first impression. The first time they open the box, then we loes half the audience right there. You want to hold on to that happy emotional feeling and response. The way you can do that is by communication.

Dan: Let’s put this in terms that we’re used to. Interactions with people: we don’t think about the positive emotions with software, products, clothing. We have them, but we don’t think about them. Communication is key. We unfortuantely don’t get to go to counselling with our products but with people good communication starts off a great relationship. Products that communicate well will always be a step ahead, thinking about your interests, in the same way as a person who communicates well gets to know you, anticipates your next steps, in a good way if it’s positive. It’s most important when you run into unexpected situations.

Didier: First impression is just – I try to dumb it down. Is she hot or not? It’s the same for your products, your apps, some things just are, just aren’t.  Commitment. That’s down the line. When we talk about emotion, I go into what we have with people. There’s a lot to learn about frustrations and elations. We’ll get to frustration in a minute. Commitment is a product commited to me, you, whoever’s using it. What does that mean? I had tot hink about this. Jewellery is an example of this, it’s about the size of the rock. Jewellery’s not a great example, but the Prius – you show commitment about driving a car. It’s butt ugly, but you show it by driving it. There’s the other thing – it’s better to drive a Prius to cycle, that mentality.

Dan: Forgiveness. This is another key element. If we forget those silly terms of user and product, it’s about people, we don’t give each other weird terms. Forgiveness is key in having a good relationship. If we get out of philosophical, how many times has your best friend pissed you off? I can count a lot, they’re still my best friend because of forgiveness. A good product will forgive you when you make a mistake, it’s had thought put into it about how you will interact with it. They anticipate you won’t get everything right. Just like your best friend. They’ll forgive you for living the seat up, if it doesn’t, you’ve got a bad relationship.

Didier: Before respect, when we were discussing the forgiveness slide, there was one thing I wanted to distinguish. There’s forgiveness – little mistakes, but a big difference between allowing stupidity. I think we allow a lot of stupidity, it does work, but if everyone remembers IE, it allowed for a lot of stupidity. It allowed for crap to come out.

Dan: Respect. So. Your product respecting you is as important as from any person. This sums up all the rest. It’s about communication, tone, anticipating the mistakes, forgiveness, it’s where contingency design comes into play, when we talk about respect in relationships in people, us, that’s what it’s about, it’s the sum of all of these parts. It respects you, and you can tell that the designers respect you, you can tell that it’s working, it has gained your respect through proper communication, etc. All these things. Also a respectful product doesn’t punish you for your mistakes. It doesn’t give you some strange weird error code that doesn’t tell you anything.

“A product that can correct our mistakes as they happen gains our trust”. – Maeda

Take the word product out of that, replace it with person. Your best friend – it may be a bit freaky – it’s the person who’s looking out for me, I won’t trip, they’ll make sure, they’ll watch out for me, the guy who’s got my back, my wingman, my best friend, girlfriend, they’re not waiting for me to make a mistake so they can laugh at me. Maybe when I’m drunk, but this is–

Didier: Whenever I see this slide, and I replace person for product, I see myself on my phone with my dad telling him I just got in a car crash. It’s not correcting stupidity, it’s about the smaller things that can be corrected when you go, what you can learn from.

Dan: Think for a minute about positive experiences with people, we have plenty to draw from. We don’t think of products in those terms, but we can with people. With a product, think of those experiences with people, translate them into what you’re creating. You can use those parallels to connect more. Your first kiss. Great sex. The feeling of being loved. For Didier, that probably comes higher than this one. And of really being appreciated. These are warm, fuzzy feelings. We can inject these into our products and apps. We can make these connections happen. ON the flipside, we ahve not being appreciated, feeling used, being let down, ignored, – when the imperial march comes on, it’d be perfect here. So then we’ve got the flipside, the bad relationships.

Didier: For some reason, I’m doing that. We do have the bad. Let’s go through some examples, I hope there’s no one here who works for these companies. Let’s get started.

Not being appreciated: Real Networks. Being used: RIAA. Being let down: ATM machine. Feeling ignored: cellphone. Feeling agitated: Photoshop. Touchtone menus – I never understood them, I go to that website that tells you how to get to a human, feeling resentful – Vista. There’s stuff out there that creates a negative relationship with the products we use.

So. Conflict is one of those. It’s related back to relatinships we have with people, products. Most of us have been in conflict with most of our technology. To some degree that’s natural, we’re only human. I think Eris said this, we don’t forecefully try to make bad products, I hope so, but we’re fallible, these things happen because we can’t account for everyhing, conflict is one example. Escalation is another one.

