www.ijdesign.org 21 International Journal of Design Vol. 7 No. 3 2013
The pursuit of individual happiness is central to life. Surprisingly,
psychology did not study it extensively until only a decade ago.
In 2000, Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi noted: “[P]sychologists
have scant knowledge of what makes life worth living” (p. 5) and
accordingly started Positive Psychology. Since then the empirical
study of happiness has gained signicant momentum (e.g.,
Kahneman, 1999, 2011; Lopez & Snyder, 2009; Lyubomirsky,
2007; Seligman, 2011).
Borrowing from Lyubomirsky (2007), we understand
happiness as the “experience of joy, contentment, or positive
well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good,
meaningful and worthwhile” (p. 32). It, thus, has an immediate,
specic, affective component that is experiencing many pleasant
and only few unpleasant moments in different situations, and a
more long-term, global, cognitive component of general life
satisfaction (see subjective well-being, Diener, 2000). In other
words, the pursuit of happiness requires the acquisition of positive
experiences on a day-to-day basis and a more general assessment
of life as positive and meaningful. Obviously, happiness can be
understood as outside the control of individuals, a result of mere
destiny, lucky circumstances, or genetic predisposition. However,
studies show (see Lyubomirsky, 2007, for an overview) that a
good part of happiness depends on activities and is, thus, variable.
Through the deliberate and active engagement with the world,
people can—at least to some degree—take control over their
experiences and, thus, make themselves more (or less) happy.
This raises an exciting but challenging opportunity for
Industrial Design, Product Design, and Interaction Design:
Should it not be possible to “design for happiness” by enriching
people’s everyday lives with positive experiences through
artifact-mediated activities? This challenge is two-fold: First, it
requires a profound understanding of what a positive experience
is and how it is created through “activity.” Second, it requires
strategies to create and mediate experiences through “stuff.”
The present paper explores this notion of experience-centered
design of artifacts with happiness in mind. We start with a
clarication of what an experience is, closing with a reection
about the relationship between experiences and the material. We
then outline potential steps of Experience Design with the help
of an illustrative case study. Finally, we reect upon the morality
implied by designing experiences.
From Happiness to Affect, Needs,
Practices, and Things
Experience is a concept with a rich history and meaning
(Jay, 2005). Many interpretations and foci exist. Note that we are
fully aware of this and do not intend to “colonialize” the term.
Experience and Experience Design just come closest to what we
actually attempt to convey.
Designing Moments of Meaning and Pleasure.
Experience Design and Happiness
Marc Hassenzahl 1,*, Kai Eckoldt 1, Sarah Diefenbach 1, Matthias Laschke 1, Eva Lenz 1, and Joonhwan Kim 2
1 Folkwang University of the Arts, Essen, Germany
2 Samsung Electronics, South Korea
While society changes its focus from “well-fare” to “well-being,” design becomes increasingly interested in the question whether it can
design for happiness. In the present paper, we outline Experience Design, an approach which places pleasurable and meaningful moments
at the center of all design efforts. We discuss reasons for focusing on experiences, and provide conceptual tools to help designers, such
as a model of an artifact as explicitly consisting of both the material and the experiential. We suggest psychological needs as a way to
understand and categorize experiences, and “experience patterns” as a tool to distill the “essence” of an experience for inscribing it into
artifacts. Finally, we briey reect upon the morality implied by such experiential artifacts.
Keywords – Case Study, Experience Design, Positive Design, Responsibility, Well-being.
Relevance to Design Practice – Outlines the application of Experience Design, an approach which focuses on the design of pleasurable
and meaningful moments inscribed into and mediated through the material (objects, technology).
Citation: Hassenzahl, M., Eckoldt, K., Diefenbach, S., Laschke, M., Lenz, E., & Kim, J. (2013). Designing moments of meaning and pleasure. Experience design and happiness.
International Journal of Design, 7(3), 21-31.
Received March 12, 2013; Accepted July 16, 2013; Published November 30, 2013.
Copyright: © 2013 Hassenzahl, Eckoldt, Diefenbach, Laschke, Lenz, & Kim.
Copyright for this article is retained by the authors, with rst publication rights
granted to the International Journal of Design. All journal content, except
where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-
NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License. By virtue of their appearance in this open-
access journal, articles are free to use, with proper attribution, in educational and
other non-commercial settings.
*Corresponding Author: firstname.lastname@example.org
www.ijdesign.org 22 International Journal of Design Vol. 7 No. 3 2013
Designing Moments of Meaning and Pleasure. Experience Design and Happiness
We understand an experience as “an episode, a chunk of
time that one went through—with sights and sounds, feelings and
thoughts, motives and actions [...] closely knitted together, stored
in memory, labeled, relived, and communicated to others. An
experience is a story, emerging from the dialogue of a person with
her or his world through action” (Hassenzahl, 2010, p. 8). After
going through an episode, people engage in meaning-making.
They literally tell stories to themselves (and others; Baumeister
& Newman, 1994). These stories contain the When, Where, and
What, detailing a temporal-spatial structure and the content of the
experience. In addition, people can tell whether their experience
had been positive or negative (i.e., affectivity). Affectivity is a
crucial ingredient of experience (Desmet & Hekkert, 2007; Forlizzi
& Battarbee, 2004; Hassenzahl, 2010; McCarthy & Wright,
2004)—any experience has an “emotional thread” (McCarthy &
Wright, 2004), and it is this affectivity which relates experiences
However, to stop there would fall short of inspiring design.
