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From good to the greater good
Anna Pohlmeyer & Pieter Desmet, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands
In this chapter, we outline why and how design can (and cannot) support the sustainable well-
being of individuals and communities. Building on findings of well-being researchers, we
first address the reasons why material well-being, as experienced through the consumption
and ownership of products and goods, does not necessarily contribute to subjective well-
being. On the other hand, products that are valued for the activities and experiences that these
enable can be a profound resource for happiness. This discussion provides the foundation for
an approach to design for well-being that includes three main ingredients: design for pleasure,
personal significance and virtue. These ingredients will be detailed in depth and several
directions to design for well-being will be introduced, addressing both challenges and
opportunities for design theory and practice.
Keywords: Design framework, well-being, happiness, experience design, positive design
For millennia, design has attempted to improve people’s quality of life, and the accelerated
technological developments of the last decades have tremendously widened the spectrum of
possibilities to do so. Many of us live in a highly designed environment where the majority of
our actions are supported and accompanied by products, services and systems designed by
humans. In this way, design shapes our lives from work to leisure, from healthcare and
transportation to how we stay connected to the world. This context of design has indisputably
made some contribution, making our lives easier and safer as well as providing pleasure, but
has it also made our lives more meaningful? In other words: are we happier as a result of
technological advancement and higher living standards? Unfortunately, empirical data
suggests otherwise. For example, while US residents are, materially speaking, much better off
than their previous generations (i.e. GNP per capita tripled in the past 50 years), happiness
ratings have, on average, essentially remained the same (Diener & Suh, 1997; Easterlin et al.,
2010; Helliwell, Layard & Sachs, 2012). This finding, and many other findings like it, not
only question the validity of economic growth parameters as indicators for a nation’s
prosperity, but also the long-term impact of design on people’s quality of life and well-being.
Apparently, while designed and purchased with the intention to add value to our daily
existence, products and services do not necessarily contribute to our well-being, as is often
assumed. Considering that people’s quality of life has always been a core value in design
theory and practice, it is therefore surprising that design for (psychological) well-being has
not been explicitly addressed in the design literature until recently (e.g. Calvo & Peters, 2014;
Desmet & Pohlmeyer, 2013; Escobar-Tello, 2011; Hassenzahl et al., 2013). The question of
how design can contribute to well-being becomes even more acute when realising that (next
to social inclusion and environmental sustainability) human well-being is a main pillar of
sustainable development (Helliwell, Layard & Sachs, 2013). Beyond the ambition to optimise
economically sustainable solutions within ecological means, sustainable product design also
addresses a more holistic responsibility to design for sustainable societies; thus, including
design for well-being and social sustainability. In fact, research has shown (Brown & Kasser,
2005) that sustainable well-being and environmental sustainability are highly compatible as
both are derived from intrinsic value orientation, i.e. people who are motivated by values for
their own sake such as personal growth, relationships and community involvement in contrast
to external incentives such as financial success (Ryan, Huta & Deci, 2008). A society that
strives for meaningful experiences and authentic values rather than living in material
affluence and driven by short-sighted consumption patterns can combine the three pillars of
sustainable development, all at once.
We believe that the design discipline has reached a sufficiently mature theoretical and
methodological understanding of how to design simple, as well as pleasurable, solutions in
the short term that it is prepared to systematically investigate how to design for long-term
impact on people’s well-being. We understand design for well-being as the attempt to
support people to flourish and to live well. This includes, but also goes beyond, feeling good
occasionally (see also Ryan, Huta & Deci, 2008) and, importantly, views people not as
consumers but as creators of their own ‘good’ life. There are many definitions and debates on
what constitutes happiness. In our work, we adopt the view that happiness is a combination of
experiences of pleasure and purpose (Dolan, 2014), as also aptly put by Lyubomirsky (2007,
p32) it is the experience of joy, contentment or positive well-being, combined with a sense
that one’s life is good, meaningful and worthwhile’. The resultant design challenge is,
therefore, to create opportunities for people to have pleasurable as well as meaningful
experiences supported by design.
This chapter explores the potential and pitfalls of product design to contribute to the
sustainable well-being of individuals and communities. Design research on user experiences
has moved from a focus on efficiency to pleasure within human-product interactions. The
next step that we wish to bring forward in this chapter is to support meaningful experiences
(in life) through human-product interactions. First, we will outline why new activities
contribute more to our happiness than new objects, and will argue that objects in turn can be
pivotal in mediating activities and experiences. Secondly, we will describe a design for well-
being approach that incorporates the three ingredients of design for pleasure, personal
significance and virtue (as previously introduced in Desmet & Pohlmeyer, 2013), and will, in
the following, expand on each ingredient separately and in-depth. Thirdly, we will reflect on
the framework’s integration and implications. A main claim of this chapter is that to design
for well-being entails prioritising indirect effects and intangible values. Opportunities and
consequences of this stance for design (processes) will be further discussed.
Why design for experiences
One of the core findings of subjective well-being research is that happiness is much less
determined by what we own than by what we do. In consumer research, this finding has
resulted in the well-known ‘experience recommendation’ (Nicolao, Irwin & Goodman, 2009):
if you want to become happier, buy life experiences instead of material items. Numerous
studies have shown that doing things (experiential purchases) provides more long-lasting
happiness than owning things (material purchases). The experience recommendation
seamlessly fits with the ‘activity advicethat is voiced in Positive Psychology, which states
that to achieve sustainable increases in happiness levels, it is more effective to cultivate
favourable, intentional activities than to change one’s circumstances (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon
& Schkade, 2005). Essentially, both recommendations predict that spending money on
activities, like going to a concert, taking a vacation or doing a cooking workshop are better
investments in well-being than spending money on a watch, telephone or new shirt.
The underlying mechanism that explains the limited long-term effect on well-being of
material objects is called hedonic adaptation: the natural ability of people to adapt to new
circumstances (Frederick & Loewenstein, 1999). Hedonic adaptation predicts that no matter
how big a circumstantial change is, our happiness will return to a baseline level. So we may
be delighted when buying a fancy new smartphone, but this delight fades when we get used to
the phone, and it becomes the new reference, the status quo rather than a gain. As a
consequence, we require continued increases in material possessions to achieve the same
level of well-being. Brickman and Campbell (1971) introduced a treadmill metaphor to
describe this effect: people who strive to change their happiness are a bit like rats on a
treadmill; they are running and running, but not really getting anywhere. While people
eventually adapt to all kinds of changes, hedonic adaptation in relation to buying products
(e.g. a bigger house, a more expensive TV screen) has been shown to advance particularly
fast (Patterson & Biswas-Diener, 2012). This effect partially explains why it has been
repeatedly shown that materialistic people are less happy than people with low materialistic
beliefs (Kasser, 2002).
