Smart IxD Lab


Thoughts, observations and experimentation on interaction by: Smart Design

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Earlier this year, Smart Intern Floriane Rousse-Marquet looked into ways to blend analog and digital in order to create impactful and meaningful experiences. She shares her discoveries in the post below:

We love designing around the physical world because it gives us more sensory experiences to play with, relate to, and personalize in order to trigger strong emotional responses. The digital world, on the other hand, offers the benefit of being efficient. It allows scalability and the possibility to share what’s been created and experienced. It also offers the potential to learn and update in the background. So how can we find balance between the analog and the digital to maximize the emotional value of a product?


To answer this question, I started by analyzing media consumption (text, sound, image), looking for strengths and weaknesses for each category from an emotional point of view. For example, for sound, physical albums don’t let you transport your music the way you could with an MP3, but they allow for a richer gestural ritual. Albums are easily scratched, but  because they are fragile you develop a deeper attachment to the object because you want to protect it. On the other hand, digital music allows for sharing, portability and easily navigating among songs and albums.

I tried to identify patterns and similarities that lead to an anticipated emotional response and a cherished product by leveraging the meaningful parts of the analog while harnessing the power of the digital. These are summarized in the 6 principles below.


1. Create rituals through the senses. Use different emotional triggers from the experience such as materials and shape, and enable a step-by-step discovery. Gesture matters. Letting people connect positively to an activity in a physical way builds memorable interactions. 

2. Be conscious of the value of tangible things. Give objects character through unique forms and materials, and implement a sense of lifetime and age. Make the link between the medium and the content visible to create a feeling of responsibility and care over it.  

3. Craft personality through the look and feel and the details to help build product identity. 

In Emotional Design Don Norman said,

“I value my teapots not only for their function for brewing tea, but because they are a sculptural artwork’ , ‘beyond the design of an object, there is a personal component as well’(…) we take pride in them, (…) because of the meaning they bring to our lives,’‘can I tell a story about it? Does it appeal to myself image, to my pride?’”

4. Offer the opportunity to create a personal mark. Take advantage the tangible manifestation of a physical action on the content, and highlight the data through display. The interface should be able to learn from you and help you empathize with the object.

5. Bring focus to the core experience. Define a limit to information coming in and the type of information given in order to offer a more curated experience.

6. Enable people to pass experiences on to one another by making the missing item visible when shared, giving a second life to the data and allowing people to share their experiences.

One key insight we gleaned is that the best digital experiences are enhanced by the platform they are in. Historically, so many digital experiences have been delivered through a single platform. The Internet of Things has the potential to release the tension between digital and analog by making digital more tangible. We believe that designers should break through the barriers of the screen. An object should be able to live on its own, not only through a virtual platform, and bring new forms of interaction between the user and her environment.


The diagram below summarizes the key moments of a  physical book experience.


And this diagram has the key moments of the experience of an e-reader.


Posted by: Carla Diana

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