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

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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

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

  1. Sirpa Riihiaho says:

    The article is very “interactions” like. Not much of the research is told, but a few examples describing cool moments with a product, which kind of reveal what is strived for.

    One very important thing that Holtzblatt emphasizes is the type of interaction that minimizes the Delta and allows Direct into Action -type of use: Natural interactions that people have learned in their childhood should be used to enable as many new users to accept the new product.

    Another interesting thing in the article is that, at least in Holtzblatt’s opinion, the Cool Concept should be taken into account both for consumer products and business-directed products. Employees’ opinions and experiences of joy also matter 🙂

    For MoFS project, the Mint example gives something to think about: “Mint makes a start on fitting into life by providing a mobile app. That means Mint is able to be in the places where life happens – so financial chores can be handled in the spaces of life.”

    One thing I did not especially like in the article was the part saying: “Now we can define what is normal, because Facebook lets us see what others “like me” are doing.” Why should I do the same things as others and try to be “normal”??

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