The implication for design seems clear-cut: design for well-being is design that primarily
focuses on activities and experiences. After all, the goal of design for well-being as a general
field is to have a lasting positive impact on people’s lives. This long-term perspective, in line
with an emphasis on experiences, challenges prevailing consumption (and design) models.
What that actually means for designers and design processes, however, is less clear-cut
because the distinction between experiential and material purchases is not as sharp as it
seems. Many products enable gratifying experiences and activities. In fact, Guevarra and
Howell (2015) recently showed that buying products that enable experiences (like sports gear
and musical instruments) can have a similar well-being effect as buying experiences. This
shows that well-being driven design does not require us to abandon material objects, but it
does require us to (re)focus our attention on the activities and experiences afforded by these
objects. Ergo, if designers only investigate the direct effects of handling a device, the most
profound opportunities might be missed. Imagine, for example, playing soccer with your
nephew in the backyard on a late summer night. If you reminisce about this experience years
later, will you first think of the ball’s quality or rather about the fun you had together, the
feeling of connectedness, the pride on his face after he scored his first goal? Clearly, the ball
is an essential part of this experience, i.e. a resource, but in this case it is not the source of
well-being as such. 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).
Three ingredients to design for well-being
In a previous publication we proposed three main ingredients to design for well-being, i.e.
Positive Design: design for pleasure, design for personal significance and design for virtue
(Desmet & Pohlmeyer, 2013), as visualised in the framework in Figure 1. We proposed that,
while each ingredient independently stimulates subjective well-being, the intersection is
where people flourish: besides having positive emotions, an individual must also have a sense
of meaning, engagement, interest, and purpose in life to truly thrive (Dolan, 2014;
Lyubomirsky, 2007; Seligman, 2011; Peterson, Park & Seligman, 2005; Sirgy & Wu, 2009).
Consequently, while each of the three design ingredients can serve as a guide in designing for
well-being, design for flourishing takes all three into consideration.
Figure 1: Positive Design Framework (adapted from Desmet & Pohlmeyer, 2013)
Design for pleasure
In the introduction to this chapter, we argued that there is more to happiness than ‘feeling
good. Our intention was to stress that the importance of positive emotions should not be
overestimated. However, it is equally important to not underestimate their contribution to
happiness. In fact, positive experiences are a central part of well-being. A life exclusively
devoted to personal growth and serving a greater good without experiencing joys in life does
not appear fulfilling: lasting happiness is found in a balance of both pleasure and purpose
(Dolan, 2014; Lyubomirsky, 2007; Sirgy & Wu, 2009) and in experiences that are beneficial
in the present as well as in the future (Ben-Shahar, 2008). There is ample evidence that
positive emotions make an independent and direct contribution to well-being (Seligman,
2011). Moreover, they have additional appealing, indirect effects that, in turn, contribute to
happiness, such as enhanced creativity, open-mindedness, flexibility and resilience
(Fredrickson, 2001; Isen, Daubman & Nowicki, 1987). Hence, design that increases the
frequency of conscious experiences of positive emotions and decreases those of negative
experiences makes an important contribution to people’s well-being. We refer to this
contribution as design for pleasure.
In the Oxford English Dictionary, pleasure is defined as:
the condition or sensation induced by the experience or anticipation of what is felt to
be good or desirable; a feeling of happy satisfaction or enjoyment; delight,
gratification. Opposed to pain.
The concept of pleasure is broad because there are many different causes of pleasure, i.e.
things that can be considered enjoyable. A person can enjoy the bodily sensations of taking a
warm bath, the challenge of an intellectual debate, the time spent with a dear friend or the
idea of moving to a new city. Tiger (1992) offered a structure to these broad ideas by
distinguishing between four pleasures that differ in terms of underlying causes. They include
physio-pleasure (sensual delight), psycho-pleasure (derived from satisfying the intellect),
ideo-pleasure (pleasures linked to people’s values and ideals), and socio-pleasure (feeling
connected to others and/or to society as a whole). Jordan (2000) successfully introduced this
model to the design discipline, showing that all four pleasures can be experienced when using
a product and that each can be consciously designed for. Not only the causes but also the
experiences of pleasure are widely diverse. People can experience a wide range of positive
emotions. For instance, Desmet (2012) identified 25 different positive emotions that can be
experienced in human-product interactions. These include experiences that appear light and
simple, such as joy, surprise and amusement, as well as some that are seen as more complex
and substantial, such as pride, love and relief as they connect to deep-seated ideals,
achievements and social values. Our point is not to suggest a hierarchy among pleasures, but
to emphasise the diversity and profoundness that pleasure can entail.
Products can serve various roles in our pursuit of pleasure. Perhaps the most obvious is that
they can be a direct source of pleasure for what they are, symbolise or represent. One can
enjoy the texture of a sweater, the smell of a new book, the craftsmanship of a chair and the
innovativeness of an intelligent bracelet. Likewise, one can enjoy the refinement and ease of
use of well-designed software and the challenge of playing a computer game. Because
sometimes assumed otherwise, we should stress that these pleasures are not necessarily
superficial. Surely, some may be considered shallow or frivolous, like the thrill of riding a
roller coaster or the pleasure of eating candy. But product pleasures just as much include
experiences that are profound and impactful, like the awe experienced at the sight of a
Pollock masterpiece or the experience of gratitude for having a pacemaker that enables one to
travel. As a second role, products can act as resources for activities that provide pleasure.
Here, the individual does not take pleasure in the product itself, but in the activity in which
the product is used. A hand-blown wine glass can be enjoyed for its beauty, but it also
facilitates an enjoyable social interaction (see also Figure 2). Likewise, painting brushes
enable inspiring moments of self-expression, and airline services enable adventurous
holidays. An interesting additional contribution of design is that it can stimulate people to be
more aware of their positive emotions and to savour their experiences. In his seminal work,
Maslow (1954, p136) observed that self-actualizing people have the wonderful capacity to
appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure,
wonder, and even ecstasy, however stale these experiences may have become to others […]’.
Design can stimulate one’s capacity for appreciation. Pohlmeyer (2014) explores how design
can support people to deliberately pay attention to positive experiences in order to enhance
and prolong the positive emotions derived from the event and thereby to delay hedonic
adaptation. A wedding guestbook invites people to reminisce about the day many years later,
the light of a candle enhances the atmosphere of a romantic dinner and social media platforms
allow sharing personal highlights with others. Too often we take things for granted; too soon
and hastily we strive for the next new thing. This includes the fascination over the extra space
in our new apartment, the pride in our recent accomplishments at work as well as the pleasure
of newly acquired products.
