Dr. Patrick W. Jordan is an international design and marketing consultant, author and professional speaker. His methods and ideas have influenced the design of many of the products that we find in our homes, cities and workplaces.
Pat is Owner and CEO of the Contemporary Trends Institute [CTI], an international trends and branding consultancy. Clients of CTI include multinational companies from many different industry sectors, including: aerospace, consumer goods, computers and IT, consumer electronics, medical, telecommunications, food and beverage, leisure and retail.
Pat is a former Vice-President of Symbian, where he was also head of design. Symbian is the world’s largest mobile-communications consortium, jointly owned by Motorola, Samsung, Nokia, Psion, Ericsson, Sony and Panasonic.
Pat acts as a consultant to many of the world’s most successful brands and has advised the US and UK governments on public policy issues. He has won numerous professional awards for design and related activities.
He is also very well known for his book “Designing Pleasurable Products” which is often quoted in articles and books that focus on the emotional experience of design and products.
Your book “Designing Pleasurable Products”? can be found on desks and in book closets of many designers, marketers and academics. It has been through this book that I also got familiar with your work. It mainly focuses around the four pleasures, a framework for understanding human experience (with products and services). Could you explain shortly what the Four Pleasures framework is about?
Hi Marco. The Four Pleasures is a framework developed in the field of anthropology. In his book, The Pursuit of Pleasure, Lionel Tiger identifies four different ways in which humans can feel pleasure. These are: physiologically [the body and the senses], psychologically emotions and thoughts], sociologically [relationships], and ideologically [values].
I thought that if we applied the framework to understanding people and what they wanted from products, it could provide some useful insights and help guide design, marketing and branding decisions as well as business strategy.
I have read that many very successful companies have used the Four Pleasures framework in their product development processes. Could you give a few examples that illustrate this?
The framework has been used by a wide range of companies in a variety of different sectors. Examples of my own clients in the last couple of years include companies as diverse as Starbucks, Gillette, Nokia, Proctor and Gamble, Unilever, Microsoft, Masterfoods, Philips Electronics and Rexam Packaging. However, I understand that the framework has been used by designers in many other companies as well.
It was also used in a US Government project to redesign mass transportation and a UK Government project to restructure the health service and another to help start up businesses develop their strategies. So, from my own knowledge it has been used pretty widely and I am sure that there are many other examples of it being used that I don’t know about.
There seem to be a lot of definitions and descriptions/ methods/ theories that refer to emotions or feelings in relation to designing or branding products. Emotional branding, emotional design, pleasure with products, Lovemarks, Kansei, affective design, etc. Often, there is confusion between emotional branding/ advertising and emotion design. Why, do you think, is it so difficult for us (in the field) to come up with a straightforward definition to be used as a foundation that we can all continue building on?
Yes, there do seem to be a lot of terms. I think that probably many of them are more or less interchangeable. Certainly there is a lot that each of these areas can learn from each other. I tend to prefer the term ‘pleasure’ to ‘emotion’ as I think it is broader - there are some things that are pleasurable or displeasurable that are not necessarily emotions. However I don’t think precise definitions matter too much as long as we are putting this stuff into practice.
So often we hear from designers and companies: “Emotional design? Man, we have been doing that for all of our lives. What’s new about that??” Nevertheless, the enormous rise of attention for (emotional) relationships of consumers with products, services and brands did not really start before about 10 years ago. What do you think designers refer to in this case and, if they refer to their intuition and talent, what should methodology like your FP framework do to make the difference?
Tools like the Four Pleasures are there to help designers understand their user better and get insights into their lives in a structured way. I think that this is the advantage of most design tools – helping designers to structure their approach. However, in the end, the designer’s creativity, intuition and talent is still invaluable and no tools can ever replace that.
You can imagine it perhaps as an analogy with sport. However much coaching you give a bad tennis player they will never win Wimbledon, but at the same time even Venus Williams would never have won Wimbledon without great tactics and coaching. I regard these tools as being like tactics and coaching for designers. A good designer can up their game by using these tools, but the tools alone will not create brilliant designs.
Recently I found an article that you wrote about a year and a half ago for uiGarden, where you discussed why the Levi 501 jeans was the “greatest design of all time”. If you would have to make this a bit more specific and had to choose the most “emotional design of all time”?, what would that be for you? Still the 501?
That’s a tricky one. In terms of brand there would be a good case for Harley-Davidson. After all it is the brand name that people are most likely to tattoo on their bodies!