The question is not whether positivity is to be considered; the
question is where the positivity stems from. We argue that it is
actually the fulllment (or frustration) of psychological needs
that renders an experience positive (or negative) and personally
signicant, that is, meaningful. For example, in a study of positive
experiences with technology (Hassenzahl, Diefenbach, & Göritz,
2010), a young woman conded this story: “I was on a short trip
to Dublin. In the early hours, my mobile phone woke me up. My
boyfriend, who stayed at home, had just texted a sweet ‘I love
you’” (p. 353). This experience has many elements: a traveling
woman, far away from home, a boyfriend, missing her in the
early hours, and a mobile phone, providing the possibility to
text a personal message. However, the meaning and positivity of
the experience is derived from her feeling close to a signicant
other person—it is a story of love, separation, and longing. The
experience fullls the young woman’s psychological need for
belongingness, togetherness, closeness—in short: relatedness
(e.g., Epstein, 1990; Maslow, 1954; Ryan & Deci, 2000). In fact,
Diener, Oishi, and Lucas (2009) offered “need and goal satisfaction
theories” as one of the two major theoretical explanations for the
“variable” parts of happiness (as opposed to the “stable” parts of
happiness based on genetic predisposition).
It is beyond the scope of this paper to fully discuss the
concept of psychological needs and underlying goal theories
(see Hassenzahl, 2010, for an introduction and application
to interactive products). This paper will merely consider
psychological needs as a way to ascertain that an experience is
positive and personally meaningful. Sheldon, Elliot, Kim, and
Kasser (2001) concisely summarized need theories into a set of 10
psychological needs, and empirically demonstrated a relationship
between need fulllment and positive (negative) affectivity in life
events. Hassenzahl et al.(2010; see also Hassenzahl, 2008; Partala
& Kallinen, 2012) replicated this for positive experiences with
technological artifacts. They found a correlation of .62 (and .58 in
an unpublished replication with over a thousand cases) of intensity
of retrospectively reported need fulllment and positive affect.
Based on our practical design work in the context of
Interaction Design, Sheldon et al.’s (2001) and our own studies, we
narrowed the suggested set of ten needs down to a relevant set of
six: autonomy, competence, relatedness, popularity, stimulation,
and security (refer to Table 1). These six needs can be understood
as potential “sources” of positivity, meaning—and ultimately—
happiness, when fullled. Such a set at hand allows to further
characterize many experiences by their specic “need prole,”
revealing most and least salient needs. In fact, positive experiences
are often marked by one especially salient need (Hassenzahl et
al., 2010). Thus, needs provide categories of experiences, such as
“competence experiences” or “relatedness experiences.”
Note, that there are other potential needs, such as physical
striving, and a designer is always free to add or remove a need
from the list. From our perspective, however, the proposed set
of six satises a number of important requirements. First, all
needs in the set contribute to the meaning and positivity of an
experience. The good feeling resulting from helping somebody is a
consequence of fullling a need for popularity through the practice
of helping. Second, they are terminal, that is, they constitute an
end rather than being instrumental. Helping is instrumental for
the feeling of being popular. The feeling, however, is the true
goal, whose validity cannot be questioned further. Everybody
wants to be—at least to some degree—popular. Whether helping
as a practice, however, satises a particular person’s need for
Marc Hassenzahl is professor for Experience Design at the Folkwang
University of the Arts in Essen, Germany. He is interested in the theory
and practice of designing pleasurable and transforming technologies. Visit
www.marc-hassenzahl.de for further information.
Kai Eckoldt, Matthias Laschke, Eva Lenz are Ph.D. candidates and Sarah
Diefenbach is postdoctoral researcher in Hassenzahl‘s workgroup “Experience
and Interaction” at Folkwang. They focus on themes such as Experience Design
in the automotive context, transformational technologies for self-improvement,
and approaches to the Aesthetics of Interaction.
Joonhwan Kim is an enthusiastic Senior User Experience designer focusing
on user insight at the Mobile Communication Division of Samsung Electronics,
South Korea. He is an iF Design Award winner, and holds over 60 global patents
in the eld of digital TV, mobile experiences, and device-to-service design.
Table 1. Overview of a set of needs suitable for Experience
Design (Hassenzahl et al., 2010; Sheldon et al., 2001).
Feeling that you are the cause of your own actions
rather than feeling that external forces or pressure are
the cause of your action.
Competence Feeling that you are very capable and effective in your
actions rather than feeling incompetent or ineffective.
Feeling that you have regular intimate contact with
people who care about you rather than feeling lonely
and uncared for.
Feeling that you are liked, respected, and have
inuence over others rather than feeling like a person
whose advice or opinion nobody is interested in.
Stimulation Feeling that you get plenty of enjoyment and pleasure
rather than feeling bored and understimulated by life.
Security Feeling safe and in control of your life rather than feeling
uncertain and threatened by your circumstances.
www.ijdesign.org 23 International Journal of Design Vol. 7 No. 3 2013
M. Hassenzahl, K. Eckoldt, S. Diefenbach, M. Laschke, E. Lenz, and J. Kim
popularity may depend on, for example, the individual. Third, all
needs in the set are different from each other. Pleasure derived
from competence (e.g., parking your car in a tricky parking space)
is different from pleasure derived from relatedness (e.g., having a
chat in the supermarket).
Needs set the stage for Experience Design. Their actual
fulllment, however, is always related to more specic practices.
Humans have their ways to feel close, to feel autonomous, to
feel liked, to feel stimulated, to feel secure, or to feel competent.