Figure 2: Bits ‘n Bytes, by Marije Vogelzang. A low-tech conveyer belt to pass on delicious
food (physio-pleasure) and stimulate social interaction (socio-pleasure). Photograph by Fred
Above, we reflected on how products can contribute to well-being by acting as a (re)source
for positive experiences. We should mention that design can also contribute by reducing
displeasure or negative emotions. Researchers have found the measure of affect balance’, i.e.
the sum of positive emotions experienced minus the sum of negative emotions experienced, to
be more informative than solely positive emotions. It is a matter of relativity flourishing
people experience relatively more positive emotions than negative emotions (Fredrickson &
Losada, 2005). Hence, even if someone encounters many positive experiences throughout the
day, should these be outweighed by negative experiences, this will have an overall
detrimental effect on that person’s happiness level. Many design efforts focus on reducing
displeasures and negative emotions, e.g. making a chair less uncomfortable and introducing
safety devices like helmets. However, negative emotions can be valuable too and are
sometimes inevitable. In contrast to the philosophical movement of utilitarianism that seeks a
maximisation of pleasure and minimisation of pain, our understanding of design for well-
being takes a more holistic approach by accepting that negative experiences are part of life
and should not be abandoned per se. For instance, guilt is an important emotion to indicate
moral norms, grief is a manifestation that one cares, and under certain circumstances some
fear can even add to enjoyment in creating rich experiences (Fokkinga & Desmet, 2012).
Finally, just as negative emotions can be positive in the larger picture, so too, can positive
emotions have a negative connotation. For instance, lust and confidence are not positive per
se. Think of an abusive situation or of someone who overestimates his competencies, which
might lead to risky (for himself) or annoying (for others) behaviour. To determine an
emotion’s true valence, the situational, social and cultural context, as well as the extent and
manner of expression need to be taken into consideration. We call for a sensible and
balanced, user-centred design approach that considers contextual factors along with long-term
consequences and moral standards.
This section has shown that emotions are a critical part of being human, and of our well-
being, and that design for pleasure is a multi-faceted, nuanced endeavour that can contribute
to well-being in many ways. Momentary positive emotions alone, however, would draw only
a fragmented picture of what it takes for people to truly flourish. In the following sections, we
extend our model with the well-being ingredients of personal significance and virtue that add
experiences of meaning and purpose in life.
Design for personal significance
People are born with a natural tendency to grow and develop. We all have an innate striving
towards actualising our personal potentials, whatever they might be. As a consequence, we
seek out novelty and challenge, explore and learn, exercise and develop our capacities. We
often do so by committing to longer-term ‘personal goals’ that serve as a platform for
expressing and developing our desires and deeply held values. These can be all kind of goals,
such as getting a diploma, building a miniature city, raising children or mastering the craft of
molecular cooking (e.g. for an overview of 135 inter- and intrapersonal goals see Chulef,
Read & Walsh, 2001). Personal goals differ between people and may change over time, but
the clue is that having (and working towards) them is a profound source of happiness
(Lyubomirsky, 2007). They do so for a variety of reasons. Firstly, they provide us with a
general sense of purpose and meaning. Secondly, committing to goals stimulates vitality,
gives direction and structure to our daily lives, giving us something to work for. Finally, goals
support us in developing our personalities, helping us to connect possible futures and past
achievements into a coherent sense of self (Sheldon & Elliot, 1999).
The second ingredient of design for well-being addresses the sense of personal significance
that is derived from the pursuit and accomplishment of personal goals: design that supports us
in living the life that we want to live, doing what we find worth doing and being the person
that we want to be. Hence, it moves from a focus on experiencing pleasure in the moment to
one of experiencing meaning in the longer term. Before we address how design can contribute
in various ways, we should first note that some goals, when achieved, engender more well-
being than others. In other words, it matters what goals people select. It has been shown that
when people select less favourable goals, they may waste much time and energy trying to
approach possible futures that, even if attained, turn out to be empty or even harmful (Kasser,
2002; Sheldon & Kasser, 1999). Goals that have been empirically shown to be particularly
beneficial for one’s happiness are:
approach-oriented towards something desirable (as opposed to avoiding a negative
outcome) (Coats, Janoff-Bulman & Alpert, 1996)
related to an activity rather than to circumstances and possessions as the latter are
especially prone to hedonic adaptation (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006)
intrinsically motivated (as opposed to external pressure) and express authentic, deep-
seated values (Ryan et al., 1996; Sheldon & Elliot, 1999)1
A person’s values are his or her beliefs about what behaviour and end-states are desirable.
They transcend specific situations or activities and serve as guiding principles that help us
make personal decisions (Schwartz, 1994). Examples of such values include protecting the
1 Sheldon and Elliot (1999) refer to these goals as being self-concordant.
environment, enjoying life, safety, social power, freedom, tolerance, creativity and tradition.
Different people have different values. Yet, as shown above, some are more favourable than
others, depending on the underlying motivation. In a similar vein, while acknowledging
interpersonal differences, Ryan, Huta and Deci (2008) propose that activities related to the
values of personal growth, relationships, community and health are typically profound
sources of well-being. Hence, although personal goals are, by definition, personal and thus a
matter of subjective preferences, evidence-based recommendations regarding what kind of
goals and values to pursue can be additionally taken into consideration to increase the
resulting well-being effects.
Having personal goals with a maximum net gain of happiness is not necessarily evident or
easy. People may not be aware of their personal values, or these may be obscured by values
that are imposed on them by others, media and industry, or they may not know how to
formulate goals that reflect their values (Schmuck & Sheldon, 2001). Moreover, even if they
commit to favourable goals, it often requires courage to embrace them and willpower to
balance conflicting goals and resist the temptations of short-term goals with immediate
gratification that endanger longer-term goal attainment (Hofmann et al., 2012; Metcalfe &
Mischel, 1999). Equally important is the notion that personal goals are supported (rather than
hindered) by external conditions, including educational, economic and social resources (Deci
& Ryan, 1985). This means that, even if a personal goal is authentic, when circumstances
prevent us from making progress towards attaining the goal, it will be a source of ill-being
rather than well-being.
