CROSS-CULTURAL AND MULTIDISCIPLINARY-BASED PROCESSES IN EMOTIONAL DESIGN. A DESIGN RESEARCH LEARNING EXPERIENCE
This essay presents the research results in the field of Emotional Design, carried on during the educational experience provided by a first level postgraduate Master and students coming from 10 different nationalities. The experience proposes an original model of the capability of communicating meanings through the design of perceptual elements.
We started from the design process model (Maiocchi and Pillan, 2009) which besides obvious technical (including economic) constraints includes:
• Signals: any kind of information, by any kind of channel (shapes, colours, sounds, etc.);
• Meanings / emotions: the results of the processing of the gathered information (e.g. suggestions of maternal feelings, exotic environments, etc.);
• Simple perception: processes activating the more ancient parts of our brain, where primary emotions arise (seeking, sex, fear, social interaction, etc.);
• Complex perception: processes activating the neo-cortex (logical and cognitive functions), interacting with the lower levels, then providing emotions;
• Cultural constraints: inherited cultural aspects that allow or prevent the acceptability of some values.
In next step, a simple action field is chosen: the design of a common door handle. We performed next 7 steps with participants:
• Step 1. A sample of 10 existing door handles is examined from the point of view of an intuitive interpretation. We used door handles from famous Italian producers: Sottsass. Fuksass, Aulenti, Cini Boeri, Gregotti, Rossi, Mongiardino, Arad, Krier and Kono, and structure them by asigning them age, profession, gender, etc.
• Step 2. 10 Participants provided sketches of new door handles which will be in detail presented in paper.
• Step 3. A scientific definition of the concept of “emotion” is provided based on Affective Neuroscience and 7 Primary-Process Emotions (Panksepp, 2012). We used this model as it is able to depict specific physiological mechanisms (seen in neurotransmitters and key areas of the brain). These sub-cortical Triune brain areas are: SEEKING, PLAY, CARE, FEAR, GRIEF, RAGE and LUST. These mechanisms are invented by evolution to increase the survival probability of the species; according to it, animals feel emotions as we humans do; Panksepp considers an emotion as the activation of a specific part of the brain through a specific neurotransmitter class, and thus there are only seven emotions. The various parts of the brain are interconnected and are able to influence each other.
• Step 4. Kansei Engineering analysis by collecting/grouping adjectives per each door handle with the aim to connect door handles and previous 7 emotional systems. We reveal which emotion has which shape.
• Step 5. 9 perceptual structures based on Neuroscience (Ramachandran, Hirstein 1999) have been proposed, as responsible of emotion arousal, with a further improvement of the sketches provided by the participants. We used them as they are verified through the fMRI, able to increase the production of some neurotransmitter (mainly dopamine) and to rise the corresponding emotions.
• Step 6. The concept of metaphor has been explored, together with some formal representation tool;
• Step 7. Two different metaphorical contexts have been examined, and used for further improvements of the sketches.
This essay presents in details the various steps carried on, with iterative results, described in terms of the rationales of the design choices. Critical comments complete the essay.