Conflict is when you’re still fighting, you’re still mastering something, still on top of things, escalation is when you’re frusteated and you’re on tech support and you’re still trying. Escalation is where things really tumble into things, where you can’t solve it anywhere.

Control – who’s in control? Am I in control? Software, products where you don’t feel in control, things are taken over. That’s a really big problem right now, how much do you give, how much do you retain.

Who’s to blame? I’m not to blame, no one is to blame, where do you put the blame of these things. And with an error message or any message you give, there’s a lot in the tone of voice you give when you blame some one. Being stubborn, do learn from your mistakes in some kind of form, this is hard to do, but there’s things that I use are stubborn but that’s just the way it’s been made and it won’t adapt.

Deception – I bought it, it looked great, and it didn’t the next day.

Dan: There is a big point here, we were talking about preparation – our goal here is to make yout hink much more clearly about how similar these emotional reactions are for products to relationships. We’ve got situations where we know we’ve had a negative reaction, the positive ones are harder to get because we don’t always think about them in the same terms, when something’s done something right, that’s what it should’ve done. When a person does something right, we think in more glowing terms. Deception is – we, at least, most of the guys in here, have gone to bars that are dimly lit and you’ve had a few drinks, this is a good analgy, this is SXSW,  we know what that feels like when interacting with people, jealousy, when interacting with people but we don’t think about it with software but there are closed document formats, that’s an example – Word docs – product jealousy. Someone not wanting your information to be portable. Anyone been in a relationship with an incredibly jealous person?

Didier: I don’t want her to be portable, dude.

Dan: Proprietary formats are an example of product jealousy.

The ultimate example of a product gone bad – HAL 9000.

We’ve got the positive, the negative, you’re starting to think in more relative terms here about products you create, use and interact with and how similar that is with interpersonal relationships, there’s another category we really don’t think about consciously enough, we don’t think about it with people, it doesn’t really happen on a conscious level, with software we’re aware of negative emotions with products, we just feel how that’s supposed to work. This last category is reallt important. It’s al about hope. It looks green. Wow.

Imagine that being yellow/gold.

This is all about redemption.

Eris: So until the robot uprising happens, we’re in control of the products we use, we fill them with ope and redemption and if we create bad products, the flaw is human, but just like every other human flaw, there is redemption. So there’s hope, and there’s redemption and we have examples for you of products that have redfined and changed industries from being hell. The Prius redefined cars about how they should behave, they should communicate, I’m going to let you feel comfortable as you’re driving because you have a huge wad of cash that didn’t go to big oil. Netflix: it redfined video, it put control of renting good movies into our control, we don’t have to go to the store, it also redeemed the postal industry. Flexcar redeemed urban and surburban car ownership and what people need, it’s not I have to have a car, I need a car now, and I can go get it. People didn’t think like that before. Method: a housecleaning product that went mainstream in Target, Walmart – you don’t need harsh chemicals, it’s good, it’s well-designed, it completely redefined. They ask now for things they can get. Tivo put control back in our hands, it redeemed the television watching industry, I can fast forward through commercials, everyone I know who owns a Tivo loves it. You can get an Apple TV, Tivo works too. All of these things come down to one principle. This is equally important as the first impressions principle:

Do Unto Others As They Would Do Unto You

On top of first impressions and the golden rule, four main impressions about what you should do:

The experience of flow. You give the user, as the user, you feel in control, you have direct, immediate feedback about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.  If it doesn’t have an endgame, if you’re flailing about, you won’t be in the zone.

Didier: Experience of flow is about storytelling, the journey you’re going on, I’m using non-technical terms. There’s a few different ways of defining a story, the gaming aspect, engaging in entertainment where you can be free, a story that can meander, but when you’re using an app, you want to meander less and have a set flow. A story can be a little more like a fairytale, but what I’m saying there is a story to tell, people use them naturally, it’s a matter of mapping that story and telling it to someone, playing it out, I’ve done it before. We’ll start roleplaying. The next one of these:

Memory recall.  When this was first introduced – what the hell is this? It’s just memories. I’ll quickly introduce what we mean by it. Photographs remind you of something, there is a tendency to do this as well in applications on a different level.

