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GOOD DESIGN MAKES YOU HAPPY

A GLOBAL STUDY INTO THE EFFECTS OF DESIGN ON HAPPINESS AND CREATIVITY


FOREWORD

“We’re surrounded by objects. Everyday objects that fill our lives. Objects at home, objects at work, objects at play. From the kettle we switch on first thing in the morning to the light we switch off last thing at night. Objects are everywhere we look.

At HTC we understand that our customers have our smartphones every hour of every day. And that’s a responsibility we take seriously.

That’s why we focus on craftsmanship. Why we don’t cut corners. Why we care.

It’s because we understand how much design matters that we’re so committed to it. We’ve always known instinctively that good design is important and has a positive effect on us. We’ve applied this to the way our smartphones look, how they feel and how they work.

But we’ve gone one step further. We’re curious to see if we could back up scientifically what we intuitively know: That good design makes us happy. Design that we see all the time - on objects like chairs, clocks, cutlery and glasses.

With the global study we’ve commissioned, we now know that good design actually does make us happy.”

Claude Zellweger,
Associate Vice President, Design, HTC

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Psychological research has shown that the human brain places great importance on visual information. How we see the world strongly influences how we feel about it and how we judge the things in it.

The perception of beauty in particular can have a strong effect on our outlook – and how we view other people. Studies have shown that people who were thought to be more attractive or more beautiful were also believed to be more honest, reliable and sensitive. Psychologists call this “The Halo Effect”.

Dr Simon Moore, Chartered Psychologist and Management Director at Innovationbubble, research specialists in behavioural psychology, explains:

“The Halo Effect causes us to be swayed by someone or something’s beauty. If we consider a person to be attractive we unconsciously tend to see them and their personalities in a more favourable light, believing them to be more honest or reliable than we might otherwise do. We let down our guard because we feel safe and relaxed.

A good example is jurors who found the defendants in the case they were attending to be beautiful. The defendants were less likely to be found guilty of criminal behaviour. Or received more lenient sentences. And the opposite of this can be seen in films, where the bad guys are made out to be ugly and therefore threatening.”

When it comes to design, our study shows that beautiful objects can also cause The Halo Effect. When an object like a watch or a pair of glasses looks good we believe that it will work well too. But good design isn’t just about how a thing looks…

“The nice things are on show in my apartment – the functional things are in cupboards.” Josh (28) – Digital Designer, USA

“I write better with my favourite pen than the better designed one. Strange, eh?” Rachel (25) – Nurse, UK

For HTC, good design isn’t just about making an object that’s beautiful. It’s about combining form and function into a seamless whole. Good design is both beautiful and functional.

Like the watch by Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake, with its absolutely functional minimalism. There is artistry in its abstract yet clearly legible depiction of the twelve five-minute increments of time.

And the office staple, the Post-it note. Designed by American inventor and scientist Arthur Fry, using an adhesive developed by his colleague Dr Spencer Silver. The Post-it note is possibly the best example of corporate innovation that led to a very inexpensive, highly successful and enduring product.

The appearance of these everyday objects informs what they do. They instinctively elicit feelings of curiosity and excitement and it’s their sheer simplicity that is effortlessly beautiful and makes them iconic.

Claude Zellweger, Associate Vice President, Design, at HTC, agrees: “You could just as easily sketch these objects to describe what they are and what they do as you could describe them in words. Their form follows their function.”

HTC wanted to scientifically demonstrate that well-designed everyday objects can have a positive impact on the way we feel. That good design can make us feel happy and can inspire us to be more creative. So HTC commissioned a series of laboratory and online experiments, devised by psychologists and neuroscientists.

What is surprising about the results is that they reveal a universal truth. A truth that upholds what HTC has long believed and demonstrates through its product design – Good design isn’t just about what an object looks like. For something to be ‘a good design’ it must be both beautiful and functional. It’s this winning combination that has the optimum positive effect on us in terms of making us feel both happy and creative.

Key findings:

Well-designed objects that are both beautiful and functional trigger positive emotions like calmness and contentment, reducing negative feelings like anger and annoyance by almost a third (29%)

Purely functional objects that are not beautiful increase negative emotions like gloominess and depression by 23%

Purely beautiful objects that are not functional reduce negative emotions by 29%, increasing a sense of calmness and ease

Poor functionality hinders creativity making it 45% more difficult to be creative and almost half (44%) as much fun

So, when an object looks good and works well it makes us feel happy. But what is “happiness”? And how can we define it?