In our pursuit of personal goals, products can serve as resources. For example, musical
instruments enable musicians to develop their talent, while running shoes support the
development of an athlete’s individual running technique and overall performance. Moreover,
products can also help us to stay committed to these goals. They can act as reminders for our
current goals. Having a piano not only enables us to develop our musical abilities, but having
it in the living room makes it a positive reminder of our aspiration to learn how to play the
piano. In the case of conflicting goals, products can support to harmonise goals by moderating
and resolving dilemmas, or trigger reflection by the user (Ozkaramanli, Desmet & Özcan,
2015). Studies by Ozkaramanli and colleagues focus on corresponding design strategies, e.g.
reducing temptations by introducing barriers or making long-term goals more attractive. For
example, a healthy diet stands in contrast to the urge to snack on sweets. Here, a barrier of a
jar lock and timer could be added to restrict the user to only indulge in ‘bad’ habits at a pre-
committed time (see Kitchen Safe by David Krippendorf in Figure 3).
Figure 3: Kitchen Safe by David Krippendorf. A time-locking container, designed to support
Products can also lower the threshold to commit to particular goals. A starter kit for molecular
cooking, for example, can break down the complexity of the undertaking, opening up the
activity to people who previously believed it to be technically beyond them. Design can
support motivation, for example, by adding sources of pleasure or by enabling achievement of
smaller sub-goals. Complex Lego models are designed to enable children to quickly establish
an initial achievement (e.g. building a vehicle) while working to the completion of the larger
model (e.g. building a city with many vehicles and other more complex elements). Likewise,
online course accountancy, for example, can be designed to include little moments of pleasure
that stimulate commitment. A final contribution of products is that they can strengthen our
awareness of one’s past achievements or of one’s progress towards a future goal. Someone
may hold on to his worn-out dancing shoes because they serve as a tangible representation of
his efforts to become a ballroom dancer (Casais, Mugge & Desmet, 2015). Likewise, trophies
and souvenirs can serve as reminders of our past achievements, keeping these vivid by
making them touchable and perceptible (Belk, 1988).
Note that enjoyment too can be an authentic personal value, and in that case, people can
experience significance from activities that provide pleasure. Moreover, pursuing meaningful
goals can be pleasurable in itself (see ideo-pleasure in Tiger, 1992). In other words, while
pleasure and significance are conceptually different sources of well-being, they can co-exist
and strengthen each other.
This section has shown that while design contributes to well-being by playing a role in our
pursuit of pleasure (am I enjoying life?), it also contributes by playing a role in our pursuit
of personal significance (am I living the life that I want to live?). We experience a sense of
significance when committing to goals that support our personal values. Design can act as a
resource for these activities, and it can also symbolise personal values and past achievements.
Design for virtue
To experience momentary pleasures and to live a life in accordance with one’s personally
significant goals accounts for a great deal of our well-being. This, however, describes a very
subjective perspective of what one expects from life; it does not include what one gives back
to society, nor does it include a normative stance as to what is right or wrong to expect or how
to act in the first place. Does it matter how I reach my goals, and is it at all of importance
what kind of person I am? Indeed, the question of morality must not be neglected in a
discourse on well-being.
Building on virtue ethics that go back to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, but have recently
regained attention (e.g. through Alasdair MacIntyre’s work After Virtue, 2010), the third
ingredient of design for well-being is virtue. While virtues are also closely connected to
values, they are distinct from personal significance in three key aspects:
virtues are derived from objective lists of universally agreed-upon values
they have a moral stance
they describe what constitutes the good character of a person, thus an inherent part of
their personality
In other words, virtues are character traits of a person (what kind of a person am I?) that are
morally valued in religion, philosophy and cultural traditions (am I behaving honourably?)
and advance the good of others as well as of the self. Consequently, to design for virtues not
only affects the lives of individuals, but also affects people in interaction and, ultimately,
society at large.
One list has been proposed by Peterson and Seligman (2004) who identified six core virtues
that emerge across history in the traditions of China (Confucianism and Taoism), South Asia
(Buddhism and Hinduism), and the West (Athenian philosophy, Judaism, Christianity and
Islam): wisdom & knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.
While virtues are at the highest level of abstraction, the authors further specify 24 more
concrete positive traits2 that are manifest in a range of behaviours and that define the
2 Peterson and Seligman (2004) refer to these traits as character strengths: Character strengths are the psychological
ingredientsprocesses and mechanismsthat define virtues(p13)
respective, universal virtues. For example, the virtue of humanity is operationalised with the
traits love, kindness and social intelligence. The classification system covers a variety of
perspectives: from cognitive (e.g. curiosity), emotional (e.g. bravery), interpersonal (e.g.
kindness), and civic (e.g. fairness) to those that protect against excess (e.g. self-regulation)
and provide meaning (e.g. gratitude) (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Many other lists exist and
can be consulted. However, due to its overarching nature, detailed description and
scientifically based assessment measures, we believe that this list is a valuable entry point for
Aristotle argued that virtues are not a means to happiness, but fulfilling in themselves;
happiness is simply a by-product of a virtuous life. As designers, we feel comfortable to make
use of this side benefit. In particular, as an important prerequisite for design holds: virtues are
not inborn. Instead, they are the result of our upbringing, (social) practices, training, and
instruction. This means that they are, although relatively stable once established, in principle
capable of change (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) and therefore also malleable through design.
Clearly, a person’s character itself just like happiness as such cannot be designed.
