Emotion-centered design with Matter—Mind Studio

I spoke with Lillian Tong and Colleen Doyle from NEW INC members, Matter—Mind Studio, about what it means to take the idea of emotion-centered design and put it into practice.

A core belief of Matter—Mind Studio is the importance of seeking expertise from everyone. Emotions are very personal and we shouldn’t assume that others feel the same way as we do. Trust and respect that people are the experts at their own experience.

Objects are reflections of our identity, and are how we tell stories of ourselves and others. They show how we make sense of the world.

Preemptive approaches to looking at human behavior

Emotional Waste Management case study: Can understanding people’s attachment and detachment behaviors to objects and material goods preemptively slow down the creation of waste? How do these objects function in our lives psychologically? Some learnings from this process included building patterns and taxonomies of object attachment.

Objects are tools to help us articulate those difficult-to-describe emotions. When we externalize them by putting them into objects, describing them can become easier.

Can objects become mediators? How are they involved in emotional feedback loops?

When are emotional responses more appropriate or effective over rational ones? There is a lack of precedents for design research and methodologies that tap into how emotional feedback loops are created and facilitated. When research is done about the use of products, it’s done through the lens of “thinking” (what do you think about this?) rather than emotions (“how do you feel about this?”). Matter—Mind want to create tools for emotional intelligence that help people investigate their hopes and desires, their fears and anxieties.

Grief workshop case study: What are some of the other emotions other than sadness and/or anger that surround grief? Does bringing in objects attached to the deceased, and not to the feeling of grief, help to uncover some of these emotions and ultimately lead to healing?

Understanding emotions and shifting industries

Re-framing rituals and creating new ones

Design Poetics case study: Can work-centered design thinking that takes place in designing for office spaces be made more emotion-centered? Can creating “ritualistic” objects become bonding moments with your team or managers? Some learnings from this process included the fact that people working in offices wanted to feel supported in their interests instead of just through standard ergonomics.

Small versus big data

Know that you can’t know everything in your design process. This puts you in a different mindset about who, and how complex your users are. Talking to a smaller group often gives more contextual information and understanding of entire target groups’ emotional and human experiences.

Check out the Matter—Mind Studio’s Medium publication, where they write extensively on the topics presented above.

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