Design Delight: A Framework For The Analysis And Generation Of Pleasurable Designs

Engendering experiential qualities: surprise, vitality, cuteness, serendipity, and reassurance.

Omar Sosa-Tzec
Assistant Professor
University of Michigan

This research introduces a framework named design delight, which is intended to analyze and give form to features of design products that provoke delight. In all human experiences, including designed experiences, delight plays a significant role. Particularly in modern societies, whose everyday life can be stressful, encountering moments of high pleasure can remind people that good things and individuals are part of such a life. It is no surprise that delight has been acknowledged as noteworthy element of experiences shaped by design. Design products that are delightful, no matter whether these are objects, graphics, or services, create emotional bonds, stronger memories, higher levels of loyalty, engagement, motivation for repurchase, and product promotion by word of mouth [1]–[6].

Design delight focuses on how design features are capable of engendering five particular experiential qualities: surprise, vitality, cuteness, serendipity, and reassurance. For design delight, these qualities characterize those instants of significant pleasure that a person encounters while she makes use a design product. Design delight is attentive to how design features help one or more of these qualities manifest or become salient in an interval of the user experience. This research argues that moments of pleasure derived from the combination of surprise, vitality, cuteness, serendipity, and reassurance constitute a rhetorical dimension of design products. A designer can make use of these five qualities to influence people’s behavior, attitudes, and beliefs. Design delight pays particular attention to how its constituents persuade, promote identification, invite to understanding, aid in self-discovery and self-knowledge, and shape reality.  

Design delight derives from the semiotic and rhetorical analysis [7]–[9] of numerous design products, including different kinds of user interfaces and interactive media, analog objects, and services. It also derives from secondary research on the notions of pleasure, delight, and aesthetics from the perspective of a variety of disciplines, including marketing, philosophy, and human-computer interaction. As a framework, design delight unifies foundations of semiotics, rhetoric, multimodal argumentation, and design for its theoretical underpinning. Design delight regards design features as multimodal signs which come into existence through a combination of six basic elements, namely, the visual, verbal, aural, olfactory, tactile, and temporal. Seen as signs, design features represent a means by which the designer communicates her intent; particularly, to invoke one or more of the five qualities happen. However, this semiotic perspective also considers that the context of use and how it affects the user’s process of generating meaning have an impact in how she grasps and reacts to such an intent.

Design delight is formulated as a conceptual framework to aid design practitioners and scholars in analyzing and elaborating on how design features engender significant moments instants of pleasure. Design delight is not a universal or quantifiable characterization of delight. Rather, design delight offers design practitioners and scholars a lens to view delight as something that shapes everyday life through design products. As making products that are surprising, lively, cute, serendipitous, and reassuring can contribute to living a good life, they can also lead to undesirable behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes. Professionals and scholars of design simply cannot be oblivious to the impact of delight in modern life and its connection with people’s psychological, physical, and emotional well-being. Whether design delight is used for generative or analytical purposes, this framework urges design practitioners and scholars keep in mind that creating pleasurable products entails an ethical responsibility.


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[8]             O. Sosa-Tzec and M. A. Siegel, “Rhetorical Evaluation of User Interfaces,” in Proceedings of the 8th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction: Fun, Fast, Foundational, New York, NY, USA, 2014, pp. 175–178.

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