According to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, the definition of happiness is:
• A state of well-being and contentment
• A pleasurable or satisfying experience

“Functional suggests ‘acceptable to me’ – the aesthetics make it special and make me happy.” Kim (28) – Personal Trainer, Australia

Psychologists categorise happiness as “a low arousal positive emotion.” Along with feelings of contentment and relaxation, wellbeing and calm, happiness is an emotion that makes us feel good. It’s stable, supportive and can be experienced for sustained periods of time.

METHODOLOGY

At HTC we’ve always known instinctively that good design is important, both in the way our smartphones look and how they work. In order to demonstrate this we commissioned an independent global study in two stages:

The first stage of the test was conducted under laboratory conditions. It investigated the effect of design on creativity and happiness.

The second stage was conducted online, with a test designed to demonstrate that good design encourages creativity – and makes us happy.

Our scientific study involved a total of 2,177 participants from seven countries: Australia, China, Germany, Russia, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Lab study

77 of these participants, representing each of the seven countries, were put under laboratory conditions by Innovationbubble to measure the effect of design on creativity and happiness.

Three key baseline biometric measurements were taken at different stages throughout the process:

• Mood profile
• Emotional engagement (tested by galvanic skin response)
• Arousal levels (tested by heart rate)

Physiological experiences, such as heart rate or electrodermal activity, are automatic behaviours not under our conscious control. As a result we are more confident that this data is ‘real’ and uncontaminated by social pressure or expectancy effects.

We might be able to control what verbal answer we give in response to a question, but we cannot readily do this with our autonomic biological systems. Psychophysiology also allows researchers the chance to apply a methodology that can collect information in real time. As a result of these facts, physiological-based research often requires lower participant sample sizes than questionnaire-based studies. For this study participant numbers are standard for an investigation based on psychophysiological measurement.

Test participants were split into groups and shown objects from one of three different categories:

• Functional and beautiful
• Not functional – but beautiful
• Functional – but not beautiful

Each participant chose one object from their category and answered questions on its aesthetic values and its functionality.

Focus groups

24 of these participants worked in smaller focus groups to discuss and describe their thoughts on three different lamps, one from each of the different categories:

• Functional and beautiful
• Not functional – but beautiful
• Functional – but not beautiful

“Function is about efficiency; beauty is about experiencing!” Ana (37) – Violinist, Germany

Online study

2,100 of these participants completed an online creativity test that investigated the effect of aesthetics and functionality on creativity and happiness.

The test asked users a number of questions, based on the six steps of the creative process: Inspection, clarity, evaluation, distillation, incubation and perseverance.

Participants completed one of three versions of a test where the user interface had:

1. Good design and functionality – user interface created according to HTC’s design principles and worked as users expected
2. Good design and poor functionality – user interface looked good but had non-standard form controls and did not work as expected
3. Poor design and good functionality – user interface worked as users expected but its design was noisy and clumsy with different colours, fonts and backgrounds.

The interface with poor functionality had the greatest negative effects on the creative process in all countries except China. Like the functional objects in the lab tests it reduced people’s feelings of happiness and consequently hindered their creative ability.

Example objects for lab study


Functional and beautiful

Participants described objects that were functional and beautiful as:

• Complete
• Perfect
• Ideal
• Professional
• Strong
• Convincing
• Safe
• Secure


Just beautiful

Participants described objects that were not functional but beautiful as:

• Pretty
• Attractive
• Gorgeous
• Fun
• Pleasing
• Alluring
• Captivating


Just functional

Participants described objects that were functional but not beautiful as:

• Operational
• Boring
• Uninspiring
• Dull
• Cold
• Normal
• Plain
• Dull

RESULTS

Scientists reported that participants from all over the world had very similar baselines at the start of the testing procedure. This highlighted that any notable changes in responses were a clear result of visual and physical interaction with the objects.



How beauty and functionality affect our emotion
Psychologists mapped the four key emotional states onto a quadrant graph:

• High arousal negative emotions – tense, angry, frustrated, annoyed
• Low arousal negative emotions – gloomy, bored, sad, depressed
• High arousal positive emotions – excited, delighted, happy, alert
• Low arousal positive emotions – relaxed, at ease, calm, content

The three different coloured arrows represent the three categories:
• Light green – Functional and beautiful
• Dark green – Just beautiful
• Light green – Just functional

In each quadrant a plus and minus sign indicate the strength with which the participant is feeling a particular emotion. The more an arrow points to a plus sign, the more the participant is experiencing that emotion. All participants start in the centre – and every arrow ends at a significantly different point.



Scientists reported that:

Participants who experienced the purely beautiful objects (the juicer, the blank watch and the log bench) felt a significant increase in their feelings of calm, contentment and relaxation. They also reported a significant decrease in negative emotions.

