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Kansei Engineering: incorporating affection and emotion into the design process.

kansei engineering, pronounced "kaaaaan-zaaaai!!"

Kansei is a japanese term where the syllable kan means sensitivity and sei means sensibility. It is used to express the quality of an object for producing pleasure through its use. Therefore, there are objects with much kansei, and others with little or no kansei at all. Ergosof provides a good definition, worth looking at.

Professor Mitsuo Nagamachi developed, back in the seventies, a technique to incorporate these issues in the industrial design methodology. This technique, named Kansei Engineering, has already been put into practice by several companies quite succesfully.

Mazda Motors is, perhaps, one of the companies that bet higher on Kansei Engineering from its early begining. Its patronage on Professor Nagamachi's works produced many successes: the Mazda Miata (MX5), designed from the bottom appliying these techniques, holds a Guiness record as the world's best selling roadster.

Kansei Engineering is especially interesting for us, who work in designing interactive products. There is an increasing claim for taking into account subjective issues (emotion, affect, perceptions, sensations...) in user experience, trascending the pure visual design. We could say that the goal is to objectivize these issues, to make them non dependant from the "magics and intuition". Instead, they should be based on rigorous and solid criteria.

Mixing emotion and interaction design is now a trendy issue. We are all watching out for the release of the next Norman's book (Emotional Design), which never seems to appear. Also, the next CHI will have a special area on emotion and design in interaction.

Unfortunately, it seems that the efforts of the community are only focused on expressing the need to take subjective issues into account. But there is no methodology to start working on this path rigorously.

Marco Van Hout is focusing his Masters Thesis in incorporating Kansei Engineering in interaction design. More specifically, his goal is to establish a protocol (model + methodology) to incorporate subjective and emotional issuesin the design process for interactive products. Apparently, HCI, information architecture and usability professionals will benefit the most from his work. It will open us new paths to improve our work regorously and within the boundaries of the user-cenered design.

I'm lucky to have the chance to collaborate with Marco in this job. I guess that this will lead me to write more on the subject soon. For the moment, those interested in digging a bit more on Kansei Engineering may take a look at Pleasure With Products: design based on Kansei, which is a very good starting point

March 14, 2003

NOTE: is a weblog written in spanish. This is a translation of a post titled Ingeniería Kansei: incorporar emoción y afecto en el proceso de diseño, originally posted on 03/14/2003.

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