This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

A Study for Playful Product Design




Hong, Zheyan

Type of Degree



Industrial Design


Fuzzy things like sensitivity and emotion have been ignored for decades as topics of scientific study and product design. However, more and more studies are focusing on the emotional side of product design. Highly developed technology, and lack of communication put more restriction and stress in people‘s lives. Especially today‘s youth -- the postmodern generation -- have grown up with a large degree of wealth, but still feel lonely. People nowadays try to release their pressure or gain comfort by a moment of pure joy or relaxation. As far as design is concerned, people have more requirements about products they have -- they are not only looking for the utility side, but also the non-utility side. They are looking for something that could tie them to the product (Norman, 1988). Play is being studied for satisfying emotional needs and improving interpersonal relationship. It‘s widely accepted that play means fun and joyful. Recent studies also show the close relationship between mental health and playfulness of adults‘ personalities. In addition, psychologists are beginning to use play as a standard of testing people‘s mental condition. But few researchers have worked specifically on the fundamental principles of play and how to apply them effectively to design. iii From the perspective of industrial design, there have been a few trails of applying playfulness to the product design, like Alessi‘s products at the end of the twentieth century. However, most of these trails failed to interpret the word ―play‖. A lot of them address the appearance and form elements, rather than integrating the playful elements into the overall user experience. As designers change their focus from form-giving to human-concerned design, form – giving design without thinking about the functions -- are challenged. And those designs relying only on ―cute shapes‖ quickly become dated. In the context of this thesis, the playful is deeply studied and translated to design language. Based on the psychological study of playfulness as well as product design language, the criteria is set up and examined. This study is dedicated to bring joyful emotions to user experience, and providing a design approach for creating playful features. For the purposes of this thesis, the terms ―play ― and ―playful‖ will be used interchangeably.