Dan: A lot of these terms and concepts are great as buzzwords, what it comes down to still is feelings, emotions. Memory recall – tastes. Smells. There are a couple of perfumes I run in to that immediately remind me of ex-girlfriends from 10 years ago, and 20 years ago they will remind me of the exact same time, person place, the same with songs.  A lof put us in a particular time an dplace, not just in our head, but in here, everywhere. We can use these base reactions that we have, our users have, we can invoke these emotions by using memory recall, we can’t use taste and smell, we can use imagery, that hits at taste and smell and sound. Who has aTivo?

If you heard the fast forward sound without the context, you’d know exactly what it was. You don’t think of that as memory recall. But it is. It’s already burned into your brain, the sound and action, and a particular product. THis is powerful stuff.

Eris: A third principle is symbolic meaning. This means that the product has the ability to feel cooler, smarter, socially conscious, funnier – anything that increases your own sense of self. The difference between a MacBook Pro and a Dell – to those of you who aren’t Dell or PC fans, this – an Apple – makes a difference, the entire thing, it has meaning. How many of you have iPhones. On behalf of my stock, thank you. You don’t entirely buy it because it makes you feel good, but it’s part of it.

The fourth one, Didier loves this one.

Didier: I felt cool for a month, then I felt really shafted about the iPhone. Tactile experience. This pertains to the domain of product and industrial design. What does this mic feel like, it’s pretty heavy. The touch of things. The thing is, we touch our hardware, but we don’t really touch our software, but now we’re starting to, it’s not satisfying, it’s cold and glassy. There’s a lot going on right now – how do we introduce tactile feedback into software. How would it be using Photoshop with tactile feedback? I don’t use Twitter. They have a tactile experience. It’s translated to a digital environment – what does that mean? I don’t have an answer. Those are interesting things to explore and try to see. How to introduce tactility to a digital environment. A lot of research has ben done but it’s still a tough one to solve.

Eris: So as we recap. Let’s go back to tactile. There’s something I learned – I live in SF, something I learned, that products do when they go into production. They take a gadget, a phone, a DVD player, and they will create it using really bad shoddy plastic products so it feels light. If it costs a lot, if it’s heavy, then it’s more valuable than its counterpart. Companies will add weight to their products to make them feel heavy, it’s deception, but we fall for it. We know. Maybe that is something we like.

Three higher principles: feelings first, then function, then form.


Q: The Nintendo Wii – when you mouseover, you feel it. Are there ways you can incorporate that in software?

Eris: So there have been a lot of companies that have been doing stuff in the touch realm, the iPhone is not the first to do that, but the idea that we should not be able to use the input devices of the keyboard and the mouse, there’s a term that we use – not haptics – anyway, yes. That.

Didier: There’s a distinction between touch screens and haptics, there’s a big difference, in haptics and gestures, there’s interesting stuff going on. The Wii taps into something natural, but gestural taps into something that’s sometimes unnatural. That’s important – how natural is that behaviour? Are people willing to learn that new behaviour?

Q: More on tactile, I think we do touch software, I touch a mouse button, I don’t think about touching the mouse button, I think about the software, you’re talking about tactile, the one example is RSI, there’s a negative.

Dan: Since tactile – the topic – especially with design for screen seems to be a big one all the time, alot of what we can do – when we’re not in charge of the input method, when we’re designing for the web, we know pretty much what people are using, but we can’t change how they use a mouse, we’re limited to the functionality of the mouse and the keyboard, what we can do though is mimic certain real world textures and  audio and that does impact the immersive quality, there’s a reason why designers like using textures – the screens don’t have textures, but if you create a warm texture visually, it gets us, our memory recall working, we feel like what we’re looking at is older. That’s how we can mimic a tactile experience without that touch.

Eris: I was going to mention earlier the idea of mental mapping – whenever you design something, you use metaphors that are already used in the real world, folders buckets, trashcans, things people know about. One of the things about tactile is that we get more of that mental mapping than we would previously with a keyboard and a mouse. I have a better mental mapping to my hand gestures than to keyboard input.

Q: I’m from the UK, I don’t know the Tivo sound, btu speaking of adding weight, my digital camera makes a shutter sound, I think over time, over 50-60 years, these things will become abstracted, they won’t remember physical cameras, that emotional weight will be harder to add?

Dan: Echoes – pockets on girls’ trousers even though they don’t have them, so the shape is stitched on even though it’s not there.The audible click on a shutter will stick around, we’ll continue to associate it even when no one has a camera like that anymore.

Q: So I have a question – what perfumes remind you of your ex-girlfriend?

Slides at