Kansei Kougaku (感性工学) – a design methodology that serves to elucidate the user’s emotional response into the realm, or sphere so to speak, of a product or commodity. Founded by Hiroshima University Professor Mitsuo Nagamachi, the concept of Kansai Engineering, at surface level, allows us to link an individual’s physical and psychological reaction to the properties and essence of a product. This theory has not only become a well-studied notion that can be applied to an almost endless amount of applications, but has also given us, as inherently unique individuals, an opportunity to view nearly everything man-made with a sincere empathy – whether we are conscious of it or not.
If we take this idea at its outermost tier, it’s easy to apply to something like that of the interior of a car; the user is isolated, it’s a very ergonomically focused environment, it’s generally a space the user can confide in (trusting), and depending on the purpose of the drive, it’s a product that can evoke nearly the entire spectrum of human emotion. We’re all car people (that is more than likely why you’re here – certainly it’s not to read my existential ramblings), so this is an example you can relate to. Well, if that’s the case, is it unreasonable to think that it could be applied to something as abstract as the facade of a building? Or what about something so seemingly insignificant as a drinking glass? After all, just like a car, we use these things almost daily. Have you ever stopped to question though, if emotion was a driving factor in the design of such things? And if that was indeed the case, and a whole is the sum of all it’s parts, is it insane to think that entire cities could be built on the notion of ‘feeling’? Probably not. Rightly so, why should you?
It’s a concept that, for the most part, seems irrelevant – I get it. So, let’s take a minute and look at it from a different perspective then. Let’s work with a product that you know elicits an emotional response; photographs. Be honest with yourself, we’ve all seen pictures that have extracted the feelings right out of our heart. Whether it was a response of joy, or sorrow, we’ve all been there. Now, for the most part, when it’s commissioned, photography is supposed to do this. We want photographs of our wedding to be happy, lively, and full of love, as it is how we want to remember that day (hopefully). In contrast, we want photographs of war to evoke feelings of anger, grief, regret and maybe even brotherhood. Do you think that the photographer has control of this when taking the photo, or is the final picture a product of the environment it was created in? In the case of photography, my opinion is, that it’s a little bit of both. If we know our target audience though, it’s possible to tailor a photo to get the reaction the consumer wants. So is it so crazy to think we can’t apply that train of thought to a stair well, or the floor pattern of a building’s lobby? I feel that Japan has done this remarkably well, and I see it in a number of things.
I’d like to think, and I challenge you to think the same, that each decision in the production process of any commodity has emotional reasoning behind it. If anything, it’s a practice in understanding.
An understanding that can be applied to much more than inanimate objects. One that can transcend to the actions of people…
…and in doing so, gain insight into the consideration of such ideas in creation, and expand our perception of all things in life. A key aspect in the blueprint that makes up the world.