Feeling related through physical contact, for example, is made
possible through the practices of handshaking, hugging, kissing,
stroking, or the many ways of sexual intercourse. The difference
between need and practice is important. While the former is
universal—we more or less all strive for relatedness—the latter
is a specic, situated action—depending, for example, on the
person encountered, a handshake may just be more appropriate
than a hug. Our notion of “experience” acknowledges this. We
understand the practice embedded in an experience as the rst
important arena of design, because it provides the activity in
context to fulll a particular need. This in turn provides positive
affect and meaning—two important ingredients of happiness.
There are many ways to shape practices to be more need
fullling and, thus, more likely to lead to positive and meaningful
experiences and happiness. One may read a book or talk to a good
friend to glean some better, more fullling practices. Industrial
Design, Product Design, and Interaction Design, however,
typically focus on how designed “stuff” can create and shape
experiences. This is the second arena of design.
To begin with, the difference between an experience and
a thing is not straightforward. A hike through the Himalaya is
experiential, but what is a at-screen TV, an automobile, or a
smartphone? “Are they possessions or vehicles for experiences?”
asked Van Boven and Gilovich (2003, p. 1194). Consequently,
one may think of any artifact as consisting of both: a tangible,
material representation, and a set of experiences. A particular
smartphone weighs 142 grams, has a 3.7 inch AMOLED display,
an 8 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, all in a seamless
polycarbonate body. One may marvel about this—or about
the meaningful moments it creates, for example, when used to
explore a new city, to stay related to friends and family, or to
feel more secure in a park at 3 am. Thus, the material and the
experiential are two sides of the same coin. The material is the
tangible arrangement of technology; the experiences are the
meaningful, positive moments created through interacting with
this arrangement. However, if increasing happiness becomes
the primary objective of an artifact, designers should shift
some of their resources away from the material representation
(the second arena) to the experiences created (the rst arena;
This shift is not trivial. When referring to artifacts,
designers, and consumers alike think primarily of the tangible,
the thing. Both may contemplate intangible attributes, such as
usefulness and beauty, but those attributes remain closely tied
to particular material aspects (e.g., functions, color). From this
perspective, design and consumption seems foremost to refer
to the physical, material world. However, Ariely and Norton
(2009) noted that “a large portion of human consumption can
be better understood by considering ‘conceptual consumption,’
psychological consumption that can occur independent of, and in
some cases can even trump, physical consumption” (p. 477). Ariely
and Norton use the example of understanding the choice for a
particular chocolate chip cookie. From a material perspective, we
may look for features to explain preference, such as the amount of
fat or sugar the cookie contains, the number of chocolate chips, or
its size. However, the experiential side of cookie eating might be a
little more complex. Here is a list of questions possibly involved:
“How many cookies have I had today?” “How does eating this
cookie jibe with my weekly goal to lose two pounds?” “What
will my co-workers think if I take the last cookie?” “I wonder if
this cookie is organic?” “Are any of the ingredients in this cookie
produced by exploited third-world workers?” (Ariely & Norton,
2009, p. 477). These questions give a hint of the experiential side
of consumption, of all the stories good and bad possibly told
through eating a cookie. But a cookie designer will quite naturally
focus on dough recipes, chocolate quality, sweetness, and
crunchiness. This is what seems to be under her/his control. If one
gets the recipe right, the cookie will simply be irresistible. The
stories around the cookie eating experience, though, are better left
to marketing or to the consumers themselves.
An experience designer would turn this upside down. She/
He would rst think of the stories one can tell through the practices
revolving around “cookies.” She/He might create a cookie, which
looks like it is broken in half to instill the feeling in the cookie
eater that they have only eaten one when they have actually eaten
two already. She/He could create a cookie with a sugar gradient,
so that every next bite becomes a little healthier. She/He could
dream up a cookie box, which provides a good excuse for taking
the last one out—and so forth. She/He could create the concept
ready for psychological consumption along with the physical
cookie. She/He could start with designing the stories to be told,
and/or the experiences to be provided by shaping practices
through the material representation of the artifact. Through this
little example of the cookie, it is already apparent that thinking
about the experiential side of an artifact casts a wider net than
design typically does.
In sum, our approach to designing for happiness is to
provide people with more day-to-day opportunities to engage
in positive and meaningful, deliberately designed experiences.
Experiences, which owe their positivity and meaning to fullling
fundamental psychological needs and their substance to situated
practices, deliberately designed and shaped through the material.
An Illustrative Case
In the following, we take a closer look at how to design an
experience. It starts with an individual experience of feeling close
to signicant others (i.e., relatedness) and the suggestion to distill
the essence of such a positive and meaningful experience into a
pattern. The pattern allows to transfer the experience into a new
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Designing Moments of Meaning and Pleasure. Experience Design and Happiness
context, such as watching TV with the family, and to design a
novel experience based on the knowledge about a happy moment
captured by the pattern (design arena 1). We then take this a step
further by discussing how to create and shape this experience
through the material (design arena 2). While this section could be
read as an outline of “methods” and a “process,” note that we are
far from claiming such a status. To the contrary, we deliberately
chose one of our own cases developed in collaboration with
Samsung Electronics to give the description of the design process
a preliminary feel. Its purpose is to serve as a focal point for the
reader’s and our own reection about a potential praxis rather than
as a tried-and-tested prescription of how to design experience.