However, a person is always situated in a physical and social context, which in turn can be
Design can create enabling (as well as hindering) conditions (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) to
trigger, train and establish virtuous behaviours. It starts with the everyday objects, services
and buildings that already surround us. These can be designed to support the development and
manifestation of virtues by facilitating corresponding practices, offering opportunities of
training, supporting decision-making3 and providing instruction recommendations. This, for
example, has been particularly well demonstrated in religions by the design and reverence of
artefacts (e.g. bible, prayer beads), rituals (e.g. meditation, fasting during the month of
Ramadan), places (e.g. Temple Mount), and the built environment (e.g. synagogue, temple,
altar, confessional box) (see de Botton, 2013, for an intriguing review). In the secular world,
in contrast, fairly little effort has been put into the design and establishment of virtues in our
daily lives. For instance, although schools try to foster the development of children, the
primary focus lies on learning intellectual knowledge, skills and abilities, but not on morality
and personality. How would a school, a classroom or a curriculum be designed if the learning
goals would be social intelligence, humour or modesty? The way a classroom is designed
affects how (and what) students learn. Traditionally, a teacher stands in front of a class where
he or she presents information while students are expected to take notes individually. The
3 i.e. practical wisdom (Schwartz & Sharpe, 2010): the ability to judge what is the right thing to do
fixation of chair and table arrangements solely to the front in some lecture halls might be
efficient in terms of tidiness, but discards the opportunity of interactive learning with peers. In
contrast, a recently renovated lecture room at our university (TU Delft) was designed in such
a way that students can connect with classmates to the left, right, in front and behind
themselves within seconds, allowing them to practise, among others, teamwork,
collaboration, and perspective (see Figure 4). As mentioned earlier, design will have an effect
on consumers and end users whether they want it or not designers, in turn, have the
responsibility to carefully envision and support desirable effects to the best of their
Figure 4: Classroom layouts for individual, teacher-centred learning and teamwork,
Despite the direct advantages of behaving nobly, more than the outcome of virtuous acts it is
a person’s motive behind these that determine their goodness. In other words, virtues are
morally valued, independent of outcome. One can think of multiple ways in which design can
accelerate and increase desirable outcomes. Yet, ultimately, the person has to be responsible
for the behaviour and outcome in order for it to be a reflection of his or her character and to
have a well-being effect for the individual. With regards to environmental sustainability,
temperance and related positive traits that protect against excess come to mind. Technology
that automatically down-regulates heating and relies on green energy, design that saves on
packaging or opts for biodegradable materials and sharing platforms are all valuable,
indispensable and effective examples of sustainable design that focus on outcome. Without
doubt, these approaches and outcomes are of great value. However, in addition, we would like
to point out that in design for well-being that supports the development of a good character a
person needs to take responsibility and ownership of actions and needs to make decisions
him/herself. Examples of when a person cultivates the virtue of temperance (and justice) are
when she deliberately chooses fair-trade products or becomes a member of a sharing
community, and when she (re)uses her products as long as they are still functioning and not
harmful to the environment. Design can help people in making good decisions by, for
instance, showing the choice of alternatives or providing feedback that triggers reflection
(Jimenez Garcia, 2014; Laschke, Diefenbach & Hassenzahl, 2015), but in order to have a
well-being effect products should not make decisions on their user’s behalf. The advantage of
this perhaps seemingly slow approach in contrast to more efficient, automatic solutions is that
once a character is formed, it leads to favourable habits that last in the long run, e.g. to turn
the lights off when leaving home, and is fairly stable across situations, e.g. one will also turn
the lights off at the office. When a character is formed, it is shown in any kind of interaction
someone who loves to learn will not only show this trait for the upcoming exam that is
critical for one’s future career goals, but also when visiting a museum or talking to friends.
Stability and ownership of desirable decisions and actions safeguard lasting well-being effects
and importantly release the person from a dependency on the design.
In relation to the Positive Design framework, objectively recommended virtues can certainly
also be of personal significance to the extent that these relate to the same values. In particular,
while all virtues can contribute to one’s well-being, some positive traits have a better personal
fit than others. These so-called ‘signature strengths’ (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) are a
person’s top strengths: they feel most authentic to a person (this is the real me), are
intrinsically motivated, and exceptionally fulfilling. They are thus concordant with one’s
personal interests and values. Research has shown a strong link between signature strengths
and well-being (Seligman et al., 2005). One explanation for this link is that strengths support
goal attainment (Linley et al., 2010), which in turn also benefits personal significance.
Furthermore, as virtues are, by definition, fulfilling in their own right, they themselves can
also be a source of pleasure. By putting one’s signature strengths to use in a variety of
situations and domains, one is most likely to flourish.
In summary, design for virtue can help initiate the development of a good character through
instructions, e.g. signs for priority seats in a bus, it can provide enabling conditions to
practise and internalise the manifestation of virtues in decision-making and behaviour and
provide corresponding feedback. However, eventually, as a virtue becomes part of a person’s
character, such design facilitators will no longer be needed. They can still have a supportive
function, but the user acts independently. It is with this view on design as a resource that we
hope design can support responsible, active and virtuous citizens to live well in a sustainable
Framework integration and implications
Well-being is a complex concept that also necessitates a somewhat more elaborate approach
in design. In short, pleasure is about what one enjoys, personal significance is about what one
wants and virtues are part of a person’s character that is manifested in interactions with the
world and considered morally good. The three well-being ingredients all have their unique
contribution to well-being that cannot be fully compensated by the other two. As shown in
Table 1, pleasure, significance and virtue share a number of overlapping attributes, however,
in different combinations.
Table 1: Differences and similarities of well-being ingredients
in the present
universal values;
morality; character
Experience evoked
Related discipline
The Positive Design framework integrates different perspectives on the central question of
what constitutes happiness and the good life from psychology and philosophy. Its aim is to
flesh out those ingredients that are promising and needed when designing for well-being in
order to:
1. Understand well-being of people holistically
A holistic understanding of well-being allows the consideration of short- as well as long-term
goals, pleasure as well as meaning and subjective as well as objective standards. A nuanced
understanding of pleasure in people’s lives, of the diversity of goals, of the impact people
have on their surroundings as well as the interplay of all three, equips designers to provide
more fitting solutions to stimulate human flourishing than by only addressing one component
of well-being. Each ingredient can contribute to one aspect of happiness, but only a balanced
life that includes all three perspectives is one in which people flourish. Different designs
might have different emphases, the collective of designs, however, should strive for a balance
of pleasure, personal significance and virtue. Preferably, all three are combined in one
solution. In an earlier publication (Desmet & Pohlmeyer, 2013), we referred to this
combination as the sweet spot of Positive Design.
Overlap can evolve on different levels: each ingredient can be combined with one of the other
two as well as with both. Activities that reflect our values and connect to personally
significant goals are both meaningful and pleasurable. Snowboarding can be a pleasurable
sport for someone who finds meaning in being connected to nature and who wants to be
physically active. Emotions signal what is important to us someone who values customs and
traditions might get excited when unwrapping the Christmas ornaments to decorate the tree,
cheerfully singing along. Positive emotions can also be motivating to commit to goals and
values even in the face of difficulty, uncertainty or disappointment. A steep slope is no
guarantee for immediate success in the snowboard example; it might take several attempts
before one masters this route gracefully. Yet, the anticipation of becoming one with the
mountain can provide the motivation not to give up. Positive emotions can be strategically
used in the short term to reach a long-term (meaningful) effect. As people might experience
that it is difficult to delay gratification (Metcalfe & Mischel, 1999) or to make long-term
goals viable in everyday behaviour, design could create pleasurable moments to motivate
people to act and thereby implicitly pursue a long-term goal. Furthermore, the expression of
virtues can be pleasurable, like bravery in the snowboard example. Although values and
virtues can be both intrinsically motivated and therefore not pursued for the sake of positive
emotions, these certainly enrich an experience. Finally, virtues can be personally significant
and ideally manifested through signature strengths.
Overall, Positive Design is an approach focused on the subjective experience of people paired
with universal, moral values as well as evidence-based recommendations.
