design with symbolic meaning for user happiness
Welcome to the SIM website: Design with symbolic meaning for user happiness. This website is part of the SIM toolkit for designers, and it works a companion to the SIM card set: It aims to inspire design for happiness, focusing on personal symbolic meaning. In this website you will find different sources of inspiration, like real-life stories of meaningful products, inspiring designs, relevant literature, and specific design directions.download card setget inspired
The value of symbolic meaning
Products with (happiness-related) symbolic meaning are able to encourage, motivate, anticipate and enable positive life experiences. Such products can also prolong and help savour those important experiences. Following the experiences, meaningful products remind us of them, allow their re-consumption, facilitate reminiscence and sharing.
Happiness is a universally desirable human goal. Possessions with certain symbolic meanings can provide a contribution to happiness, because they anticipate, prolong, remind, and help savour experiences, memories, achievements, and aspirations.
Capturing this richness in a design process is a challenge, since meaning is very person and context-dependent. So, to provide inspiration for designers to create products that are open for symbolic meaning attribution, we developed the SIM toolkit: It is composed of the SIM card set, which communicates 6 happiness-related symbolic meanings and 16 design directions; and the SIM website, which works as a visual companion, with stories of cherished possessions and product examples.
The 6 Symbolic Meanings
We destinguish six happiness-related symbolic meanings in material possessions (based on Ryff’s model of psychological well-being, 1989), which have the ability to support happiness: Positive relations with others, personal growth, purpose in life, environmental mastery, autonomy, and self-acceptance. Products with (happiness-related) symbolic meaning represent different aspects of what makes life worthwhile (such as memories, achievements or aspirations). Specifically, these are able to encourage, motivate, anticipate and enable positive life experiences. In addition, they can also prolong and help savour those important experiences. Afterwards, meaningful products remind us of those experiences, allow their re-consumption, and facilitate reminiscence and sharing.
In our research we collected many personal stories of symbolically meaningful objects. In this collection of images, some reveal reasons that led to their personal significance.
Get Inspired: Design examples
In our research we collected many design examples of products that are open for symbolic meaning attribution.
Mafalda Casais is a PhD candidate developing her research project in the research group ‘Delft Institute of Positive Design’, at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering of TU Delft (Delft University of Technology).
Photo: “Copyright Studievereniging i.d.”
Ruth Mugge is an Associate Professor of Consumer Research at the department Product Innovation Management of the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering of TU Delft (Delft University of Technology).
Photo: “Copyright TU Delft”
Pieter M.A. Desmet is full professor of ‘Design for Experience’ at the Department of Industrial Design of the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering of TU Delft (Delft University of Technology).
Photo: “Copyright TU Delft”
Casais, M. Mugge, R. & Desmet, P.M.A. (2016). Symbolic meaning attribution as a means to design for happiness. D&E2016 10th International Conference on Design & Emotion: Celebration & Contemplation, Amsterdam, 27-30 September 2016.
Casais, M., Mugge, R. & Desmet, P.M.A. (2016). Using symbolic meaning as a means to design for happiness: The development of a card set for designers. DRS2016: Future-Focused Thinking, Brighton, 27-30 June 2016.
Casais, M., Mugge, R. & Desmet, P.M.A. (2016). Stuff doesn’t make us happy. Or does it? The role of symbolic meanings of objects in subjective well-being. Working paper, Delft University of Technology.
Casais, M., Mugge, R. & Desmet, P.M.A. (2015). Extending product life by introducing symbolic meaning: An exploration of design strategies to support subjective well-being. In T. Cooper, N. Braithwaite, M. Moreno & G. Salvia (Eds.), Product Lifetimes and the Environment (PLATE) Conference Proceedings. Nottingham Trent University: CADBE, 44–51.