From Single Experiences to Patterns
Jenny and Jörg are our friends. They are among those people my
wife and I would like to meet more often, and get closer to, but our
busy everyday lives conspire against this. One day, we planned
to lure them out. We suggested attending a concert by the Danish
band Veto. Obviously, we love Veto and wanted to introduce the
music to our friends. But we also wanted to experience this together
as an opportunity to feel close, as a relatedness experience. But
how? What would feel right? Surprisingly, this was not very hard
to tell. First of all, we needed to pick a band, which all people
involved may like—this sounds trivial, but is crucial. Meeting
at the concert venue a minute before the concert did not seem a
good idea. Thus, we picked up Jenny and Jörg with enough time to
have a beer before the concert. And we wanted to see the support
act as well. We planned for some ‘anticipation time.’ During the
concert, we stayed together, but remained focused on what was
happening on stage: an occasional glance, a shout, maybe some
dancing side-by-side. Having a conversation during the concert
was not only impossible because of the volume, it would have
felt inappropriate. Saying goodbye and parting immediately after
the last chord was strummed out felt wrong as well. There needed
to be some time together after the concert—time to cool-off, to
discuss the concert, to have a nightcap.
This little story is idiosyncratic and autobiographical. You
may not go to see Veto, you may not have friends called Jenny
and Jörg, you may not like beer. However, underneath all these
details there is a more general structure, a pattern, detailing
crucial aspects of a shared consumption if an intense feeling of
relatedness is the desired experiential outcome. We understand
“pattern” in a preformal sense as “recurrent phenomena or
structures” (Dearden & Finlay, 2009, p. 58).
Let’s consider a more formal description of the story above:
People engage in shared consumption, that is, they live through
an event with others to feel related to each other. However, the
communication and interaction during the event is limited. This is
often due to the demanding nature of the event (e.g., requires full
attention) or norms (e.g., not talking at the movies). Nevertheless,
people feel that, overall, the experience becomes more meaningful
by sharing it. Due to the restricted communication and interaction
during consumption, people shift communication and interaction
to an anticipation phase (before) and a cooling-off phase (after).
Without these phases, the consumption feels incomplete. Note
that although interaction and communication during the event is
limited, it can be still apparent. Typically, people use brief eye
contact, mimics, gestures, laughter, or words to comment on the
The nature of shared consumption requires people to make an
appointment. In fact, anticipation slowly builds up from the
moment the appointment was made.
Communication and interaction in the anticipation and cooling-
off phases often draw upon the event itself. Because of this, it is
crucial that everybody consumes the same; thus, people will make
sure that none of the group misses a part of the consumption (i.e.,
synchronization). Missing a part will hamper a person’s ability to
be a part of the shared consumption.
The more demanding, interesting, confusing, or impressive the
consumption was, the larger the necessity to talk it through in the
This pattern strips down the idiosyncratic and attempts to
extract the structure of a “good” shared consumption. It suggests
three phases (i.e., anticipation, event, cooling-off), important time
points (i.e., the appointment, the beginning of the event), and
some general rules or norms (i.e., don’t interact too much during
the event, talk about the event in the cooling-off phase, don’t
miss a part). We may come up with many different examples of
events we have consumed with other people, from the movies to a
play, or from speed metal to opera. However, when a really close
relationship was felt, the related experiences may have featured
most of the elements mentioned in this pattern (i.e., phases,
time points, norms). Thus, while at rst glance, experiences are
perpetually new, idiosyncratic, and situated, we may remove
some of these and expose, just below the surface, the essence of
the experience—what it is that makes it meaningful and positive.
Patterns can have different sources. On one hand, they can
be thought of as analytical summaries of empirically gathered
positive experiences. Knobel et al. (2012), for example, asked
people about worthwhile relatedness experiences involving cars,
and repeatedly came across the practice of the motorcade, with
people using, for example, walkie-talkies to blend the physically
separate interiors of two cars into one. These experiences
emphasized the importance of proximity between cars as a
necessary pre-condition for this blending or the importance of
sharing “atmosphere” rather than supporting talk. On the other
hand, patterns can also be based on a few autobiographical
experiences (see the Jenny and Jörg experience, Knobel et al.,
2013, for an example, and Neustaedter & Sengers, 2012, for a
recent discussion of a more autobiographical design) or taken
from ction (see pastiche scenarios, Blythe & Wright, 2006).
An obvious question is whether a pattern distilled from all
these different sources is valid? First, we believe that truth is not
the most central criterion. A good pattern is foremost plausible
and resonates (Hassenzahl, 2010, p. 71). Resonance is a feeling
of recognition and afrmation by the person who uses the pattern.
www.ijdesign.org 25 International Journal of Design Vol. 7 No. 3 2013
M. Hassenzahl, K. Eckoldt, S. Diefenbach, M. Laschke, E. Lenz, and J. Kim
Think of your own positive and negative experiences with
shared consumption. Does the pattern provide a clearer picture
of what made one positive and the other negative? If yes, you
might use it when designing. Of course, patterns can also be
empirically validated. In an unpublished study, we created two
versions of a similar story. It featured a group of friends going
to a long awaited concert by their favorite band. Both stories
fully adhered to the shared consumption pattern described above,
except for a tiny detail. The proponent got a call in the middle of
the concert that he had to take outside. In the “positive” version
of the story, he came back just in time for a long-awaited, short
guest appearance of a former group member. In the “negative”
version of the story, he missed it. We asked people to read through
the story and to vividly imagine being the proponent. We then
asked them how they would have felt in the whole episode. One
focus was their experience of relatedness. The pattern above
states that “it is crucial that everybody consumes the same [...]