2. Provide guidance on what (not) to design for
Most designs intend to improve people’s quality of life in one way or another. Positive
Design approaches this goal systematically by scrutinising how design can be relevant to
people’s psychological well-being. Here, the explicit long-term well-being effect is the key
driver in practice as well as in research. Previous work on usability and user experience
focused primarily on short-term efficiency, functional effectiveness and the immediate
hedonic consequences of human-product interactions. The fundamental mechanisms of
information processing and experience are largely applicable for any effect. Thus, they hardly
give guidance in terms of what to design, but rather how. For example, the design of input
devices and dialogue principles can be used for a games console just as for nuclear weapons.
Positive Design is a specialised field that makes use of the fundamentals of interaction design,
but always in relation to well-being.
The Positive Design framework holds that in addition to positively addressing pleasure,
personal significance and virtue, it is also important that none are violated. This means that a
solution should not introduce displeasure or pain that is not in support of an overall
pleasurable experience, nor should it infringe someone’s values or stimulate feelings of
pointlessness, and it should not hinder the development of virtues or encourage vices. If
someone derives pleasure from tyrannising others, it is considered immoral. Consequently, a
design supporting such behaviour would not be seen as Positive Design even though pleasure
and personal significance are met and might subjectively please this specific user. Hence,
although Positive Design is an inherently user-centred approach, it does not imply that users’
desires should be supported at all costs.
By incorporating virtues and rejecting violations within the framework, Positive Design is
one of the very few models of user experience to include a moral stance, expressing what
(not) to design for (see value-sensitive design (Friedman, 1996) for a notable exception).
3. Structure the corresponding design process
Sooner or later the rather abstract concepts of the framework have to become concrete and
actionable in a design process. How can one deliberately design for happiness,!and what steps
constitute a Positive Design approach? We expect that available user-centred design methods
are equally usable for happiness-driven design. As in all user-centred approaches, designs that
aim to contribute to user well-being need to be tailored to a defined target group and
contextualised accordingly. Yet, something is different in a Positive Design approach, and
that is the rank order of priorities. Rather than working one’s way up from technical
requirements, to interactive elements, to finally experiential consequences, the direction is
flipped in Positive Design: the higher goal of pleasurable and/or meaningful experiences is
guiding the design process from the start, which results in a metaphorically speaking top-
down approach as elaborated in the following.
All products affect how people behave and experience the world, and these effects are both
direct (enjoying lightweight hiking shoes) and indirect (enjoying a mountain hike with these
shoes) (e.g. Verbeek, 2005). Fokkinga et al. (2014) proposed two corresponding ‘levels of
influence’ of the designer. The first level includes everything that happens between the user
and the product: how products are perceived, used and experienced. The second level
includes all the behaviours and experiences that the product facilitates, enables, leads to,
supports or promotes, but in which the product itself is no longer the main focus.
Traditionally, design briefs detail requirements for the first level of influence. For example, a
brief for a new racing bike can include requirements about ease of storage and cleaning,
smoothness of the gears and novelty of appearance. These requirements define the design
space for the design’s objective properties, such as colour, weight and material. The resulting
design is evaluated in terms of this first level, often without considering the wider effects on
experience and behaviour, and finally quality of life. In the case of the racing bike, the user
may enjoy having racing weekends in the mountains, become increasingly healthy and savour
new achievements. These secondary effects can be taken for granted (because it is assumed
that this is what racing bikes are about), seen as a bonus (that marketing can capitalise on) or
not considered at all. We propose that design for well-being requires us to overturn the chain
of events from technical details to interaction effects and finally to the overall effect level,
and to insteadstart from the top. Positive Design requires us to formulate our initial design
intentions on the level of resultant, long-term impact. Naturally, for a design to be successful,
technical details and direct effects are also vitally important, but if one does not start with
determining intentions at the top level, one may never reach it or may introduce features that
distract from or contradict the design’s essence. This means that design for well-being
requires us to first imagine the experiences and activities that will be enabled and facilitated
by the product before starting to design the objective properties of a given product. Hence,
here function follows experience, and means follow function.
The Positive Design framework has three corners (see Figure 1), and each can be taken as the
point of departure when formulating design intentions. Which corner to start with and/or
prioritise depends on the particular project, including the user group, type of design, the
designer and the client. For some products it may be useful to first explore pleasures (e.g.
entertainment products), and for others to start with exploring virtues (e.g. products that aim
to motivate pro-social interactions) or personal significance (e.g. design for behaviour
change). Either way, we propose that in a second instance, the remaining two ingredients
need to be considered too, for Positive Design to be achieved.
The key here is that pleasure, personal significance and virtues depend on both the user, and
the context of use. Hence, one needs to determine or envision which pleasures, personal goals
and virtues are most suitable for the given design project through an inherently user-centred
design approach. In addition, objective and evidence-based recommendations from
psychology can be consulted to determine which virtues are most fitting (signature strengths)
and which goals are most favourable (authentic and intrinsically motivated) to optimally
boost long-term well-being.
Conclusion !
In his book Flourish (2011), Martin Seligman notes, …the task of positive psychology is to
describe, rather than prescribe, what people actually do to get well-being(p20). Design can
be inspired by the resulting insights, but it cannot merely describe design mediates people’s
lives (Verbeek, 2005) and will always be prescriptive to a certain extent. This comes as a
powerful opportunity to have impact, and, at the same time, comes with the corresponding
Positive Design outlines a design future that moves from designing for short-term user
satisfaction to long-term human well-being. It combines the vast amount of knowledge
developed in user experience design with empirical evidence of positive psychology, i.e. the
science of happiness. It aims to give direction on what (not) to design in order to foster
sustainable development in terms of human well-being.
At the core, Positive Design is a user-centred design approach. Yet, it requires a re-
consideration of existing design principles and approaches. For one, Positive Design takes a
holistic approach by incorporating the well-being components of pleasure, personal
significance and virtue, which have been detailed in this chapter. We advocate an integration
of all three ingredients to stimulate a balance of pleasure and purpose in life and, thereby,
human flourishing. Our epistemological approach is a triangulation of perspectives from the
user and context itself, paired with objective lists of virtues from philosophy, coupled with
evidence-based recommendations from psychology. This complexity affects new demands of
analysis and synthesis in the design process.
Furthermore, rather than focusing on the direct impact and material value of a design (as a
source), designers should envision the indirect impact of a design (as a resource) by
supporting activities and experiences in order to foster well-being. This intended overall
effect should be the entry point and leading direction in a design process that all subsequent
decisions relate toa reprioritising of the design process. Positive Design is thus not simply a
label to attach, but a fundamentally new design approach. It is a way to look at the world in
relation to design. As it mainly functions as a resource for well-being and emphasises indirect
effects, it is not a niche-approach, but applicable to all domains and technical means (e.g.
analogue, digital, product, service) as long as the intended effect can be achieved. Although
the design intentions might sound grand, the solutions themselves can address simple
interactions and practices in everyday life, e.g. cooking, driving, and even shopping. In other
words, looking through a well-being lens can benefit any design for users.