Participants who experienced the purely functional objects (the complex watch, the duck head lamp and the colourful speakers) experienced significant increases in negative emotions and greater decreases in feelings of relaxation, calm and contentment.

“You want to engage and look at beautiful things even when you’re not using them! That’s not the case for functional products.” Mario (21) Trainee Chef, Australia

How beauty affects us



Emotional engagement

Galvanic skin response measurements indicate the level of emotional engagement experienced by participants during the test procedure. Skin responses measure low arousal emotions, like boredom, sadness, relaxation and contentment.

The high level of skin response from the ‘beautiful only’ participants in this test supports the idea that the human brain places great importance on visual information – The Halo Effect.

This idea was reinforced by the scientists who reported that participants “approached the beautiful objects much more readily than they did the other objects” and that they appeared to be “drawn in” by them.

The ‘functional and beautiful’ participants responded to the stimuli at a similar level to the functional participants. This suggests that the addition of function to a beautiful object may serve to cancel out or temper the strong response to an engagement with beauty.

“If I’m honest – on a daily basis the look of a product affects my mood more than its function.” Louis (25) – Student, UK

Emotional arousal



Heart rate measurements are connected to high arousal emotions like anger, frustration, excitement and delight. They demonstrate the levels of emotional arousal experienced by participants. Those who experienced objects in the ‘beautiful only’ category experienced a fall in their heart rates, supporting the idea that beauty has a calming effect on our emotional state.

“A beautifully-made product inspires me to be creative – it helps me engage with it.”
Jia-hao (29) – Architect, Taiwan

Participants in the ‘functional and beautiful’ category responded with elevated heart rates, supporting the HTC principle that good design – something that excites and delights us - is a combination of form and function.

Claude Zellweger, Associate Vice President, Design, at HTC, agrees:
“Beauty matters. Functionality matters. And good design matters. At HTC we understand this and it’s why we focus on creating a premium experience for our customers. Quality, care, and craftsmanship – they all make a difference. Good design isn’t about making something beautiful for beauty’s sake. It’s about understanding the effect it can have on someone’s day, on their life. It’s about making our customers happy.”

CONCLUSION

Dr Simon Moore, Chartered Psychologist and Project Design and Management Director at Innovationbubble, responds to the HTC global study:

Beauty and emotions
“Cognitive psychology shows us that creativity is supported when we feel relaxed, calm and happy.

Don Norman, author of ‘The Design of Everyday Things’ said: “The brain works differently if you’re happy. Things work better because you’re more creative. You get a little problem, you say, “Ah, I’ll figure it out.” No big deal.”

This explains why we can often solve problems when we’re in the bath - or have our best and most outrageous ideas when we’re out and about, taking a walk or daydreaming as we stare out of the window.

Beauty induces stable long-term positive emotions and has a cathartic effect against negative emotions. Going for a walk in the countryside or on the beach can lift our mood. Looking at a brilliant photograph or a renowned painting can move us to tears.

At the other end of the scale high impact positive emotions – elation, excitement and delight – don’t last long. They can’t – they’re too exhausting to sustain and, as such, are not conducive to creativity.

Such extreme emotions are distracting attentiongrabbers. And they reduce our creativity just as much as anger or stress. Experiencing them depletes our energy and takes away resources from other areas of our behaviour, such as cognitive activity.

The other reason that beauty can have a pronounced effect on us is linked to the way we are designed. We are predators and as such our brain gives undue attention to visual stimuli.

A disproportionate percentage of the brain is routed to visual stimulus, more than any of the other senses we experience. This is because our eyes are our primary warning system to both threatening stimuli and to things that might produce reward or pleasure.

The fact that we seek out ‘beautiful’ things is based on conditioning. We associate attractive things with positivity: “The Halo Effect”. Generally speaking the more beautiful we rate a person to be, the more we judge them (wrongly) to be more sensitive, honest, reliable and helpful.

So beauty is misinterpreted as being linked to positive qualities and characteristics. This then acts to reassure or calm us that there is no threat. Studies have shown for example that when strangers are put in waiting rooms together – the less attractive they rate the other person, the more anxious they feel. So inaccurately in the presence of beauty - our stress levels probably decrease and are replaced with feelings of calm reassurance and safety.

In terms of design it’s clear that beautiful objects can boost our mood. How many of us collect things just to look at and admire? We do not use them for anything other than the pleasure they bring us to look at or touch. They almost act like an ‘emotional vitamin’ - boosting our feelings of happiness and pleasure and buffering us against stress and tension.

