It is my belief that there is a direct relationship between the life we lead and the things we surround ourselves with. A fruitful life is the result of being surrounded by objects that offer positive affective reactions such as motivation, pride, glee, comfort, pleasure and satisfaction. For these objects to provide people these affective responses, the objects must help them reach the goals they are trying to achieve during the interaction. There is never a single goal, hence why I purposely use the word in plural.
On a straightforward task such as throwing out the trash, there’s a clear goal: getting the trash out of the home. Nevertheless there are additional goals that aren’t as obvious for instance, keeping the trash contained during the process, getting it picked up by trash collectors, not getting filthy during the process, getting the task done as fast as possible and not being overwhelmed by the smell. Due to all these goals, the task experience is designed by a combination of objects and services that facilitates the accomplishment of the goals. The design of trash bags and waste-baskets as well as the trash collecting guidelines and services support these goals.
The search for happiness, meaning, and satisfaction are part of human nature. This means that these searches are always goals in people’s lives, therefore they must be taken into consideration when designing objects, experiences, services and environments. When tasks are repeated habitually in such a way that people cannot escape them, achieving these ever-present goals must be required. Everyday tasks are often overlooked as small responsibilities we are required to do in order to be functioning independent humans; but when there are many frequent everyday tasks, they add up, taking up a large part of our life.
When there are everyday tasks that produce negative affective responses, it means we have a problem. We have failed to design for the user’s needs. We need to change the environments around these “small’ everyday tasks that produce negative affective responses. In order to truly be doing Human-Centered Design, we must turn the affective responses from negative to positive. How can we design objects as a vehicle for a positive affective experience? How can we change experiences and perceptions so deeply ingrained in our upbringing and our society?
Depression vs. Joy
Positive affective experience, or Joy. Joy is the umbrella term for pleasant emotions such as happiness, surprised, comfortable, relaxed, satisfied, etc. This was the emotion I wanted to provoke through my design choices. After all, I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that play and work aren’t opposites. We can definitely enjoy life and work at the same time. Instead, the opposite of enjoying life is being depressed. There’s already proof that our surroundings affect our mental health. It’s no longer my belief; it’s a proven fact.
Google offices are famous for reinventing how a workplace looks and feels like. Their approach was to focus on the employee’s wellbeing and incorporating creative spaces to increase creativity and productivity.
Image credit: 2018 Google
Gernes describes the colors in the Herlev Hospital as having an atmospheric function as well as artistic. Patients of the hospital described being cheered up by the colors. Statistics show that patients get healthier faster when surrounded by positivity.
Painted by Poul Gernes
After the school shooting of 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School was rebuilt with new anti-terror measures. The design not only focuses on physical safety but emotional safety by keeping spaces, open and inviting.
Sandy Hook Elementary School
by Svigals + Partners
In an interactive multiroom installation at Spazio Maiocchi, A Space for Being will explore the field of neuroaesthetics and how design and the elements around us have the potential to impact our biology and well-being.
A Space for Being exhibition in Milano
by Google, Muuto and Reddymade
Somewhere in Tokyo, there’s an apartment complex focused on joy and health in its design, the Reversible Destiny Lofts. The design plays with the materials, colors, textures and our associations with different characteristics to give us an experience that will bring joy.
At this fork on the road, in order to move forward with my designs, I needed to understand how to design an experience and how to design joy.
Reversible Destiny Lofts
by Arakawa and Madeline Gins