Holtzblatt, K. (2011) What makes things cool? Intentional design for innovation. Interactions November+December 2011.

Article describes results of a research project conducted by InContext Design and focusing on what makes products and services cool. The research resulted to two concepts, the Wheel of Joy and the Triangle of Design that define the aspects of life that designers should focus on to design for cool. The basic premise of Holtzblatt’s thinking about cool is that the center of cool is joy.

The Wheel of Joy consists of four segments: accomplishment, connection, identity, and sensation. Accomplishment refers to the joy of  accomplishing an intent. Intents are larger than tasks and thus the cool of accomplishment changes the design focus from tasks to life (Holtzblatt names this new design approach as life-centered design). Connection refers to our basic need to connect with other people. “…cool tools help make relationships that matter more real and manageable…” as Holtzblatt puts it. Identity refers to our need to figure out who we are and how each one of us contributes to the world. Sensation on the other hand refers to sensory immersion and moments of sensual delight.

The Triangle of Design defines three factors which increase or decrease the cool experience: direct into action, the hassle factor, and the delta. Direct into action means that products and services should aim at enable users to directly fulfill their intents. The hassle factor refers to the extra work, waiting, etc. that is needed when trying to accomplish something. The design aim is to minimize tool hassle and remove some of life hassle. The delta refers to the learning, initiating and other preparatory activities that are needed before the direct into action materializes. If the delta is too big, the product will not be experienced cool regardless of its sophisticated features or beautiful design.

Karen Holtzblatt. 2011. What makes things cool?: intentional design for innovation. interactions18, 6 (November 2011), 40-47. DOI=10.1145/2029976.2029988 http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2029976.2029988