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INTERFACES Autumn 2012
8
Anna Pohlmeyer, Delft University of Technology, translates positive psychology into positive design
and outlines 20 opportunities to design for happiness.
DESIGN FOR
HAPPINESS
The pursuit of happiness is valued as a
natural, human right. Happiness should be
appreciated as an ongoing process itself
and as a life resource (Diener & Biswas-
Diener, 2008). Based on a comprehensive
literature review, Lyubomirsky, King,
and Diener (2005) found compelling
evidence that happy people are healthier,
more sociable and active, show more
prosocial behaviour, have more satisfying
relationships, are more creative, and are
more productive on the job. Most of us
would probably agree that living a happy,
fulfilling life is a desirable goal. Then
why not aim high? Why not design
for happiness?
In the following, a framework – the
Design Well-Being Matrix – will be
presented that combines theoretical
aspects of positive psychology and a
taxonomy of design roles, illustrating
numerous design opportunities. There is
no single, direct way to happiness, but
every contribution that can be oered in
this pursuit is worthwhile. User experience
(UX) research sets the stage for future
research in design for happiness.
From less pain to pleasure
In the past decade, UX emerged rapidly
as a new paradigm in the field of HCI.
As Hassenzahl and Tractinsky (2006)
outline, it extends the task-oriented
approach of usability and goes beyond the
instrumental, views emotion and aect
as core qualities of an interaction, and
emphasises the experiential.
Furthermore, while traditional HCI
was very problem-oriented, UX is a
positive approach to HCI, looking for rich
experiences rather than solely focusing
on usability problems (Hassenzahl &
Tractinsky, 2006). Minimizing the flaws of
a product might solve the problem at hand
and thereby ensure a state of ‘not bad’.
However, to achieve a truly good solution,
a dierent strategy might be required.
Directing one’s attention to a positive
perspective and to the promotion of a
desirable state can widen the spectrum of
solution possibilities and can thereby also
Autumn 2012 INTERFACES 09
SLOW HCI
lead to new, fulfilling experiences (Hancock
et al., 2005; Desmet & Hassenzahl, 2012).
The basic idea stems from positive
psychology, indicating that the promotion
of well-being is a valuable and necessary
addition to the attempts of preventing pain
(Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).
From pleasure to happiness
UX has succeeded in oering engaging,
pleasurable interaction experiences. It
seems that HCI has reached a level of
maturity to go even one step further: to
design for (user) happiness. This focus
is related to the currently prevalent field
of user experience – however, design for
happiness aims to achieve a long-term
eect and moves from satisfaction with a
product (use), pleasurable interactions, and
sensory delights to broader concepts such
as overall life satisfaction.
The field of positive psychology at
the subjective level is about valued
subjective experiences: well-being,
contentment, and satisfaction (in
the past); hope and optimism (for
the future); and flow and happiness
(for the present). Seligman &
Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p.5.
Positive design is the attempt to support
positive psychology through design.
Having a happy day vs living a happy life
What makes you happy? Is it sunny
weather, watching your favourite soccer
team win a match, getting presents for
your birthday, or perhaps a cheerful tune?
Without doubt, these are all pleasurable
moments that contribute to our well-being.
However, if the question had been ‘what
makes you
really
happy?’ you might reply:
spending time with friends and family,
achieving long-term personal goals, or
helping others in need.
When speaking about design for
happiness, it is important to have a
common understanding of what is
referred to with the term
happiness
. It is
being used in a number of ways with
diering meanings.
A multi-componential concept
Generally, happiness researchers agree
that the concept entails an aective and
a cognitive component. One indicator of
happiness is a positive aect balance, i.e.
frequent experience of pleasant aect
(e.g. enjoyment) combined with infrequent
(but not absent) experience of unpleasant
aect (e.g. sadness). In addition, a cognitive
component, i.e. contentment and the
rather enduring notion of life satisfaction,
is also taken into consideration when
evaluating one’s happiness (Diener &
Biswas-Diener, 2008; Lyubomirsky, 2010;
Veenhoven, 2011).
Partly due to the strong association of
the word happiness with emotions and
the disproportionate influence of current
moods on happiness ratings, Seligman
revised his Authentic Happiness Theory
(2002) to a Well-Being Theory (2011).