Design for well-being also requires active user involvement. To achieve an increase in
people’s well-being in the long run, people should not expect to ‘be pleased’, but rather to
engage in activities from which they will derive pleasure and meaning. Users thus need to put
effort into the activities and ought to be actively involved in the experience in order to take
ownership of its well-being effect. Put differently, one cannot passively consume well-being,
and the good life is not about optimising decisions on behalf of the user and providing
favourable circumstances. It is a way of living that design can facilitate, but one that a person
has to be responsible for in the end. Consequently, design has to walk the line of supporting
the user while safeguarding authenticity of the experience. In this vein, design empowers
people to live a life of individual, and ideally collective, well-being.
Positive Design is still a nascent theory and more work needs to be done to refine a structured
approach to Positive Design and the specification of design effects. Yet, we believe the
framework can already serve designers as a source of inspiration and guidance that stimulates
design thinking beyond the direct, short-term impact of the product to truly and lastingly
enhance people’s quality of life.
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... 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]. However, the most important factor in building a project that aims to contribute to a long-term wellbeing is the ability to prolong the resulting experience over time. ...
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... Positive design seeks to allow people to be involved in experiences, in which they can identify and find some meaning [22,23]. We recognize that this is a discipline with an active role in interventions that improve people's quality of life [22], which, in this case, will happen by integrating a strategy to promote a growth mindset [24]. ...
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... Active participation Desmet and Pohlmeyer have proposed that a person must play an active role in fostering their own flourishing (2013); they later wrote that "design for well-being is design that primarily focuses on activities and experiences" so that people can be active "creators of their own 'good' life" (Pohlmeyer & Desmet, 2017). The movements of 12 Sentiments allow users to continually affect the creation of the music and the status of the world with decisive actions. ...
... In parallel to these developments in industry, academic research on well-being design gained momentum within Human-Computer-Interaction (HCI) in recent years. Publications in this field contributed theoretically informed frameworks [ [6], [13], [27], [42], [51]] grounded in psychology, and outlined possibilities to deliberately design for sustained well-being [ [44], [47]]. These approaches cover a wider range of psychological or eudaimonic well-being outcomes and emphasize the potential of products to mediate well-being-enhancing activities in the longer term. ...
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Conference Paper
Full-text available
Research in positive psychology indicates that sustained well-being is more determined by our actions than by our possessions. Products' contribution to well-being may thus be grounded in their potential to support well-being-enhancing activities rather than in their material value. In a laddering study, we investigated how products shape a range of well-being determinants, including activities, and well-being outcomes. Following a hierarchical structure, seven product experience qualities, six motivations, and seven activities were empirically found to be linked to long-term well-being. We describe these ingredients for sustained well-being in further detail and provide actionable guidance on how to address them by means of design. As the majority of product-supported long-term well-being outcomes were mediated by activities, we propose activities as most promising starting point in design for sustained well-being.
... In light of that, products can act as tangible commitment devices by supporting willpower, promoting good habits and lessening dilemmas. The value of delayed gratification has been recognised by previous studies (Doerr and Baumeister, 2010;Ryff, 1989), but it is not without its challenges; products that can facilitate it (Pohlmeyer and Desmet, 2017) can thereby potentially gain a symbolic meaning related to control, directedness and purpose, which in turn can support subjective well-being. ...
... 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. In our research, we have taken on the challenge of developing design directions that aim to inspire designs that are likely candidates for symbolic meaning attribution. ...
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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.
... In light of that, products can act as tangible commitment devices by supporting willpower, promoting good habits and lessening dilemmas. The value of delayed gratification has been recognised by previous studies (Doerr and Baumeister, 2010;Ryff, 1989), but it is not without its challenges; products that can facilitate it (Pohlmeyer and Desmet, 2017) can thereby potentially gain a symbolic meaning related to control, directedness and purpose, which in turn can support subjective well-being. ...
... 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. In our research, we have taken on the challenge of developing design directions that aim to inspire designs that are likely candidates for symbolic meaning attribution. ...
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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.
... Likewise, Niedderer (2007) discusses the role potential artefacts have in mediating social interaction, suggesting a triangulated interaction. Among other design research concerned with designing for positive experiences and subjective well-being (Hassenzahl 2010;Pohlmeyer and Desmet 2017), Pohlmeyer (2013) analyzes possible roles that design can have in promoting happiness. She recognizes artefacts as direct sources of happiness; artefacts as enablers of an activity that contributes to well-being; artefacts as symbolic representations of something valuable to people; and artefacts as support and encouragement to motivate and guide people to happiness-enhancing activities. ...
As a result of the work by Tom Kitwood, one of the main aims of dementia care is the maintenance of personhood; therefore, this article reflects on how design can contribute to this purpose. Kitwood identified ten different interactions toward people with dementia that can enhance well-being and contribute to the preservation of personhood, which he called Positive Person Work. Each interaction is explored from a design perspective: speculating on how we might design for the experience of specific interactions, taking into account different roles that artefacts can have in mediating them, and how they can be used as considerations for involving people with dementia as participants in a codesign process. These Positive Person Work interactions also served as evaluation themes for participants to comment on the experience of using the designed outputs of this research, adding a user perspective. The ideas we share in this article do not intend to be prescriptive or to propose one way of designing for and with people with dementia. Instead, they aim to look at Kitwood’s framework from a design perspective, informing and inspiring design researchers and practitioners who work with people with dementia.
... Technology is an ally in this path, but has to contemplate the intention of the designer to promote a positive outcome (Berdichevsky & Neuenschwander, 1999) and the freedom of users decision-making (Dorresteijn & Veerbek, 2013). Such freedom comes with an active participation of the user (Desmet & Pohlmeyer, 2013;Pohlmeyer & Desmet, 2017). This means that the strategies have to be proposed as activity-based and seeking for opportunities to develop any kind of virtuous behavior. ...
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Virtue is a fundamental aspect of well-being. Past research has proposed that emotional-driven design can be a powerful mediator towards supporting virtue. However, virtue-focused solutions generally target isolated actions. Here, using saving as an example of virtuous behavior we present a design cas —Billy Cash, a digital piggy bank that allows users to reflect during the saving process and extend the appreciation of the purchased item—that aims to demonstrate how design can facilitate virtuous behavior that is sustainable and can promote actual change. Through the analysis and evaluation of the design case, we propose a framework of design for virtuous behavior. The framework sets a scenario for design interventions that contemplate virtuous actions to be transformed into virtuous behaviors mediated by the resignification of resources and stimuli behind the experience.
