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Design and Emotion: Supra-Functionality for Engineers

Benjamin Watson , Deana McDonagh

This paper offers an insight into the engineering design practitioners' view on the integration of supra- functionality in their own design practice. It will discuss how practitioners may adopt an emotionally intelligent design approach to support future projects, with the aim of improving their commercial return and enhancing the total user experience.

Responding to supra-functional needs of users, such as their emotional and cultural requirements is fundamental to the success of a product. Providing satisfactory function alone does not necessarily lead to product acceptance or use. Few engineering designers appreciate the added value of emotionally aware design and may find it difficult to develop successful user-centred products.

Tools for integrating supra-functionality may share the same title from one project to the next but can be extremely different in content for each product or system. A flexible approach needs to become an integral part of the engineering design process, applied holistically and integrated with the engineers’ pre-defined sources of information.

Engineers quite often work in isolation with minimal input from industrial designer or consumers in the design process. The late involvement of the user within the design process results in the product foundation being laid down without consideration to users’ supra-functional needs. This paper discusses the engineers’ view of suprafunctionality at a philosophical level and in its practical application. The discussion will be based on a focus group session and one-to-one interviews with a sample of design engineers.


Engineering Designer, Human Centred-Design, Supra-functionality, emotion