The goal is no longer to increase life
satisfaction, but to increase flourishing, i.e.
optimal human functioning (fulfilling one’s
true potential).
Similarly, two perspectives on well-
being, i.e. hedonic and eudaimonic, can be
dierentiated (Ryan & Deci, 2001). While
hedonic well-being is achieved through
the fulfilment of desires and pleasures,
eudaimonia refers to a virtue-oriented
approach to well-being that can be
achieved through psychological growth.
In the following, the terms
subjective
well-being
and
happiness
will be used
interchangeably, but in both cases
referring to the multi-componential
concept that incorporates hedonic as well
as eudaimonic aspects of well-being.
Five elements contributing to
well-being: PERMA
Certainly, positive emotions are one
aspect of happiness. However, they do
not account for the entire story. In
Authentic Happiness Theory, Seligman
(2002) dierentiates three elements of
happiness:
positive emotions
,
engagement
,
and
meaning
.
People who seek pleasures through
increasing positive emotions live a
‘pleasant life’, while an ‘engaged life’ is
enriched by moments of being in a state of
‘flow’ (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990), hence, in an
intrinsically motivated, absorbing activity
that optimally challenges a person’s skills
and talents. A ‘meaningful life’ does not
need hedonic pleasures nor an engaging
activity – it is a life that is enhanced by
a purpose or contribution that is greater
than the self. In Well-Being Theory
(Seligman, 2011), two further elements
are added:
positive relationships
and
accomplishment
.
All five postulated elements of well-
being – positive emotions, engagement,
positive relationships, meaning, and
accomplishment (abbreviated as PERMA)
– are said to be pursued for their own
sake and to be independent of the
other elements (criterion of exclusivity)
(Seligman, 2011). Thus, while well-being
can be enhanced by all elements, not
all have to be fulfilled in order to thrive.
A practical consequence for design is
that each element can be addressed
separately, as well as in parallel, when
aiming to support human flourishing.
Limited view on the role of design
There is noticeable scepticism in the
literature on happiness with regard to
whether products can have a lasting
influence on happiness. Two assumptions
that underlie this disbelief are based on
limiting views regarding the role and the
goal of design. These will be refuted in
greater detail below. In short, evoking
positive emotions (‘the pleasant life’) is
only one of a number of possible goals
in design for happiness, and secondly,
products do not necessarily have to be the
direct cause of happiness themselves.
Design opportunities
Taking an extended view on the role of
design, the Design Well-Being Matrix
illustrates various starting points to
design for happiness. With five elements
of well-being (Positive emotions,
Engagement, Relationships, Meaning,
and Accomplishment) and four roles of
design (Source, Symbol, Enablement,
INTERFACES Autumn 2012
10
Support) as will be described below, the
matrix includes 20 cells. These equate
to 20 opportunities for design (a few
examples of products will be provided in
the following paragraphs). In principle,
this oered spectrum is open to further
extensions. Yet, already at this stage the
matrix shows that there are substantially
more opportunities than are usually
associated with design and happiness, i.e.
to directly evoke positive emotions through
the product itself: cell 1 in the matrix.
Beyond hedonic pleasures
Subjective well-being theories generally
emphasise the multi-dimensional nature of
well-being. They address, among positive
emotions, elements such as personal
growth through engaging in optimally
challenging activities and achieving
personal goals, striving for meaning, and
cultivating interpersonal relationships
(Lyubomirsky, 2010; Seligman, 2011;
Ryan & Deci, 2001). This diversity should
also hold in the understanding of design
for happiness. There is no need to
reduce design to the oering of hedonic
consumption. Instead, one can intentionally
design for all dierent elements
of well-being.
Materialism and experientialism
Most importantly, products should neither
be limited to their material value. The
pursuit of happiness is not about achieving
material wealth, but about psychological
wealth (Diener & Biswas-Diener, 2008).
In fact, people who view possessions as
central to their life and well-being are
less satisfied with their lives than less
materialistic people (Richins & Dawson,
1996). Similarly, an increase in economic
wealth, beyond material suciency (Diener
& Biswas-Diener, 2008), does not seem to
be in a linear relationship with an increase
in life satisfaction. Money is no guarantee
for happiness. On the other hand, what
people do with it (e.g. donate) can
make them happy (Diener & Biswas-
Diener, 2008).