This concept was reflected by many of the study’s participants, who have consciously surrounded their work-stations or certain areas in their homes with beautiful objects:

“Having beautiful products around my workstation mark my creative territory.” Lin (26) – Student, China

“Having beautiful things to look at soothes me when I’m stressed and inspires me when I need to create.”Mei-hui (22) – Nanny, Taiwan

It’s clear from these results that beauty has a calming effect on our feelings and our emotions. Coupled with this, research shows that positive moods make us more receptive to ideas and open to new experiences or solutions – which in turn make us more creative.

This research has shown that objects that are beautiful or, even better, beautiful and functional – significantly increase our feelings of happiness and contentment. Which is an important feature in our present day busy and stressful lives.”

It is why at HTC, we pay so much attention to design – both on the outside and the inside. It’s not just about creating a gorgeous phone that looks and feels great – it also has to perform in a way that’s both easy and intuitive, allowing users to get the most out of their smartphone every day. The HTC One™ perfectly embodies this philosophy and has become one of the most critically acclaimed phones of 2013.

REPORT CONTRIBUTORS

Simon Moore | Innovationbubble Chartered Psychologist and Insight Director

Dr Simon Moore is a chartered psychologist and expert on emotional engagement and decision making. He is a media spokesperson for the British Psychological Society, an author and an international conference speaker. Dr Moore is trained in psychobiological and psychometric profiling and has acted as consultant for organisations such as Sony, Microsoft, Cadbury, London Science Museum, UK Government, Fedex, Coca Cola and the Pharma industry.


Dr Moore is especially interested in how emotions guide our interactions with people, products and objects. He currently leads a team of chartered psychologists engaged in product and brand insight research.

“This research is a double whammy. It proves that objects that are beautiful or, even better, beautiful and functional – significantly increase our feelings of happiness and contentment.”

“From psychological research we know that low arousal positive moods, like feelings of calm, contentment and happiness, make us more outgoing and receptive to new ideas – which in turn make us more creative.”

Scott Croyle | HTC Senior Vice President, Design

Scott guides both the industrial design and user experience teams, striving to make sure that HTC products strike an emotional connection with consumers. Scott believes that outstanding product design stems from a combination of research and intuition, with designers encouraged to trust their creativity in order to bring a unique perspective and emotion to products that resonate with consumers.


Drawing on this approach, Scott has helped to drive successful projects for companies including Kodak, Nike, K2 Snowboards and HTC.

Prior to joining HTC, Scott served as a principal at One & Co., sharing the management responsibilities for the 18-person industrial design agency alongside Jonah Becker and Claude Zellweger. He has also worked in a variety of roles at Moto Development Group, Telespree and Design Edge.

Scott received his Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Texas.

Claude Zellweger | HTC Associate Vice President, Design

Claude Zellweger is an Associate Vice President, Design, at HTC. Born in Switzerland, Zellweger regards his role as making the complex simple, providing relief from tension and creating for people’s known and unknown needs.


The design fraternity, he believes, is required to ‘anticipate the new and increasingly sophisticated fictional architecture of our desires’. Internationally recognised, Zellweger has received many awards, including the prestigious Chicago Athenaeum Award and the 40 under 40 Europe Award.

Zellweger is a regular lecturer and frequent traveller, and his world view has been informed by extensive experience not just in Switzerland and the Silicon Valley but by working with clients as diverse as Nike, Burton, Microsoft, Sony, Kodak and Incase.

“We were curious to see if we could scientifically back up what we intuitively know: that good design makes us happy.”

MY 12 FAVOURITE EVERYDAY OBJECTS

Claude Zellweger | Associate Vice President, Design, at HTC

CHECK IT OUT

REPORT REFERENCES

“Creativity is enhanced most by positive mood states… e.g. happiness.”
American Psychological Association

“Positive mood enhances creativity.”
Mark A Davis, University of North Texas, www.sciencedirect.com

ABOUT HTC

Founded in 1997, HTC Corp. (HTC) is the creator of many award-winning mobile devices and industry firsts. By putting people at the center of everything it does, HTC pushes the boundaries of design and technology to create innovative and personal experiences for consumers around the globe. HTC’s portfolio includes smartphones and tablets powered by the HTC Sense® user experience. HTC is listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange (TWSE: 2498). For more information, please visit: www.htc.com.

©2014 HTC Corporation. All rights reserved. HTC, the HTC logo, HTC One, and HTC Sense are trademarks of HTC Corporation. Beatsaudio and the circle b logo are trademarks of Beats Electronics, LLC. All other company names, product names, and other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Reference to such third party trademarks is for informational purposes only and is not intended to indicate or imply any affiliation, association, sponsorship, or endorsement by or of HTC.