A Global Study Into The Effects Of Design On Happiness And Creativity

Posted on October 31 2017

A Global Study Into The Effects Of Design On Happiness And Creativity




Psychological research has shown that the human brain places great importance on visual information. How we see the world strongly influences how we feel about it and how we judge the things in it. 

The perception of beauty in particular can have a strong effect on our outlook – and how we view other people. Studies have shown that people who were thought to be more attractive or more beautiful were also believed to be more honest, reliable and sensitive. Psychologists call this “The Halo Effect”.

Dr Simon Moore, Chartered Psychologist and Management Director at Innovationbubble, research specialists in behavioural psychology, explains:

“The Halo Effect causes us to be swayed by someone or something’s beauty. If we consider a person to be attractive, we unconsciously tend to see them and their personalities in a more favourable light, believing them to be more honest or reliable than we might otherwise do. We let down our guard because we feel safe and relaxed.

A good example is jurors who found the defendants in the case they were attending to be beautiful. The defendants were less likely to be found guilty of criminal behaviour. Or received more lenient sentences. And the opposite of this can be seen in films, where the bad guys are made out to be ugly and therefore threatening.”

When it comes to design, our study shows that beautiful objects can also cause The Halo Effect. When an object like a watch or a pair of glasses looks good we believe that it will work well too. But good design isn’t just about how a thing looks…

“The nice things are on show in my apartment – the functional things are in cupboards.” Josh (28) – Digital Designer, USA

“I write better with my favourite pen than the better designed one. Strange, eh?” Rachel (25) – Nurse, UK

Good design isn’t just about making an object that’s beautiful. It’s about combining form and function into a seamless whole. Good design is both beautiful and functional.

Like the watch by Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake, with its absolutely functional minimalism. There is artistry in its abstract yet clearly legible depiction of the twelve five-minute increments of time.

And the office staple, the Post-it note. Designed by American inventor and scientist Arthur Fry, using an adhesive developed by his colleague Dr Spencer Silver. The Post-it note is possibly the best example of corporate innovation that led to a very inexpensive, highly successful and enduring product.

The appearance of these everyday objects informs what they do. They instinctively elicit feelings of curiosity and excitement, and it’s their sheer simplicity that is effortlessly beautiful and makes them iconic.

HTC, the mobile phone company, wanted to scientifically demonstrate that well-designed everyday objects can have a positive impact on the way we feel. That good design can make us feel happy and can inspire us to be more creative. So HTC commissioned a series of laboratory and online experiments, devised by psychologists and neuroscientists.

What is surprising about the results is that they reveal a universal truth. A truth that upholds what HTC has long believed and demonstrates through its product design – Good design isn’t just about what an object looks like. For something to be ‘a good design’ it must be both beautiful and functional. It’s this winning combination that has the optimum positive effect on us in terms of making us feel both happy and creative.

Key findings:

Well-designed objects that are both beautiful and functional trigger positive emotions like calmness and contentment, reducing negative feelings like anger and annoyance by almost a third (29%)

Purely functional objects that are not beautiful increase negative emotions like gloominess and depression by 23%

Purely beautiful objects that are not functional reduce negative emotions by 29%, increasing a sense of calmness and ease

Poor functionality hinders creativity making it 45% more difficult to be creative and almost half (44%) as much fun

So, when an object looks good and works well it makes us feel happy. But what is “happiness”? And how can we define it?

According to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, the definition of happiness is:
• A state of well-being and contentment
• A pleasurable or satisfying experience

“Functional suggests ‘acceptable to me’ – the aesthetics make it special and make me happy.” Kim (28) – Personal Trainer, Australia

Psychologists categorise happiness as “a low arousal positive emotion.” Along with feelings of contentment and relaxation, wellbeing and calm, happiness is an emotion that makes us feel good. It’s stable, supportive and can be experienced for sustained periods of time.

Please find the details of the experiments and results here.

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