The distinction between
doing
(experiences) and
having
(possessions)
and its eect on happiness was examined
in a series of studies by Van Boven and
Gilovich (2003). The findings indicate that
experiential purchases (e.g. admissions,
travel) make people happier than material
purchases (e.g. clothing, jewellery).
However, products and experiences do
not have to be mutually exclusive. To the
contrary, interactive technologies have an
enormous potential to enable activities and
provide experiences (Hassenzahl, 2010).
Direct and indirect influence
A product itself can be the direct source
of pleasure: cells 1 – 5. In addition to
satisfying hedonic pleasures, products
can also, for instance, be meaningful
for a greater good: cell 4. An example
is the learning thermostat ‘Nest’, which
automatically adapts to one’s preferences
and thereby saves energy. It is even
possible that a product is literally the
source of a relationship, such as ‘Paro’, the
therapeutic robot seal, which is being used
in hospitals and care homes in particular
with dementia patients: cell 3.
In addition, products can also indirectly
aect our well-being by enabling
activities/experiences: cells 11 – 15.
Some examples are interactive games
(11/12), communication channels to stay
connected like (video-) phones and social
media sites (13), training facilities such as
flight simulators to improve one’s skills
(15), and tools that are necessary for
certain engaging activities, e.g. a musical
instrument (12). In all cases, it is not about
the product itself, but about the related
activity and how the user experiences it.
A cognitive approach to enhance
well-being is to direct our attention,
interpretation, and memory to positive
aspects of our lives (Diener & Biswas-
Diener, 2008). Accordingly, another
indirect eect of products on well-
being can be achieved by symbolic
representations: cells 6 – 10. These
can be subtle reminders of something
personally meaningful and/or positive,
such as a wedding ring or a screen saver
with a picture of friends representing
relationships (8) or a trophy symbolising
achievement (10). Furthermore, products
may be useless in a functional sense, but
can still have personal, nostalgic value (e.g.
souvenirs, gifts).
A number of activities and thinking
strategies (e.g. expressing gratitude,
acts of kindness, savouring, optimism,
Autumn 2012 INTERFACES 11
SLOW HCI
committing to one’s goals) have been
shown to lastingly increase happiness
(Lyubomirsky, 2010; Seligman, 2011).
However, these might require a change of
cognitive and/or of behavioural habits and
thereby eort from the individual (Diener &
Biswas-Diener, 2008; Lyubomirsky, 2010).
Design solutions can support happiness-
enhancing behaviour and thinking: cells
16 – 20. For example, on a meta-level they
can serve as a coach, encouraging the
user to employ according activities and
thinking styles. ‘Tinytask’ is such a solution
– a variety of happiness-enhancing
strategies are written on key chains,
thereby serving as prompts to break with
routines (Ruitenberg, 2010). In addition,
tools can be designed that facilitate such
activities (e.g. a camera to capture and
later savour precious moments). Seligman
(2011) himself provides an example of
support through technology: he increased
his physical activity with the help of a
pedometer to monitor his progress and
with the support of a group of walkers who
reinforce one another in an internet forum.
Conclusion
To conclude, scepticism about whether
products can have a substantial eect on
our well-being, and therefore scepticism
as to whether design for happiness is
possible at all, might be appropriate if
REFERENCES
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990)
Flow: The
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(eds),
Human–Computer Interaction:
The Agency Perspective
, 3–27.
New York: Springer.
Diener, E. and Biswas-Diener, R. (2008).
Happiness. Unlocking the Mysteries of
Psychological Wealth
. Oxford:
Blackwell Publishing.
Hancock, P.A., Pepe, A.A. and Murphy,
L.L. (2005). Hedonomics: The Power of
Positive and Pleasurable Ergonomics.
Ergonomics in Design
, 13(1), 8–14.
Hassenzahl, M. (2010).
Experience Design:
Technology for all the right reasons
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Francisco: Morgan & Claypool Publishers.
Hassenzahl, M. and Tractinsky, N. (2006).
User Experience – A Research Agenda.
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Lyubomirsky, S. (2010).
The How of
Happiness
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(2005). The Benefits of Frequent Positive
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Ruitenberg, H. (2010).
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Well-Being
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Psychology
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Seligman, M.E.P. (2002).
Authentic
Happiness
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Seligman, M.E.P. (2011).
