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Does ceramic tableware offer opportunities for emotional design?

Emma Lacey

This study responds to a perceived standardisation in design, which can be seen to result from mass-production, in a global market: It is concerned that product anonymity is contributing to a de-valuing of objects and thus a ‘throwaway’ culture. The paper argues that ceramic tableware can appeal to our emotional values and make suggestions for how an analysis of this can inform the design of emotionally durable ceramic objects. Coming from a background in Craft, the author’s research was conducted as live professional practice, aiming to contextualize and find relevant production methods for new industrial designs.

The paper begins by discussing the impact that globalisation is having on the ceramic market, and offers emotional design as a relevant discourse to counteract fast moving trends and production. A theoretical base is offered using Donald Norman (2005), and Jonathan Chapman’s (2005) theories of emotional design. These are then measured against the author’s ethnographic research, to demonstrate the emotive capabilities of the teacup or mug.

The paper goes on to explore existing examples of emotional design within an industrial context. It looks at how heritage, craft skills and user input can contribute to the design and production of ceramics, which are valued beyond their monetary cost. The author’s on-site factory visits, and interviews with production managers and designers, contribute to the argument that industrial ceramics can offer opportunities for emotional design.

Following this, new design concepts for emotionally durable ceramics, are offered: Three objects, designed and produced by the author, which are intended to be appreciated over time, are presented and the audience is invited to interact and feedback.

The paper concludes that, a consideration of the user’s emotional, tactile and social experiences with objects, could contribute to the design of ‘fewer better things’ (Maeir-Aichen 2007). It presents the notion that integrating individuality and uniqueness, into contemporary ceramic design, will encourage the user to choose and use objects, which they will value, long-term.
The Project was supported and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.


ceramics, value, experience, emotional design