Labelled with love

The hard science of engineering and the warm fuzzy glow of emotion come together in new European research aimed at designing products that we not only need – but we love.

The University of Leeds’ School of Mechanical Engineering is taking part in a project that aims to test our emotional responses to a variety of consumer products; to see how their texture, shape, temperature and colour affect our moods.

The project is led by Dr Vassilis Agouridas who explained: ‘It’s about designing for emotion. We are learning how people respond to the design of products, with a view to creating products that people feel happy with.’

The three-year project, funded by the European Commission, deals with establishing a theory to objectively measure, model and predict psychological effects. It involves partners across Europe from neuroscience, engineering, computer science and mathematics.

A team of researchers, including Professor Tom Childs, Dr Cathy Barnes and Dr Brian Henson, will observe volunteers in a special suite to see how they respond to different products, such as office furniture in different colours and textures.

This will allow the team to build a model that demonstrates the relationship between design and emotion. ‘It’s an emerging field – and an unusual one for an engineer to be involved in,’ said Dr Agouridas. ‘On a basic level it’s about why we might prefer a blue chair to a red one; why touching this synthetic texture is preferable to that one.’