Flourish
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Seligman, M.E.P. and Csikszentmihalyi,
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American Psychologist
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Van Boven, L. and Gilovich, T. (2003). To Do
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Veenhoven, R. (2011). Greater happiness
for a greater number: Is that possible? If
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design is viewed as restricted to the
oering of materialistic, short-lived
pleasures. However, design can also play
a pivotal role in the pursuit of subjective
well-being by supporting its other
elements. In addition, the contribution
of a product should not be restricted to
the direct influence of the device itself.
Instead, the experiences it enables,
the support it can oer for happiness-
enhancing activities and beliefs, as well as
the indirect influence it can have through
directing our attentional focus open up
additional opportunities.
The Design Well-Being Matrix can be
used as a starting point in a design for
happiness process. Multiple cells can
be combined. However, subjective well-
being is by definition a subjective matter.
Therefore, individual dierences, personal
preferences, and foremost the user’s
strengths and skills (Seligman, 2011) and
the personal fit (Lyubomirsky, 2010) must
be taken into consideration. Further areas
of positive design to look into lie beyond
the subjective, on a group level – what
impact can design have for the good of
our society? Empirical research is needed
to verify and dierentiate the eects that
design can have on our well-being. It
is up to the HCI community whether or
not to accept the challenge to design for
happiness and to extend the role of design.
... Based on the principles of positive psychology, positive design seeks to develop projects that respond to the interests of people from its target audience [20,21], and for that, more than creating products that please them, it states it is important to create experiences that challenge them. In this way, design must act as a mediator of its possibility and effectiveness [22], being able to operate in different ways [21]. ...
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... We understood that the best way to act in opposition to the presented trend would be through the promotion of knowledge about the subject. In the case of a subject whose knowledge is based mainly on the "I" of the equation, the developing project would have to act as a supporting object for personal evolution and growth [21]. Furthermore, it would have to promote an experience that made sense for different users. ...
... Momentary, hedonic aspects of well-being such as pleasure and positive emotions have been studied intensely in the context of human-product interactions (see [14] for an overview). Other more enduring aspects of eudaimonic or psychological well-being (i.e., optimal psychological functioning) [ [53], [56]- [58]] such as having a sense of purpose in life, being fully engaged in one's daily activities, and growing as a person, have not explicitly been addressed by design research until the beginning of this decade [ [12], [24], [45]] (see [30] for a more systematic definition of hedonia and eudaimonia). Related theoretical frameworks comprise work on Positive Technologies [51], Experience Design [27], Positive Design [13] and Positive Computing [6]. ...
... Well-being design frameworks emphasize nuanced ways in which products contribute to individuals' well-being: (1) directly during human-product interactions and (2) indirectly by mediating, i.e. supporting or enabling positive and meaningful activities [ [16], [42], [45]]. On the indirect pathway, the product itself may no longer be in the focus of attention [16] while performing the activity. ...
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... Related to these findings, several studies have explored how symbolic meaning can support 'emotional durability' (e.g., Chapman, 2005; van Nes and Cramer, 2005;Van Krieken et al., 2012). Symbolic meaning can also contribute to the consumer's subjective well-being (Pohlmeyer, 2012). In the field of 'positive psychology', subjective well-being is generally defined as a phenomenon with both cognitive and subjective components: a positive appreciation of one's life, a sense that one's life is good, meaningful and worthwhile, combined with the experience of joy, happiness, and contentment (Eid and Diener, 2004;Lyubomirsky, 2007;Veenhoven, 2011). ...
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The symbolic meaning of a product can contribute to people’s well-being. Previous research (Casais et al., 2016) has identified six distinct well-being enhancing symbolic meanings in products (based on Ryff, 1989): positive relations with others, personal growth, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, and self-acceptance. To support design activities with a focus on symbolic meaning, the current paper introduces 16 design directions that can be used for ideation and conceptualisation. These directions were developed in a two-stage process. First, 50 product examples were selected for their ability to encourage one or more of the six symbolic meanings. Second, these examples were used as stimuli in individual sessions with seven designers and design researchers. Participants analysed the product examples to infer the underlying design intentions, which were used to formulate the 16 symbolic meaning-focused ‘design for subjective well-being’ strategies.
