Designing for Happiness

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Abstract

Although technology is flourishing, unhappiness rates have never been higher.
Supported by IKEA, this thesis aims to bring the topic of Happiness into the foreground.

Dealing with this intimate and difficult to measure topic, research and prototyping showed that there is no quick fix through taking a problem-solution approach.

Rather than claiming that this project has found the solution to Happiness, it shows two visions to give designers, companies, and governments the first glimpse of possible futures, implications, and challenges when labeling products with Happiness.

Inspiration and Method

Through a research process that included conducting user interviews, surveys, cultural probes and expert interviews with experts from IKEA, Happiness Institute in Copenhagen and educators, a set of common themes around the topic arose.

Research themes were defined as pillars, which broke down the complexity into manageable pieces. These pillars guided the ideation phase. I used product sketching and prototyping to allow validation of the ideas. After validating my initial concepts with users through 10 prototypes both physical and digital, I came to a pivotal realization.

In order to deal with my intangible, intimate and difficult to measure topic, taking a problem-solution approach would be ineffective and ignorant towards people who really struggle with happiness. I was able to see joyful reactions but not able to claim that my prototypes brought happiness to the users. It was also important to me that I didn't imply that there was a quick fix to this issue through one product solution.

Result

Two speculative visions on how to bring more happiness into our lives.
Rather than claiming that I had found the solution to happiness, the method of Speculative Design was effective to show two possible visions of happiness in our everyday lives. These two visions represent rich worlds that include speculative products, behaviours, and attitudes and were presented through storytelling in the form of two scenarios.

The final outcome gives both users and designers a glimpse of two possible futures, which enables them to form a point of view about which of those two visions would be more welcomed. Additionally, it provides designers and IKEA with a first example on what it would be like to label a product with happiness, making implications and challenges more visible.

By including critical inclinations or references to a "future world", I am pointing out that this is not yet a reality and asking at the same time question, but what if it was?