‘Attractive things work better’ was the claim of the title of a design exhibition that I visited at the Danish Design Museum in Copenhagen a couple if years ago. It explored the idea put forward by design researcher Donald Norman. He maintains that things should be practical and functional, but to work well they also need to be attractive, enjoyable and fun. In short to work well they should make you feel good when you interact with them.
This idea was tested by two Japanese researchers, Masaaki Kurosu and Kaori Kashimura. They built two automated teller machines or ATM’s. Both machines were identical in function, the number of buttons, and how they worked, but one had the buttons and screens deliberately arranged is a way they thought would be attractive. The experiment found that people thought the “attractive” ATM was easier to use.
The reason the researchers found the more attractive ATM easier to use was that things that are aesthetically pleasing make us feel good. And when we feel good our thinking is more creative and we have an easier time figuring things out. If things are easier we are happy. So while the ATMs functioned the same way, only one of them made users feel good, and happy to engage with.
So doesn’t it make sense to surround ourselves with things that make us feel good?
Everyday design plays a major role in our daily life, from packaging to mobile phones to furniture, kitchens, windows and doors etc. We interact with someone’s design hundreds of times a day – so if it doesn’t function well then it is no surprise it will have a negative impact on the quality of our lives.
Home should be the one place you don’t just feel good but feel great in, so surrounding ourselves with things we love, based on the findings of Kurosu and Kashimura, should be a great starting point.
Often the things that make us feel good have, over time, gotten lost in our homes. Rooms fill up, and when a space is not working our reaction is often to go out and buy something else to give it a lift. But this never works.
I’m a great fan of the home audit, tackling your home room-by-room to see what serves a purpose and what has simply ended up in the space. Ask yourself what do you need in the room and what pieces do you really love. Everything else should go. This will strip away all of the superfluous bits and pieces that have been building up and allow the room to function and look really well.
There is a saying when buying art that you should not concern yourself with the value attached with the painting but buy something that you really love. This is great advice – don’t buy anything that you don’t at least like. If you want to spend your money wisely buy the things you love and walk away from the rest. When it comes to your home, don’t panic-buy. There is no hurry and your home should evolve with you, so take your time.