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In human-product interactions, pleasure has many different shades. We can, for example, be proud of using an eco-friendly detergent, be all aflutter in anticipation of a planned trip when looking at a calendar application or experience a feeling of cathartic relief when playing a mobile phone game. Although these experiences are all pleasurable, each is different from the other in terms of the feelings they engender, the conditions that evoke them and how they influence people’s thoughts and actions. Some people are more aware of these nuances and better able than others to articulate positive emotional states. This difference is called ‘Positive Emotional Granularity’ (PEG) (Tugade, Fredrickson, & Feldman Barrett, 2004). PEG reflects the degree to which a person is able to represent positive emotions with precision and specificity. This thesis focuses on designers’ PEG, and proposes that having an awareness of nuances between positive emotions can be advantageous for designers in their endeavour to generate positive emotional experiences. Design research has traditionally focused on generalised pleasure or liking, paying little attention to nuances in positive emotions. Consequently, little is known of either the implications of differentiating positive emotions in design processes or ways to support designers in this endeavour. The aim of this thesis is to develop an understanding of how designers’ nuanced understanding of positive emotions can be harnessed and how doing so can contribute to design processes. The research question was, ‘how can designers be supported in developing and applying a systematic understanding of nuanced positive emotions?’ The overarching approach encompassing the research activities was ‘research through design’, in which the act of designing new solutions and reflecting on the processes is regarded as a means of generating knowledge (Stappers, 2007). A series of design tools and techniques that explained the distinctiveness of positive emotions was conceptualised for the purpose of this research and tested by designers. This research contributes to the field of experience design by elucidating how PEG can add value to design processes, and by providing tools that support designers in developing their understanding of positive emotions and their abilities to select and design for nuanced and distinct positive emotions. Eight studies were conducted, each resulting in a set of new findings.
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What role does the design of products, services, and the built environment have on people's psychological well-being? This chapter introduces the emerging field of Positive Design, which studies the mechanisms and manifestations of design that stimulates human flourishing. After a brief account of research on Positive Psychology Interventions, this chapter examines the possibilities and limitations of design for well-being. It is argued that especially the enablement of pleasurable and meaningful experiences and activities in daily life is a promising approach. Four Positive Design examples related to taking notice and savouring are provided in order to illustrate new forms of Positive Psychology Interventions. These examples range from designs whose explicit core function is the promotion of well-being to common, everyday products that foster determinants of well-being as an additional effect. A number of challenges that Positive Psychology Interventions in practice currently face and the potential benefits of Positive Design are considered. In particular, this chapter discusses the strengths of Positive Design in terms of reach, adherence, and person-context-activity-fit.
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This paper presents a theory of potentially universal aspects in the content of human values. Ten types of values are distinguished by their motivational goals. The theory also postulates a structure of relations among the value types, based on the conflicts and compatibilities experienced when pursuing them. This structure permits one to relate systems of value priorities, as an integrated whole, to other variables. A new values instrument, based on the theory and suitable for cross-cultural research, is described. Evidence relevant for assessing the theory, from 97 samples in 44 countries, is summarized. Relations of this approach to Rokeach's work on values and to other theories and research on value dimensions are discussed. Application of the approach to social issues is exemplified in the domains of politics and intergroup relations.
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There is increasing interest in the potential use of interactive technologies as a means to motivate attitudinal and behavioral change. At the heart of this function is the provision of feedback, such as steps taken, kilowatt-hours used, or liters of water consumed. Often, however, this feedback involves a mere visualization—an appeal aimed at turning meaning into action. The present paper suggests an alternative approach: feedback designed to create situated friction, which then inspires reflection and meaning-making. Such frictional feedback attempts to disrupt routines and to imply alternative courses of action. At the same time, it should be experienced as acceptable and meaningful. The present case explores the experience of frictional feedback through the Never Hungry Caterpillar, a device designed to avoid the energy wastage caused by keeping electronic equipment in standby mode. We compared individuals’ perceptions of and experiences with the Caterpillar with those associated with a regular power strip with a switch. While both objects embodied similar intentions, the Caterpillar was perceived as more powerful in terms of potential change, and as more affective and ambiguous (“annoying, but in a nice way”). Accordingly, liking of both objects was similar. However, while the power strip was valued for its practicality, the Caterpillar was valued for its potential to create positive and meaningful friction. Keywords
Conference Paper
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Because products are often discarded while still fully functioning, it may be possible to support durability with design that stimulates a more enduring product-owner relationship. This paper is based on the proposition that one promising approach to support such prolonged relevance is by developing products with a higher predisposition for the attribution of happiness-related symbolic meaning. The study was based on a framework with six types of symbolic product meanings: positive relations with others, personal growth, purpose in life, environmental mastery, autonomy, and self-acceptance. In a pre-study, fifty existing symbolically meaningful products were selected based on these six symbolic meanings. In the main study, seven designers and design researchers analysed these fifty products with the aim to uncover underlying design directions. This resulted in sixteen design directions. The directions can act as a source of inspiration to designers when aiming to design for a long-term meaningful product-owner relationship.
I: Background.- 1. An Introduction.- 2. Conceptualizations of Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination.- II: Self-Determination Theory.- 3. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Perceived Causality and Perceived Competence.- 4. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Interpersonal Communication and Intrapersonal Regulation.- 5. Toward an Organismic Integration Theory: Motivation and Development.- 6. Causality Orientations Theory: Personality Influences on Motivation.- III: Alternative Approaches.- 7. Operant and Attributional Theories.- 8. Information-Processing Theories.- IV: Applications and Implications.- 9. Education.- 10. Psychotherapy.- 11. Work.- 12. Sports.- References.- Author Index.
A potent way of designing for emotion is to design for concerns. However, people have multiple, and often, conflicting concerns. Such conflicts create emotional dilemmas: One may need to spend a Sunday afternoon working to meet a deadline, and at the same time, wish to attend a birthday party. In this paper, we consider conflicting concerns as a design opportunity: Any of the concerns can be a starting point for designing products or services that appeal to the users. However, we propose that the tension created by the conflict can be more inspiring than the involved concerns in isolation. In this paper, we present an analysis of 109 existing products through which we identify three directions these products seem to use to address users' dilemmas. These directions are resolving dilemmas, moderating dilemmas, and triggering dilemmas. We discuss the similarities and differences between these directions and their potential contribution to design fields such as designing for emotions and designing for subjective wellbeing.