It’s here. It’s finally here. You breathe deeply… It feels like months, but in reality it’s only been a week. A week of fervently checking your UPS tracking data twelve to fifteen times a day. But finally the wait is over. Before you sits the box which holds all your expectations and, for that matter, your hard-earned money.
You make a hole in the film covering the box with an unnecessarily large kitchen knife, peel it back, and lift off the lid. There it is. You notice a tab poking out a little way, you give it a pull, gently lifting your new baby from where it lies entombed within its cardboard cocoon. Now, below where it once lay, you see an assortment of perfectly arranged accessories, inviting you to explore their colour-coordinated intricacies — tempting you with their perfectly formed little bodies.
You can’t help but be impressed. There’s nothing quite like unboxing an Apple product for the first time.
In fact, unboxing Apple products is such a religious experience that it spawned an entire internet phenomenon: Unboxing videos. People are so impressed by how perfect the packaging is that they simply have to share it with their friends – as wel as the rest of the world. Great design? Definitely. Mass-appreciation coincidence? Definitely not.
In 1998, the iMac was already a revolutionary device. Not only was it one of the first computers to offer USB as standard, it was also one of the first to abandon the floppy disk drive. Apple have always been a company who make moves towards where they believe personal computing is going next, rather than where it is now. Undoubtedly its form factor was the most creative in computing history to date (wait, the computer is inside the monitor?) but the design process didn’t stop there. When Apple engineers boxed up the iMac for the first time they examined a problem which had plagued all CRT monitors up until that moment in time. Once you’ve taken it home, how do you get it out of the box?
For years the answer was, as those of you old enough to remember will recall, to teeter over to the nearest sofa, bed, or other soft item of furnishing — and gently attempt to tip the whole box upside down. Praying, all the while, that the damn thing wouldn’t promptly bounce off aforementioned soft item of furnishing and smash into several pieces. Or smash your foot into several pieces.
Thinking different, as was the slogan at the time, Apple decided to address this. Instead of challenging their customers to a duel with gravity as a free bonus with every purchase, they added a large handle to the top of the iMac’s casing. When you opened up the box, the first thing you would see was this big colourful, inviting handle. It said “lift me up” — no further explanation required. It just worked.
This original concept remains today in every single Apple product. Nowadays it generally comes in the form of a small plastic tab immediately visible once you open the box, rather than a huge handle, as the size of computers has reduced over the years — but the principle is the same. Apple don’t just design the hardware and the software which runs on it, they design exactly what you’ll do when you open the box for the first time. They predict your emotions, your feelings, your anticipation, and they design your behaviour as a result of it. Now isn’t that something?
A New Discipline
Design has always consisted of many disciplines, and this is but the latest: “Designing Emotion.”
Designing Emotion goes beyond designing products and services and businesses, it focuses on obtaining a deep understanding of your users and how they feel. It focuses on the psychology behind user experience and, in some cases, how to predict and manipulate it in great detail. This book aims to explore this subject, and despite the existence of several books of a similar title which examine an emotional approach to design. This book is about a designed approach to emotion.
In early 2010 I watched as my good friend Adii Pienaar delivered a fantastic keynote presentation at a conference in Newcastle. His presentation was all about designing your business and incorporating design into every aspect of it. About half way through the talk, he referenced a service called BaseCamp — by 37Signals, which confused me slightly. I knew what BaseCamp was, but it didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of what he was talking about. After the talk had been completed and question-time had begun, I quizzed Adii (somewhat gleefully) as to how he thought a user interface notable primarily by its lack of visual interest, such as that of BaseCamp, was an example of good design. I wasn’t prepared for his answer. He claimed that it wasn’t the user interface that was an example of good design. Rather, it was the way in which it worked and how people use it, that had been specifically and meticulously designed.
Penny : floor.
This concept stuck with me over the following days and weeks. I couldn’t get it out of my head. It seemed so simple, but for some reason it hadn’t really occurred to me until that moment. This wasn’t the same old conversation about usability and testing whether or not something worked, this was a new idea about looking at designing how people used it after it had been established as fully-working. About predicting behaviour and modifying it. About stepping into the head of the user and guiding them without ever actually telling them what to do. Designing user interactions using psychology and careful analysis of the human condition… now there was an interesting thought. Designing Emotion was born.
The single key behind Designing Emotion is to step into the subconscious of your user and then create the experience which you want them to have. This book is the result of the hundreds of hours which I’ve spent exploring and being fascinated by this subject ever since Adii planted the seed in my head. It explores all the reasons for how we perceive and how we interact with products, people, marketing campaigns, advertising and most of the things we come into contact with in our day-to-day lives. It’s about creating things which people really care about and creating the reasons themselves for people to care in the first place.