Tuesday, May 31, 2005


can users "love" something important?

Could it be that users don't want excitement for things they "need", they only want excitement for things they don't need? If so, what limits does that place on what kinds of things can be addressed by emotional design?

I've been revisiting Del Coates' excellent book, Watches tell more than time. Coates makes a distinction between "contrast" which is mostly important for essential information, and "novelty", which is mostly important for discretionary information. Novelty is about "elevated states of arousal that are aesthetically important." On this interesting insight, Coates adds little.

Novelty, and arousal, are clearly an important aspects of much emotional design. But if users feel these aspects are only appropriate for discretionary information, then emotional design might be relegated to the realm of the frivolous. Alternatively, a "exciting" treatment of a serious design object might be welcomed only when users are no longer excited.

Some of these implications sound like they fit, even though I also have some doubts. People often do feel a disconnect between their expectation that something needs to be understood, and seeing a novel treatment of it that appeals to their senses instead of their head. This may explain why drabness prevails in the corporate world -- novelty is bad for comprehension (small wonder Apple's candy-colored Macs never made it in the corporate world.)

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