When asked, people almost always refer to the Apple Mac or iPod as examples for true emotional design or branding. Nevertheless, as you have also mentioned once before, they never really dominated the market (except with the iPod of course). Why do you think the products by Apple have such an impact on our image of how design should be and how it fits our emotional experiences? Is there no way we can think of other examples?
I think Apple has a strong place in people’s hearts because it has always tried to offer a new, improved and imaginative user experience and has often succeeded dramatically well. But there are hundreds of other good examples out there. I include many of them in my book How to Make Brilliant Stuff that People Love.
You have said that we need a holistic approach to improve products and services for people. You mentioned that we “will need to understand people’s practical needs, personalities, emotions, hopes, fears, dreams and aspirations. We need to know how people want to feel about themselves and the role that the products and services that they use can play in this”
I thought this was very interesting, but it seems very difficult to grasp all of these aspects. When you work on a project for a client, what is your approach to get to know people on such a broad level?
Usually I would use the Four Pleasures as a starting point - going through the various aspects of their lives to see what is important to them and what they want from the products and services that they buy. Market research has also become a lot broader in recent years and often I can find insights into these issues in client’s market data.
Also it is worth trying to put yourself inside the mind of your user or consumer. Buy the kinds of magazines they would read, watch their favourite TV shows, go to their favourite stores. It is not just about understanding your user from the outside, but also getting a real feeling for what it is like to live their lives.
As a consultant you talk about both design and marketing with your clients. What should the balance between the two be? Is it important that the design of the product influences the experience most, or should marketing have the upper hand, or is it best to have an even balance?
The key thing is that the two should be complimentary. Be clear about what you want to achieve with the product and make sure that both the design and the marketing communicate this. For example, if you have decided that the product should be, say, “elegant, retro and masculine” make sure that this is reflected in both the design decisions and any marketing material. Any inconsistency between design and marketing sends a confused message to the consumer and gives the impression of a lack of integrity in the product.
I have heard that you are very interested in “evolutionary design” which is based on the idea that we can learn things about design from nature. When I think about designing products and services that get as close to people as possible (emotional design), this appears to be a very interesting focal point. In which way do you think we can learn from nature to design for emotion? Does this only go back to our most basic reactions to wild animals or is there more to it and can we for example learn from how nature “designs” itself?
I am not really an expert in this area, although it is true that I am interested in it. My understanding of it is basically that the human brain is hardwired to respond to particular shapes with a heightened sense of awareness, particularly things that are dangerous to us like snakes and spiders. Because of this, so the theory goes, things that borrow form elements from these things will grab our attention. A classic example of this is Alessi’s spider-like citrus-press that was designed by Philippe Starke.
The same kind of theory can be applied to colours. Black and yellow is an effective warning colour, it has been argued, because it is the colour of animals that can sting us [wasps, bees etc.] so therefore it signifies danger to us.
Since some time now, you have been combining working for/ in industry with academic positions. In which way do you think this has influenced your ideas? And, more specifically, do you think designers who want to really “design for emotion” need to have at least an ambition to do some form of research? I mean, that the combination of industry and solid academic research is crucial to fully understand people’s emotional experiences?
I think it is important for designers who are interested in this area to have enquiring minds. There is a lot that we can learn about people and design from other disciplines and other professions. One thing I really enjoy about spending some time in universities is having the chance to learn from academic people and explore new areas.
I don’t think all research needs to be of the solid academic variety though. We can learn a lot just by trying to put ourselves into the user’s world and learning about their lives. That can mean being up to date with trends and popular culture, keeping abreast of what’s popular on TV and in the media, understanding why people like the things that they do and what that can tell us about their values and aspirations.
You are also founder and president of the Contemporary Trends Institute, an international trend and branding consulting firm. What are the next trends that you think will definitely have some sort of impact on our lives?
There are three that are having a major impact now and will continue to for a generation at least. One is the time squeezed nature of life, another is the continuing breakdown of traditional gender barriers and the third is the aging of the population.
Time pressured lives mean that we want usable products and good efficient service and certainly in terms of service there is a great deal that can be improved. All this keeping customers on hold that sort of thing.
The breaking down of gender barriers will continue. Hopefully all the glass ceilings will eventually be broken down and there will also be pay equality etc. Men are also getting much more involved in things like childcare and domestic tasks and paying more attention to their appearance. Companies with a mainly female client base are seeing big opportunities to market to men now.
And of course as the population gets older many traditional ergonomics issues become very important in design. Inclusive Design or Universal Design as it is also known will continue to become more and more important. But older users will also demand good aesthetics and high-performance products, not anything that looks “medical”.
Pat, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your time!
Thanks for featuring me on your website. Many congratulations on a great site and happy holidays to you and your readers!