A good design is the one by which the product not only satisfy the consumer's needs but also develop a feeling; a feeling of joy, contentment or pleasure or any other, which makes the product come closer to the consumer. Incorporating emotional value into products has become an essential strategy for increasing a product's competitive edge in the consumer market. It is therefore important for product manufacturers to understand how products affect consumers' emotions (Chang, Wu 2007). With the increase in the interaction of the consumer with the product, the design has broadened its focus from issues surrounding one person interacting with one system to how systems are socially and culturally situated among groups of people (Forlizzi 2007). This article channelizes through various theories and models of product ecology, Core affect theory, product experience from the consumer and designer point of view to narrow down to parameters required in a product to generate emotions in the user. In doing so, it reviews a range of theoretical and empirical studies, with particular emphasis on their position on product-user, and designer in the process of value creation (Boztepe 2007). The paper researches through a case study on the significance of a product like umbrella for different users in terms of design and emotions and concludes with directions which can enhance the relation between the product umbrella and the consumer, leading to a sustainable product design strategy.

The research introduces the Product Ecology framework as one approach for understanding how products evoke social behavior. The Product Ecology is based on social ecology theory, and is useful for obtaining rich, detailed data about how people interact with products (Forlizzi 2007).

The functional, aesthetic, symbolic, emotional and social dimensions of a product, combined with other units of analysis, or factors, in the ecology, help to describe how people make social relationships with products (Desmet & Hekkert 2007).

These include the product; the surrounding products and other systems of products; the people who use it, and their attitudes, disposition, roles, and relationships; the physical structure, norms and routines of the place the product is used; and the social and- cultural contexts of the people who use the product and possibly even the people who make the product.

The product ecology also leads to the theory of Participatory Design, Experience Design, Cultural Probes, and Contextual Design, which works around how different people think about the same products, creating social, emotional, and symbolic relationships with them. It develops a framework which explores a design problem and look for an opportunity for change. The Product Ecology framework is useful for broadening the view of what a product is. For example, many products are much more than functional objects of use - they serve important emotional and social functions in people's lives. These uses and meanings of products evolve over time. The product on usage generates a user-product experience which was mapped by core affect theory by Russell, involving all the possible experiences a user product interaction can describe. Product experience is a multi-faceted phenomenon that involves manifestations such as subjective feelings, behavioral reactions, expressive reactions, and physiological reactions. The user product experience can be shelved by aesthetic experience, experience of meaning and emotional experience. Desmet proposed four main types of product appraisals: the relation of a product to one's goals, the sensorial appeal of the product, the legitimacy of an action represented by the product, and the novelty of the product. Norman (2004) also focused on the mental processing that gives rise to affective responses. He identified three levels of processing: a visceral level governing responses through direct perception, a behavioral level involving learnt but automatic affective responses, and a reflective level involving affective responses due to conscious thinking. In line with those levels, Norman proposed three design strategies: design for appearance (visceral design), for ease of use (behavioral design), and for reflective meaning (reflective design).

Aesthetic Experience


At the aesthetic level, we consider a product's capacity to delight one or more of human sensory modalities. A product can be beautiful to look at, make a pleasant sound, feel good to touch, or even smell nice. The aesthetic appearance is also linked to the fashion trends and peer reviews for a user. It plays a vital role in designing a product for making it special for any consumer.

Experience of Meaning

At the level of meaning, cognition comes into play. Through cognitive processes, like interpretation, memory retrieval, and associations, we are able to recognize metaphors, assign personality or other expressive characteristics, and assess the personal or symbolic significance of products. From daily use products to valuable products all of them forms or play an important linkage of the user with its product functionality or design or appearance or society. Many products are used by the user for they carry a special interpretation or message in the society or peer or surroundings.

The usage of material in a product transmit some meanings for the user, the meaning of a material can change in different products; it can be different for different people of different cultures, in different contexts, or at different times. Along with advancements in the materials domain, there has been growing interest in the design domain towards the intangible values of materials, i.e., the meanings they evoke or the emotions they elicit (Arabe, 2004; Ashby & Johnson, 2002; Karana & Hekkert, 2008; Lefteri, 2001; Ljungberg & Edwards, 2003; Pedgley, 2009; Van Kesteren, 2008). Expressive characteristics (also called figurative or abstract characteristics, see Blank, Massey, Gardner, & Winner, 1984) are not actually a part of a materials' physical entity or appearance (i.e., a material is not literally feminine or masculine). The expressive character (or meaning) of a material is based on the interactions between an individual and the product and its material, which can change over time.

Emotional Experience

At the emotional level, affective phenomena considered are in emotion psychology and in everyday language about emotions, love and disgust, fear and desire, pride and despair, to name a few. Most contemporary emotion theorists view emotions as coherent, organized, and functional systems (Smith & Kirby, 2001). Emotions are functional, because they establish their position vis-a-vis our environment, pulling them toward certain people, objects, actions, and ideas, and pushing us away from others (Frijda, 1986). This basic principle applies to all emotions; the intense emotion that humans may experience in a situation that threatens basic survival needs and the subtle emotion those humans may experience in response to human product interaction. Pleasant emotions pull consumers to products that are (or promise to be) beneficial, whereas unpleasant emotions will push them from those that are (or promise to be) detrimental for their well-being (Desmet, 2002). The ultimate measure of an effective design is the overall consumption experience it provides for the consumers by offering different types of benefits. An effective design generates desirable consumption experience and favorably influences subsequent consumer behavior (Chitturi, Raghunathan, & Mahajan, 2007; Desmet & Hekkert, 2007).

The overall consumption experience is a function of a mix of different types of positive and negative emotions. Therefore, it is important for the designers to understand the relationship between the benefits they design into a product and the nature of the consumption experience as determined by its emotional content (Chitturi et al., 2008). After all, one of the main objectives of designers is to offer a unique experience to consumers to motivate them to indulge in positive word-of-mouth and improve the likelihood of repurchasing the product.


Based on the above points if a designer concentrates on the functionality through material, usage or design and improves the aesthetic appeal of a product, they will be able to tap the correct market of the users, while keeping in mind the gender preferences and the professional differences.

This article was originally published in the Textile Review magazine, March, 2013 issue, published by Saket Projects Limited, Ahmedabad.

About the Authors:

Ms. Anu Sharma is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Textile Design at NIFT, New Delhi.

Ms. Fauzia Jamal is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Leather Design at NIFT, New Delhi.