Missing a part will hamper a person’s ability to be a part of the
shared consumption,” thus, people confronted with the “negative”
story should feel less related to the others compared to people
confronted with the “positive” story. We measured relatedness
with a questionnaire (Hassenzahl et al., 2010; Sheldon et al.,
2001), using items such as “I felt close and connected with other
people who are important to me” (Hassenzahl et al., 2010, p. 356).
As expected, the mean experienced relatedness in the “positive”
story (M = 7.05 on a scale from 1 to 9) was signicantly higher
than in the “negative” story (M = 5.59), t(33) = 2.23, p < .05. The
tiny variation in story had a considerable impact on the intensity
of the relatedness experienced. And on the felt positivity: While
people in the “positive” story situation felt rather positive about
the experience (M = 7.11 on a scale from 1 to 9), people in the
“negative” story situation leaned towards the negative (M = 4.31),
t(33) = 4.16, p < .001. Obviously, this still leaves many other parts
of the pattern invalidated. But it demonstrates that, in principle,
validation is possible.
Design arena 1: From patterns to experiences
We wrote elsewhere: “An experience designer is foremost an
author of experience. Only after having outlined the desired
emotional and cognitive content of an experience, the action
involved, its context and temporal structure, [she] may start
designing the ‘product.’ And then, each and every detail (content,
functionality, presentation, interaction) has to be scrutinized
according to its potential to create or destroy the desired
experience” (Hassenzahl, 2010, p. 68).
An experience such as going to see the Danish band Veto
with Jenny and Jörg is closely tied to context. Other people
will report other experiences according to the type of events,
the venues, or the number of friends. The pattern of shared
consumption, however, captures the crucial elements all these
experiences have in common. It describes the emotional and
cognitive content, actions, the temporal structure, and conditions
for a particular way of having a good time together. The experience
designer may now transfer this pattern to a different context to
author a new experience. She/He relies on knowledge captured
by the pattern, but nevertheless creates a new interpretation of this
general theme. She/He tells a new story.
Let’s say you like to watch television with your children.
This is not only about a particular program, but also about doing
it together as a way to feel related. In fact, it was found that “80%
of all TV viewing by people under 65 is done in the company of
other people” (Brook, 2005).
Now, go through your practices of watching television
together with the family and try to match it against the
suggestions captured by the shared consumption pattern. Do
you make an appointment to watch a program? Do you plan
for phases of anticipation and cooling-off? Do you make sure
that nobody in the family misses the beginning or parts of the
show? If you do so, you and your family will certainly have
meaningful, high-quality relatedness experiences through
watching television. You have already managed to establish
perfect practices resulting in positive, meaningful experiences.
End of story for the experience designer.
However, if your practices of watching television did
not match the suggestions captured by the shared consumption
pattern, you can start to “rewrite” your current practices to better
match the pattern. Sit down with your children, pick a program
together, and mark the day and time on a large calendar. Or note
it on a scrap of paper, “Every Sunday, 11:30 am, Mouse TV”
(Sendung mit der Maus, a German educational children’s program,
see http://www.wdrmaus.de/), and glue it to the TV set. Summon
the family on Sunday, 15 minutes before the program starts. Sit
down in the living room and talk a bit about the upcoming episode
of Mouse TV. In which language will the trailer be? (It changes;
it can be in Greek, Russian, French, English, Serbo-Croatian, or
any other language.) Will it feature a new episode of Shaun the
Sheep? Or a rerun of “Hair today, gone tomorrow”? Remember,
how we laughed our heads off last time we saw this episode?
Make sure everybody is there when the program starts. Supply
juice and snacks to avoid someone having to travel to the kitchen
and missing the best joke in Shaun. And after the program, take
some time to talk through what you just saw.
All these suggestions will rearrange a given practice with
the objective to create a family watching experience, which
is fullling in terms of relatedness. This is already an act of
Experience Design. We deliberately authored an alternative way
of spending a Sunday in front of the TV with the family by drawing
upon prior knowledge about a perfect shared consumption and
transferring this into a new context.
This example illustrates two further crucial attributes
of patterns. First, they are idealized. When collecting positive
experiences to distill a pattern from, we focus on the aspects crucial
for need fulllment. While a pattern condenses all these aspects
into a blue print for new experiences, it is likely to go beyond each
single experience. It not only describes, but also prescribes.
Second, the pattern links a need with a particular context.
While a psychological need such as relatedness is universal and
abstract, the context of a concert or the home is particular and
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Designing Moments of Meaning and Pleasure. Experience Design and Happiness
concrete. The pattern itself is in between both. On one hand, it
clearly refers to a need, that is, it captures a particular practice
capable of fullling this need. On the other hand, its application
is constrained by the situation. Obviously, shared consumption
requires an event to share; it requires friends to share with,
and so forth.
So far, we have designed an experience by distilling a pattern
(shared consumption) from an autobiographical experience (an
evening out with Jenny and Jörg), and used the insights captured
to improve a family’s TV watching experience. This of course
is only half the story for Experience Design. As laid out in the
introduction, we set out to design artifacts which consist not only
of experiences (arena 1), but also of a material conguration to
create and mediate these experiences (arena 2).
Design arena 2:
Shaping experiences through the material
In the example of the TV watching experience, the family is
largely left to their own devices to implement the new practice.
