Monday, September 28, 2009

Emotional Design - Revisited

"How did the packaging of water become an art form?"

1. The selling of premium bottled water in major cities of the world, where the tap water is perfectly healthful, has become a big business. Water sold in this way is more expensive than gasoline. Indeed, the cost is part of the attraction where the reflective side of the mind says, "If it is this expensive, it must be special.
This passage prompts several questions about the psychology of a consumer as he or she contemplates the cost of a product. Experience tells us that generally, cost and value are directly proportional. The more valuable a product is, the more it costs. But when considering bottled water as a product, it is difficult to make sense of the wide price range. When I walk into a gas station or the local spirits store for a bottle of water, I could always just buy the cheapest brand offered. Be that as it may, I always look for Dasani. The design of the water bottle appeals to me viscerally; it looks the best and feels the best. The plastic used is stronger than the cheaper brands, whose plastic almost crinkles under touch. Also, it may or may not be all in my head, but Dasani water even tastes better than the cheaper brand. However, even if the cheaper brand tasted better to me, the visceral design of the actual Dasani water bottle trumps any difference in taste, as I usually end up refilling the Dasani bottle a few times with tap water anyway.
Prices range from 99 cent store brand water bottles to the world-famous Perrier brand to a $75 bottle of "Bling H2O", a brand created by a Hollywood producer and featured at the MTV Video Music Awards as well as the Emmys. The fact that brands like "Bling H2O" actually sell proves that "the entire success of the product lies in its package, not its contents." The package has become the product, a product that is almost completely visceral. The cost of the bottled water certainly contributes to the "wow" factor, an important factor for boosting sales.

2. The categories visceral, behavioral, and reflective are definitely useful when evaluating a product. Once explained, the names of the categories were easy enough to remember and understand. However, if I were to rename them, I would probably use the names aesthetic and functional rather than visceral and behavioral. I believe the term reflective works quite well.

3. A designer should, for the most part, aim for his or her product to succeed on all three levels of design. However, if he or she had to focus on one level only, it would very much depend on what kind of product is to be designed.
Doors, for the most part, are purely behavioral, aside from the exceptions like the doors to the European post office described by Norman in The Design of Everyday Things. Those doors were designed on a mostly visceral level, while the majority of doors are designed to be completely behavioral.
Designers of the packaging of food should aim for good visceral design. This is vital to the success of a particular brand of food. It is what immediately distinguishes different brands of similar products on store shelves, and the customer is most likely to go for the most visually pleasing of the selection in front of them.
Clothing, while visceral and behavioral to a point, can be extremely reflective. From the different patterns, materials, colors, and styles, there are endless possibilities to make a statement about who you are. Clothing in itself can have personality, and this is something I believe the designer should always have in mind.

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