The Design & Emotion Society

Thought you may be interested in a fantastic FREE association called The Design & Emotion Society. For anyone involved in product design, research or innovation this society is worth checking out.

What this society aims to achieve is summed up perfectly on their website: 

“The Design & Emotion Society was established in 1999 as an international network of researchers, designers and companies sharing an interest in experience driven design. The network is used to exchange insights, research, tools and methods that support the involvement of emotional experience in product design.”
Many of the board members for this society teach at Delft University – a European institution that's at the cutting edge of innovation and design education. In terms of tangible resources, the picture above is an example of the information they share. It illustrates a research technique called Bodystorming – used here by design consultancy IDEO to generate and test ideas for a new airplane interior.

For more information, or to join, jump onto their website:

The Economy Two: Is old becoming new?

I had a great conversation with another Morphologist in Germany on the weekend, reviewing some recent psychological research on both sides of the Atlantic. One big insight that stood out was a shift towards re-creating family and cultural traditions (both in Europe and North America). It seems that in the face of mounting economic and social pressure, people are feeling an urge to re-connect with memories and history.
Sunday dinners, DIY, knitting, charity, baking, crafts, car pooling, bicycles and fedoras; there appears to be a real desire to connect with the past. For example check out the pictures from the latest Target home ware range termed ‘Grandpa’s kitchen aesthetic’ by PSFK. Old is becoming new again. 

Here’s a quote from an interviewee in North America:

“Every night now we say grace. The kids now say ‘mum, we have to say grace’. I don’t know where it came from, but they seem really smiley when they say it…I really don’t know what caused it, it just started. It’s funny because we’re not religious.” - Female (2009)

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about defaulting to the past – there seems to be a process of generational mashing going on here. It’s a process of blending tradition with transformation, history with change.

Here are some more examples:

Taking the old and making the new…

It doesn’t surprise me that people are turning to the past whilst looking to the future. One of the fundamental concepts of morphological psychology is the existence of tensions in everyday human behaviour – like the tension between history and change.

History and change are not opposed to each other; they are two faces of the same coin. It’s the foundation of history that helps us create change. Given this current economic climate, it might be important for brands and products to frame their vision for the future with a bit of history.

PostSecret: Insight online

Do you want some free in-depth insights? Try taking a look at PostSecret. It’s a blog displaying secrets that people have chosen to mail anonymously to Frank Warren, in the hope that they may be posted and shared with the world. Below is a screenshot.
On a personal level it can be quite strange reading the secrets of other people online; however as a researcher and strategist I find that it’s an incredible source of insight. So much of what we think and feel is unspoken and unconscious. These postcards are an online testament to the deeper drivers of human behavior.

Millennial (Un)employment Motivations?

Yesterday on LinkedIn, a contact recommended reading “Dude, where’s my job? What happens when the most entitled generation ever hits a recession?” It was an interesting article and reminded me of some research we conducted in 2007 exploring the employment motivations of Millennials. Based on psychological needs, the research was designed to understand how an employer could appeal to Generation Y.

While I won’t bore you with all the details, three key insights emerged:

1. The need for security and reassurance: Through out childhood and most of their adult lives, Gen Y have been connected to the umbilical cord of their parents. When taking a step into the work world, they’re keen to find an employer who can provide a substitute for this unconditional security.

2. The need for affirmation: This takes many forms. It’s not just about money, it’s about affirming development. For Gen Y, every day should be a celebration of their awesome achievements. This was symbolised by an image of multiple champagne corks popping, which was selected by research participants because it represented the 'constant celebrations' they were expecting in their future workplaces.

3. The need for autonomy and variety: They hated being trapped repeating any particular task, let alone any single desktop application. This was particularly important for recent graduates, for whom the idea of stepping off one conveyor belt (school) and stepping onto the next (career) was very scary.

So how will Millennials react to a recession? Probably in a range of ways.

Some may become professional students, choosing to stay within the secure and reassuring environment of university and education. Expect some serious credentials post recession.

Some may work for love not money, choosing to pursue affirmation through internships, volunteer work or other areas of passion. Expect some fascinating resumes post recession. 

But perhaps most interestingly, many may become entrepreneurs. Having managed their own virtual businesses (Facebook, MySpace) for years, they’re pretty good at building networks, promoting their brand and innovating. If the opportunities don’t exist, you should expect them to make their own.

The Economy: Consumer Reflections & Brand Implications

Recent market research we've been conducting with consumers has uncovered some interesting insights into the current economic climate. Not only is the situation ‘shaking’ many consumer bank accounts, but it’s also starting to ‘shake’ their thinking.

For the past few years, families have made significant sacrifices in order to squirrel away their assets and wealth. Seeing it disappear is sparking some serious reflection - if all of our effort led to a net financial loss, perhaps we’d be better off focusing on a net emotional gain?

Here’s a neat quote from a father we interviewed illustrating the point: 

“Look at this economic crisis – there are people who can no longer look in the mirror and get a good feeling. People bought into this whole lifestyle thing, where what you have is what you buy. They become a slave to the dollar…It’s a money wheel, we’re like hamsters on a wheel. That’s the analogy for today’s life!! When you gotta have what’s new and best, you end up getting on that money wheel.” - Male (2009)

This same idea was illustrated a few years ago by JWT London in a TVC for Kit Kat

So what happens next? What are the implications for a brand?

Whilst people don’t seem to be abandoning the money wheel, they’re starting to reflect on their situation. This same course of action would be a good idea for many brands too. Reflecting and responding to shifts in consumer sentiment is the key to survival and success for a brand. In fact, to quote one of our clients: 

“Tough times are when great brands are built; what companies do now will determine their future in the market. This crash has turned the market into a muddy field and washed away a lot of competitive advantage. The brands that make their mark now will have a footprint for a very long time to come.” 

From what we are seeing, this current economic crisis may represent a turning point for many consumers and an opportunity for many companies. Ultimately big ideas often emerge from adversity – and a big shift in consumer sentiment creates a platform for these ideas. The question is, which great leaders and great brands will emerge?

All consuming internet search

During recent research we conducted on family eating behaviour, a side topic that occasionally emerged was internet usage - and the way it is simultaneously consumed and all consuming for many people. When it was all consuming, a pattern of behavior seemed to emerge.

Step One: Attraction to the endless possibilities of information and knowledge (hmmm…I wonder what else I could learn about XYZ?).

Step Two: The compulsion to collect everything and uncover the ultimate answer (just one more page, just one more article).

Step Three: The effect of an information hangover (wow…that was a huge waste of time).

Here’s a neat little quote from a woman we interviewed, illustrating the process:

“I’m addicted to the internet. If I’m being honest that’s actually a pretty good statement, it consumes most of my time. I don’t run my life around it per se, but my whole life is run around it. I live in front of my computer, which is why I don’t get anything done… Some of it’s good and some of it’s bad. I get mad at myself when I start researching something - and I don’t even know what I’m researching. Sometimes I end up thinking it was a complete waste of my time. For example when I focus on stuff I really don’t need to focus on. Like recently someone I knew was having a fecal blood test; that really got me going! Did I stop at one site? No! It was a complete waste of my time.” - Mother (2008)

In these instances the process of consuming information actually becomes more important than the information itself. For example, how many times do people actually manage to diagnose an illness on WebMD? Rarely? Never? But they keep trying, because the success of this site isn’t based on delivering outcomes; it’s based on delivering possibilities.