This is ne, as long as people are aware of the practice. If not,
somebody needs to tell them—some get their inspirations for
changing practices and resulting new experiences from friends,
others from books or Web sites. In all those cases, individuals must
adopt an active role and deliberately search for ways to improve
their happiness. Some will never even have the idea to do so.
Now, the material has a curious power. As philosopher
Verbeek (2011) puts it: “When technologies are used, they
inevitably help to shape the context in which they function. They
help specic relations between human beings and reality to come
about and co-shape new practices and ways of living” (p. 4).
The material inevitably shapes the “dialogue of a person with
her or his world through action” (Hassenzahl, 2010, p. 8). The
material is able to tell a story, a story without words, a story told
through interaction with the material—a “material tale” (Dunne,
2006). Designing an artifact can thus be summed up as creating a
material representation able to constrain context and shape action,
emotion, and cognition in line with the envisioned experience.
Note again that experiences are understood as an integral, but
intangible part of the artifact, and not as a by-product.
In our example, it is only natural to consider the television
set itself as the material representation shaping our experiences.
Let's compare the way a regular TV structures the family watching
experience (Figure 1, upper section) with suggestions captured by
the “shared consumption” pattern (Figure 1, middle section).
The gure indicates a number of mismatches (A, B, C, D):
• (A) A regular TV does not support explicit appointments.
While a modern electronic program guide (EPG) in
principle provides the according functionality, it is
always presented as a program guide rather than as
the joint, deliberate action of selecting something to
• (B) Typically, a TV is switched on a little before the
show to avoid missing its beginning. However, the
running program will hinder joint anticipation. Instead
of talking about the upcoming show, the family plunges
into the preceding program, and people nd themselves
watching without much opportunity to talk.
• (C) For a proper relatedness experience based on shared
consumption, it is important that everybody involved
shows up in time. A regular TV offers no means
to remind people of their appointment, that is, to
• (D) Mismatches similar to the ones in the anticipation
phase are also apparent in the cooling-off-phase.
Typically, the TV is either directly switched off or
people go on watching. The former feels abrupt and at
best leaves the cooling-off completely to the people.
Most likely the family just scatters to the four winds.
The latter prevents the exchange of thoughts and
feelings. The next exciting show is at the ready – who
This analysis reveals how the TV itself not only fails
to support a relatedness experience modeled after the shared
consumption pattern but prevents the anticipation and reection
that is absolutely crucial for feeling related.
All this is not too hard to redesign (see Figure 1, lower
section). Consider the following vision of a Family TV:
Figure 1. A comparison of the structure of a watching experience suggested by a regular TV (upper)
by the “shared consumption” pattern (middle) and the Family TV (lower) (refer to text for further information).
www.ijdesign.org 27 International Journal of Design Vol. 7 No. 3 2013
M. Hassenzahl, K. Eckoldt, S. Diefenbach, M. Laschke, E. Lenz, and J. Kim
“Oh daddy, we want to watch Mouse TV on Sunday. Pleaaaaase!”
Father and daughters select the program from the electronic
program guide (EPG) and make it a xed weekly appointment.
“Done! I can’t wait ‘til Sunday.” 11:10 on Sunday. Magically,
the Family TV begins to glow. This is accompanied by soft, short,
inviting sounds. The children already know what this means: The
Mouse is about to start. They call out for their parents and gather in
front of the TV. The parents join them. It is 11:15. The TV fades in
a blurred picture of the running program. On top of this, the EPG
presents information and pictures about the upcoming program.
“Hey, Shaun the Sheep is in this episode. Do you remember the
last one? Hilarious!” Only 30 seconds left before the program
starts. The TV switches to a plain view of the running program
and displays a countdown. One daughter is still in the bathroom.
“Come on,” her sister yells, “Hurry! You’ll miss the start.” The
family enjoys the show. “Ohhhhh, it’s already over.” “Ah, come
on, this was good. Hey, see!” The mother points at the TV. While
watching, the TV’s inbuilt camera took pictures of the family on
the sofa. Based on their facial expressions, the TV presents those
little snippets from the program, which made them smile and frown
together with pictures of their silly faces. A little later, the TV
pushes some further background information about the program
gathered from the broadcaster’s website. After 20 minutes, the
picture slowly fades out. The TV glows for a while and then
switches itself off. The family is not even aware of this. They are
still discussing the things they just saw.
This design may not be complete and certain design
choices, such as the facial recognition-based presentation of
snippets from the program, may be questionable. However, to
our mind it shows how experiences can be shaped through the
deliberate and considerate design of the material. As an artifact,
the resulting Family TV clearly comprises both: a material
representation, that is, the tangible conguration of technology,
and the intended, intangible experience “told” through the
tangible. The Family TV recongures the context to be better in
line with the intended experiences (e.g., fading in and fading out),
and provides cues to engage in certain actions (e.g., to remain
in the living room and to talk about the program). The intended
experiences determine all design choices concerning the material.
The mere fact that the experiences are deliberately designed to
be mediated by a particular material conguration makes the
experiences and the material inseparable—two sides of the same
coin. Together, they are the artifact.
The Family TV is only one possible derivative of the
knowledge captured in the shared consumption pattern. We
further expanded on this to make TV watching over a distance
more of a relatedness experience—the Be-Near-Me TV (Figure 2).