... Related to these findings, several studies have explored how symbolic meaning can support 'emotional durability' (e.g., Chapman, 2005; van Nes and Cramer, 2005;Van Krieken et al., 2012). Symbolic meaning can also contribute to the consumer's subjective well-being (Pohlmeyer, 2012). In the field of 'positive psychology', subjective well-being is generally defined as a phenomenon with both cognitive and subjective components: a positive appreciation of one's life, a sense that one's life is good, meaningful and worthwhile, combined with the experience of joy, happiness, and contentment (Eid and Diener, 2004;Lyubomirsky, 2007;Veenhoven, 2011). ...
... Previous research has postulated that attributing symbolic value to products is a way to support subjective well-being (Pohlmeyer, 2012). This type of value does not come from ownership, but from what products enable and represent to people (Pohlmeyer and Desmet, 2017): for example, the significance of a product can relate to shared values and the contribution to something bigger than the self (Donnelly et al., 2016;Escobar-Tello, 2016), to meaningful life events (Goodman et al., 2016), and to happy experiences (Yang et al., 2017) and thus the product contributes to subjective well-being. ...
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The symbolic meaning of a product can contribute to people’s well-being. Previous research (Casais et al., 2016) has identified six distinct well-being enhancing symbolic meanings in products (based on Ryff, 1989): positive relations with others, personal growth, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, and self-acceptance. To support design activities with a focus on symbolic meaning, the current paper introduces 16 design directions that can be used for ideation and conceptualisation. These directions were developed in a two-stage process. First, 50 product examples were selected for their ability to encourage one or more of the six symbolic meanings. Second, these examples were used as stimuli in individual sessions with seven designers and design researchers. Participants analysed the product examples to infer the underlying design intentions, which were used to formulate the 16 symbolic meaning-focused ‘design for subjective well-being’ strategies.
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... Hence, by acting as a resource that enables or stimulates meaningful or pleasurable activities, design can indirectly affect our well-being. In addition, as symbolic representations design can direct us to positive aspects of our lives or remind us of past meaningful experiences (Pohlmeyer, 2012). These directions open up new design opportunities that require new theories, frameworks and methods to complement those available in traditional interaction design (for an overview, see Jimenez, Pohlmeyer & Desmet, 2015). ...
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This paper proposes the use of design tools and studio environment in psychology teaching, based on a type of outcome that is already produced in this field—interventions to support people’s well-being. In a class with 24 students from a post-graduation study in positive psychology, we introduced a sequence of six canvases (persona, empathy canvas, journey mapping, design vision, well-being matrix, and a blank canvas to draw the intervention) and distributed students in multidisciplinary groups. Introducing a studio format with design tools aimed to offer a different perspective on thinking about potential patients/clients/users and contexts through an action-based, opportunity-driven setup. Results show an impactful effect, a successful production of interventions to apply in practice, and overall high levels of engagement and satisfaction. While this paper reports a single case, it proposes that this approach is worth exploring further. Its contribution is twofold: considering process and content, it introduces human-centered design thinking to an educational context that already sought it tacitly; considering format, it empowers psychology students to think like designers and approach the educational experience in a more horizontal perspective of knowledge transfer. We discuss how design tools and educational modalities might be appropriate to introduce into the education of other disciplines, still considering their specific needs and aims—like a globalized approach to education, which we call Education through Design. Also, we discuss it in the context of the future of education, from a convergency tendency perspective at a European level.
Chapter
The global attention paid to wellbeing and happiness shows no signs of abating. From Bhutan, the first country to establish wellbeing indicators as a benchmark for social progress, to the announcement of a Minister of Happiness and Wellbeing in the United Arab Emirates in 2016, the move towards establishing policies, practices, and programs to support that which makes life worthwhile and contributes to the development of stronger, more vibrant nations is becoming accepted policy practice. The World Happiness Report has been a contributor to this development by highlighting the need for, and possibility of measuring wellbeing at a national level by GDP, life expectancy, social support, generosity, freedom and perceptions of corruption. While chosen for their impact on wellbeing, we highlight a missing facet; that is, Commercial Life and its related social interactions, emotional experiences and long-term psychosocial outcomes, and propose that it be included as a measure of a nation’s wellbeing. Thus, we highlight the importance of the consumer experience, employee wellbeing, and product/service innovation possibilities that can contribute to greater social, environmental, and individual wellbeing and draw upon various theories in positive psychology to inform our approach.
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