Design & Emotion 2016 conference was packed with interesting talks. I went back through my notes and all of the papers in order to pick those talks that I felt were most relevant to me and my role as a designer. During the first day I listened to 14 different speakers, however there were many more as 2 paper sessions and 2 special sessions were all taking place at the same time.

Key Notes

The first day of Design & Emotion conference was opened by two fantastic Dutch designers – Christien Meindertsma and Maarten Baas.

Christien Meindertsma’s work explores the life of raw materials and the entirety of their journey from beginning to finished product. Through her work she touches on subjects of sustainability and reusability. She also rediscovers the processes hidden behind the product that have become distant through industrialization. During her key note she presented three of her projects: One Sheep Sweater, Flax chair, and Loes Veenstra.

Loes Veenstra was a women living in a small Dutch town where since 1955 she knitted over 500 sweaters. Those sweaters were never worn and instead spent their time hidden away in cardboard boxes. Christien has been asked to reuse the sweaters. She proceeded to photograph each of them and created a book  ‘Het Verzameld breiwerk van Loes Veenstra uit de 2e Carnissestraat’. However, this is not where her project finished. Because Loes never saw her sweater being worn, Christien organised a surprise for her.

You can read more about Christien Meindertsma and her work on her website.

The second Key Note speaker was Marten Baas, who is considered one of the most influential Dutch designers of the beginning of the 21st century. He has gained an autonomous position in the design field, and his work varies from conceptual designs, limited editions, production design, installations, public space, architecture, interior design, theater design and performances.

He presented many of his works, but my favourite one must be the “Real Time”. This piece is in a nut shell a 12-hour film indicating time. Theatre, film, art and design came together to create a series of new clock designs.

Read more about Maarten here.

Creativity & Play

The first paper session explored the relationship between play and creativity, and in particular how engaging in play can stimulate creative thinking. Presented papers focused on different areas of the topic from understanding the role of play and its impact on intellectual efficiency to particular tools that could help opening people to more varied thinking.

Sara Alfalah presented a paper on what her team of researchers called “The Mary Poppins Effect” – an effect of introducing a sense of play to a task and thus encouraging creative and innovative thinking. The overall conclusion of this research is that people should try to find the playful elements in their activities if they want to be more prolific. It’s also beneficial to promote playfulness in work environment to encourage more creative output. However, a question remains whether the sense of play still has its properties if it’s externally motivated.
Katriina Heljakka from the University of Helsinki presented Comicubes – double sided cubes based on the concept of old time wooden cube puzzles. This version however doesn’t have a pattern to follow, encouraging open-ended play. Cubes can have images, words, longer lines of text or other elements on them which can be connected in various ways encouraging creative thinking. They can also be folded and unfolded adding a sensory element and allowing participants to experiment and push the play even further. The concept also invites the use of digital enhancement of the cubes, for example by placing QR codes, allowing Augmented Reality etc. Comicubes seemed like a fantastic tool that could be used during creativity sessions, especially when participants are presented with empty cubes to use as they please. This, I felt, allowed people to benefit fully from the playfulness of the activity.

Ambiguity featured heavily during this year’s Design & Emotion conference. It has been highlighted as an important element during a design process, although not an obvious one for many designers. We encounter ambiguity at many stages during the design process but usually work to eliminate it in the final product. Puk Lotte Cathelijne de Jong talked about how cultivating tolerance of ambiguity can aid design process and stimulate creative thinking through ability to find alternative uses for objects and situations.

Thought Leader Session – Influencing Everyday Life

Jodi Forlizzi is an interaction designer and researcher in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute and at the School of Design, Carnegi Mellon University. Her research ranges from understanding the limits of human attention to understanding how products and services evoke social behavior. She also designs and researches systems ranging from peripheral displays to social and assistive robots and interfaces to control them.

She talked about how design changed. She distinguished several eras in product design:
– product as craft – designer and maker are the same person
– product as manufacture – designer and maker are different people
– product as experience – elevated role of the context of use
–  service design
– platforms

This illustrated the shift in design from products to services to platform, and the need for alternative design training, especially in the field of UX and UI which hasn’t changed at all throughout the years.

Jodi presented several of her current projects that aim to enhance people’s everyday life – from a hugging pillow to robots aiding people unable to feed themselves during group meals.

Adrian Cheok is Director of the Imagineering Institute, Malaysia, and Chair Professor of Pervasive Computing at City, University of London. He has been working on research covering mixed reality, human-computer interfaces, wearable computers and ubiquitous computing, fuzzy systems, embedded systems, power electronics.

He focused predominantly on using senses in modern systems. He presented his projects covering each of the five senses: touch – hugging pyjamas, Kissinger – kissing app, taste and smell – Hana Yakiniku (smell app).

If you would like to listen to the whole Thought Leader Session, you can find it here.

If you would like to read all papers from the first day in full, they are available through Scopus and Elsevier database. The full list of papers can be found below.

  1. P. J. Ihamaki, K. Heljakka, Comicubes – a playfull tool to stimulate (design) creativity, University of Turku
  2. B. Kudrowitz, S. Alfalah, C. Dippo, The Mary Poppins Effect: Exploring a relationship between playfulness and creativity with alternative uses test, University of Minnesota
  3. A. Kultima, T. Nummenmaa, S. Savolainen, J. Holopainen, K. Heljakka, V. Kankainen, K. Alha, F. Mayra, Towards framework for analyzing playful interventions: Lessons from a pink box full of dice, Unvierisity of Tampere, University of Turku
  4. P.L.C. de Jong, E. Ozcan, Tolerance of ambiguity in relationship to creativity and its implications for design practice, Delft University of Technology

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