The scenario is: People make an appointment to watch a
movie together over a distance. The Be-Near-Me TV initiates the
connection and provides a large image of the other’s living room
captured with a built-in center camera. The running program is
only visible in the background (see Figure 3). This creates the
space to talk and to watch everybody gathering in front of the
TV, with pretzels, chocolates, wine, and beer ready to hand. The
moment the movie begins, the screen conguration changes. The
movie comes to the fore; the view into the living room becomes
smaller and is moved to the border of the screen. It is captured
by a lateral camera to increase the impression of observing the
friends rather than looking them into the eye (see Figure 3). This
creates the feeling of sitting together in a room, transxed by the
movie, only occasionally peppered with smiles, witty remarks, or
Figure 3. With friends in the fore and the running program in the background (anticipation and cooling-off phases);
with the running program in the fore and the friends in the background.
Figure 2. The Be-Near-Me TV (refer to text for further information).
www.ijdesign.org 28 International Journal of Design Vol. 7 No. 3 2013
Designing Moments of Meaning and Pleasure. Experience Design and Happiness
little cries of horror—depending on the movie. When the movie
is over, the conguration changes back to the initial, frontal view
of the other’s living room. However, the camera's focus is more
close-up to facilitate talking by creating a situation even a little
more intimate than the anticipation. This sets the stage to cap the
The second author of this paper built a functional prototype
based on Skype and tried it out to get a rst-hand impression about
potential material congurations and related experiences (another
example of autobiographical design, Neustaedter & Sengers,
2012). Figure 4 shows video stills of emerging moments: Saying
“hello” to each other and raising glasses in the anticipation phase,
giving a great moment the thumbs-up, and cooling-off together.
Family TV and Be-Near-Me TV highlight that a pattern
is not identical with the artifact itself, or its experience. We can
remove the idiosyncrasies from the autobiographical experience
of a good night out with Jenny and Jörg, as described above,
and make it into a pattern. This pattern is more general than the
particular experience and can be applied to different contexts,
resulting in different artifacts (i.e., material and experiential).
While differing in details, at the same time both TVs encapsulate
practices of how to make TV watching a little more meaningful
and pleasurable – they provide moments of happiness.
In the Family TV example, the pattern was used to improve the
relatedness experience while watching TV. Starting from the
observation that most TV use is social, shared consumption
highlights reshaped the experiential part of the artifact, thereby
implying changes in its material representation. Enabling new
or “rewriting” existing experiences through slight changes in
the material representation of an artifact is the most obvious
strategy of Experience Design. Through this, TVs, cars (Juhlin,
2010; Knobel et al., 2012), stereo systems (Lenz, Diefenbach,
Hassenzahl, & Lienhard, 2012), or any other “technology” can
become more experiential, more meaningful, and can provide
happiness. Note that in our view experiences already existed
before these materials were submitted to Experience Design.
However, they were not explicitly inscribed into the artifact. Only
when deliberately designing the experiential portion of an artifact
by addressing a psychological need and a meaningful related
practice (arena 1) does design become Experience Design, that is,
design becomes design for happiness.
While it is often worthwhile to build new experiences
into existing material congurations through small changes, we
actually prefer a different approach. We believe the experiences
should come rst, and the material should be chosen solely for
the benet of the experiences (Hassenzahl, 2013). A review of
artifacts designed to create a relatedness experience (Hassenzahl,
Heidecker, Eckoldt, Diefenbach, & Hillmann, 2012) showed that
some of the artifacts make use of existing material congurations
(e.g., photo frames, rings, garbage bins, desk lamps, slippers),
while others invent new congurations, such as Strong and Gaver's
(1996) classic feather in a glass cone, which starts to oat when
the partner who is away activates it from her/his distant location.
In all these cases, however, the experience of relatedness was the
starting point and existing material congurations were only used
because of their power to shape action, and to evoke thoughts
and emotions in relation to the envisioned experience. In sum,
we encourage an approach to design that puts need fulllment
and according meaningful experiences into the fore. Thinking
of experiences and needs before the material allows to broaden
the design space, that is, to innovate, but always with a sound
grounding in human practices, experience and, thus, happiness.
The Morality of Artifacts
We have so far provided some arguments and suggestions of how
to design the experiential side of artifacts more deliberately. What
we have not yet discussed is how to select the experiences that
we actually want to inscribe into our artifacts. With the present
approach, we could just as well have picked autonomy (or a
shrewd version of popularity) as the experiential objective for the
Figure 4. Four pairs of video stills from a tryout of the Be-Near-Me TV (Source: Authors).
www.ijdesign.org 29 International Journal of Design Vol. 7 No. 3 2013
M. Hassenzahl, K. Eckoldt, S. Diefenbach, M. Laschke, E. Lenz, and J. Kim
TV by providing a remote control which can be operated by the
father only. He would denitely enjoy his power—so why bother
with a cheesy Family TV, when there could be a True Men TV
instead? It’s like dancing the tango versus moshing. Why hurt
yourself on the thorns of the rose clenched between your teeth,
when there can be true bruises, blood, and sweat in a mosh pit?
The rst step in answering this is to accept responsibility.
Verbeek (2011) explained how our modernist understanding of
things deprives it of any morality. The material can't have any
morality, because it has no intentions of its own, makes no choices
of its own, and is inanimate. The gun is neutral; it is people who
pull the trigger (or not). But as laid out before, the material will
inevitably create certain experiences (i.e., actions, feelings,
thoughts). Whether we want them or not, experiences are a part
of the artifact. A gun, for example, encapsulates all kinds of
experiences revolving around themes, such as “feeling safe from
threats” (security) or “having power over others” (popularity). It
structures reality by stating that the world is dangerous (it's a jungle
out there), and that the practice of robbing others at gunpoint may
be an option. There are plenty of examples for this. Take a central
locking system that locks the car automatically when the motor is
running. “It feels safer,” people say, and when we point out that
Munich is hardly the place where cars are hijacked at trafc lights,
they only shrug. Or take the example of an App made for women
to feel safer in a park at night, which was related to the authors by
Yannika Ehde and Jessica Enevold from Lund University over a
beer. This App may come across as quite a practical offer, at the
same time it restructures (some may say distorts) reality, such
that parks at night appear especially dangerous to women. Even
when in reality the number of muggings is declining and men
are just as likely to become victims of random beatings. Hence,
the material is not innocent either. It tells a story, whether we
want it to or not.
