the research brief
In his book: “Emotional Design – Why we love (or hate) everyday things”, Donald Norman states there are three levels of processing: Visceral, Behavioural & Reflective. Every object can elicit a range and blend of these responses and it these that we are going to investigate. This understanding will enable you to control and influence, the responses people have to the objects you design and make.
Personal & Cultural:
Donald Norman’s second & third levels of processing are Behavioural & Reflective. These are conscious responses to objects that rely on personal and/or cultural histories, and connect people to objects through recognition & memory.
Behavioural & reflective processing can connect through personal histories, reminding people of objects and memories from their own childhood or family. They can also reflect an individual’s memory of wider cultural histories, referencing objects that are part of a shared experience, and that are culturally or socially significant.
Brief 1 – Research and present objects that are significant from your own personal history, and also objects from a your wider personal experience of history and culture. In addition to more historical artefacts, research and present a range of more contemporary objects/products that reference personal and/or cultural histories, to inform their design.
The first brief I will look into my family history and culture - I will explore my Irish heritage, my parents, my grandparents etc. I will look at nostalgia and question why I have these emotions towards the products.
Material & Visceral:
The materiality of an object is so much more than the simple physical embodiment of a 3D form. Every material has physical properties such as weight, texture, softness, resilience… that will affect the object physical qualities. It might be that the material or making/manufacturing processes used are unexpected; challenging our perception of what is an appropriate material for a particular object, or what is the appropriate use for a particular material/process. Maybe the material or making process has modified or enhanced the functionality, maybe it has challenged our perception of the object value, or altered our emotional connection with the object –materials make the object.
Visceral is the deepest level of processing, and is perhaps the most difficult level to define and analyse. It’s often difficult to separate innate responses from behavioural or cultural responses, the ones which are learned or acquired. This is because visceral processing applies to the subconscious; rapid reactions that are innate to all humans, and as such, the subconscious can be hidden, elusive and difficult to grasp.
Brief 2 – Research and present a range of objects and products with surprising, innovative, delightful or engaging use of materials and processes. How have these affected the physical and emotional qualities? Look for products where material choice has changed, developed or enhanced the function, interaction, aesthetic quality, narrative or cultural association.
Within your research into material qualities, try to identify objects that also use human visceral processing to manipulate an emotional response or connection. The way this response is elicited might be through form, colour, touch, smell, sound… and the responses should cover a range of emotional states such as; disgust, joy, surprise, fear, serenity, sadness
The second brief is far more interesting to be as some of it relates to senses and sensory processing, an area I am already interested within. Donald Norman speaks about the importance of 'visibility' (Norman, 1988) but that is only one of the way we process. Looking beyond just what we see and understanding how the touch, smell, sound of materials contributes to our relationships with them is even more important that addressing just the visual. Norman also speaks about the 'phycology of materials' and how that effects our response to them. These are areas I will explore during the research phase.
Norman, D. (1988). The psychology of everyday things. 1st ed. New York: Basic Books.
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