Experience Design argues in bringing these stories, the
experiential side of artifacts, to the fore. It does not relegate
experiences to the appropriation of the user, but inscribes them
into the material. We “explicitly try to 'build in' forms of mediation
considered desirable” (Verbeek, 2011, p. 91) into our artifacts.
Verbeek (2011, p. 99) further shows that it might not be as easy as
a simple scripting of experiences through the material. While the
designer delegates actions, feelings and thoughts to the artifact by
inscribing experiences into the material, the user still appropriates
the artifact in potentially unforeseen ways. Thus, an artifact's
materiality may never fully determine its experiences—a feature
expressed by some through insisting on calling it “designing
for experiences” rather than “designing experiences.” From the
perspective of the authors, the artifact already becomes subject
to moral analysis through the mere intention to realize certain
experiences. Beyond that, there seems no reason why designers
should not try to anticipate user appropriation as well and
include it into their analysis. Whether they accept this role or not,
designers are “practical ethicists, using matter rather than ideas as
a medium of morality” (Verbeek, 2011, p. 90). As designers, we
must take the responsibility.
But what is a morally correct experience? (Note that this
is extremely difcult to answer, and the authors do not claim any
denitive answer.) However, we have placed Experience Design
in the context of happiness. Through encapsulating opportunities
for need fulllment into artifacts, we ultimately hope to improve
individual happiness. We neither focus on increasing the revenue
of a global manufacturer of Smartphones nor do we intend to
solve the world's health or hunger problems. Individual need
fulllment, meaning, and pleasure are brought to the fore. We
should, however, provide need fulllment in a “sustainable”
way. Stimulation, for example, is based on the ever new, and
thus implies short-lived consumption. Security, however, relies
on rituals. Once established by an artifact, this artifact may stay
there forever—treasured, groomed, and repaired. Competence,
in contrast, highlights the deep involvement with an artifact, and
the investment of time. And while we evolve, for example, our
baking skills, we cannot go consuming elsewhere. Evolving our
driving skills by drifting on the A5 motorway between Frankfurt
and Darmstadt, on the other hand, may put other people in danger,
and is, thus, questionable. In short, artifacts (i.e., experiences
and material) should at least be scrutinized according to their
emotional durability (Chapman, 2005) and social acceptance. The
latter highlights an important further issue. Just as policy making
is a matter of public debate, the experiences inscribed into the
material, that is, design, must become a more democratic activity
(Verbeek, 2011, p. 96). So far, these debates are often conned to
specic elds, such as Persuasive Technologies, Gamication, or
Sustainable Interaction Design (e.g., Bogost, 2011; Brynjarsdottir
et al., 2012; Verbeek, 2011). This is too limited. Experiential
consequences are ubiquitous, even in seemingly harmless
things, such as chairs, tables, or baking pans. Experience Design
acknowledges this. It makes experiential consequences of material
congurations a part of the artifact and thereby a subject in need
for conscious design efforts and moral justication.
Hopefully, a desire for meaningful positive experiences created
and shaped through the material will replace our obsession with
ownership and efcient output. It is not primarily about, for
example, Mouse TV in high denition, with stereo surround,
but about watching the Mouse in a meaningful, satisfying way.
Everyday activities, such as watching TV, are potential vehicles
for all sorts of experiences, only bound by the imagination of the
designers and users themselves. Through addressing everyday
activities from the perspective of happiness rather than from the
perspective of output opens up many possibilities to make life
The present paper presented an outline of how to
conceptualize an experience and the material, and suggested
how to distill meaningful experiences into patterns, and to use
those patterns to inscribe meaning into materials to create new
experiences. Obviously, meaning and, ultimately, happiness are
grand words, which require further qualication. However, we
found psychological needs as potential sources of positive feelings,
meaning and—ultimately—happiness especially helpful. They
act not only as guides for aligning design decisions concerning
experiences and materials, but also as inspirations—as ways to
innovate through experientially-grounded possibilities rather than
efciently solved problems (Desmet & Hassenzahl, 2012).
www.ijdesign.org 30 International Journal of Design Vol. 7 No. 3 2013
Designing Moments of Meaning and Pleasure. Experience Design and Happiness
For a designer used to manipulating the material, designing
intangible experiences fueled by need fulllment may appear
difcult at rst, but there is no way around it. Experiential
consequences of things are inevitable. They do not simply vanish
by excluding them from design or keeping them vague. They
will materialize, no matter whether the designer wants them
to or not. By leaving them implicit rather than at least vaguely
thinking about them in the rst place, they will most likely not
materialize in the way the designer hoped for. And ultimately
there is responsibility even for unintended experiences. We
cannot simply escape responsibility by saying “I never knew,”
and blaming consequences on users' appropriation. Today, we
have the conceptual tools to understand the relationship between
designer, user, “stuff,” experiences and happiness—and we must
use them for good.
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