Different Kinds of Emotional Relationship

I realised there are various types of emotional relationship between people and objects.


  1. Relationship built though the creation of  the object
    -T loves her bike because she mix and matched the gears and picked the colours for every single component of the bike.
  2. Relationship developed though time and using experience
    -D loves her bolster because she have been sleeping with it and she is very used to having it.
  3. Memory transferred from one object to another
    (will be updated)
  4. Memory kept for a specific object and refused to be replace
    -I once lost my favourite white Lamy pen.When I buy a new one, I decided not to in the same colour. So my white pen will be forever special to me, and if I am lucky enough and found the pen, I will not have two of the same pen.
  5. Memento (of person/event)
    -C treasures a ring from her auntie whom has passed away; A loves her guitar because it was the guitar played by her dad.
  6. Important due to the story of acquiring/ receiving the object
    -E treasures her sketchbook because it is from a person who encouraged her to draw and develop her arty cells.
  7. Like it just by the first glance (colour/texture/ shape/ imagination of using…etc)
    -J likes his wallet’s design since years ago when his friend used it
  8. Like the way the object touches/ hold (colour/texture/ shape/ size/ way to be use…etc)
    -S likes how her soft toy touches like an animal
    -L likes how her little soft toy bunny can be hold by one hand with its head popping out
    -K likes his pair of shorts because it is comfy so even it has torn apart can couldn’t be worn again, he still keeps it
  9. Object became important because it is lost
    -D remembers his favourite toy car because it was the first time for him to experience lost. He does not remember the other toys he had, but only the one he had lost.

Otaku Culture

Japanese otaku culture is a growing and spreading subculture.

It seems to hint on how emotional attachments can be created between people and objects.


Otaku is a Japanese term for people with obsessive interests (similar to the meaning of ‘geek’ in english). Originally, the term specifically refers to those with interest on anime, manga and games (ACG), and was quite negative. However, recently the definition has been widen and not only refers to people who loves ACG, but also refers to those with obsessive interest and in depth knowledge of other subcultures. The meaning of the word has also becomes more neutral.

Still, many of the otakus are low in social abilities and are living in their own imaginary 2-Dimensional world, and is obsessed with the respective merchandises, and extremely value them. A strong emotional bound exists between the owner and the merchandises.


Extreme Otaku Rooms:

Otaku Room

Otaku Image







Interview: People and Objects

Why do people seek for emotion from objects?

What kind of emotional relationship do they have?

And how did the emotional attachment affect one’s way of treating an object?



Thinking of the above questions, I constructed several interviews.


Questions to understand people’s emotional attachment to objects:

  • What is the object you use the most? How frequently? Why? Where do you keep it?
  • What is the object you enjoy using the most? Why? (In terms of structure, ways of operating, texture…)
  • What is the object you value the most? Why?
  • What is the object you love the most? Why?
  • What is the object you cherish the most? Why?
  • If the answers differs, why is it so?
  • What is the object you are the most proud of owning?
  • Do you have an interesting story related to that object that you would like to share?
  • Do you have an object that you are emotionally attached to?
  • Do you have an object that is pet-like / creature-like to you?


To understand how people think of  “responsive furniture”, I introduced my interviewee to Takara Tomy’s ClockChan, a clock designed to be “human like”. It speaks, tells you the time verbally, and talk about random things.

  • Takara Tomy’s ClockChan: What do you think about this product?

Takara Clock Chan







Participant A:

  •  use the most
    – Iphone
  • enjoy using the most
    – Iphone (Because it helps her to connect with others, and she can use social media on it)
    – Bed (Because it is comfortable)
  • value the most
    – 1st branded hand bag she bought with her own money ($2500)
    However, she said she have only been taking extra care of the handbag for the 1st month.
    Afterwards, she just does not bother to care if putting food and drinks into the bag will stain the bag or not.
  • love the most
    – Bed
    – Small cloud shaped pillow (It’s the right size and shape, and she likes to have it next to her face) Texture is not important in this case.
  • cherish the most
    – She suddenly remember of her bolster which she has since young (she can’t remember when and how did she received it). She says, if it is ever broken, she will bring it back to indonesia for her dad to fix it. Her dad is not an expert on sewing or textile, but she thinks her dad will have a solution because she trust him the most.
  • If the answers differs, why is it so?
    – The meaning of the words are different, and she was not aware of her bolster could be the answer in the earlier stage.
  • the most proud of owning
    – Bolster
  • interesting story related to that object
    – She is very used to sleeping with her bolster, therefore, when she moved to melbourne 7 years ago, she bought the bolster with her. She usually sleep, study and relax with it. She sleeps with it everyday.
  •  emotionally attached
    – Bolster
  • object that is pet-like / creature-like
  • ClockChan


Participant B:

  •  use the most
    – Bed
  • enjoy using the most
  • value the most
    – Sketchbook (gift from a friend, who encourages her to draw, and appreciate her gift on drawing)
  • love the most
  • cherish the most
  • If the answers differs, why is it so?
  • the most proud of owning
    -the apartment she is living in (it’s layout, furnishing, how it is ready for guests to come in anytime)
  • interesting story related to that object
    – She got the apartment in 14 days, and even there were many people applying, she beats them and got the offer straight away
  • emotionally attached
    – guitar, music
  • object that is pet-like / creature-like
    – robot vaccum cleaner bought by mum
  • ClockChan
    – for people who are very lonely
    – the emotional relationship built with this clock will be unhealthy
    – it is a “cheap” interaction, a “cheap” relationship


Participant C:

  •  use the most
    – Big  red patrick doll (she sleeps with it)
  • enjoy using the most
  • value the most
    – Canon camer (suprise birthday gift from dad)
  • love the most
  • cherish the most
  • If the answers differs, why is it so?
  • the most proud of owning
    – Bike “Wally”, it looks like wally, and has a character of getting lost
  • interesting story related to that object
    – She picked the colour combination for a day with her friends
  • emotionally attached
  • object that is pet-like / creature-like
    – Wally, it is like her buddy, always hang out with her (6 trips per week)
  • ClockChan
    – not practical


Participant D:

  •  use the most
    – Iphone, computer
  • enjoy using the most
  • value the most
    – Wallet from girlfriend (1st valuable branded gift)
  • love the most
  • cherish the most
    – Wallet from girlfriend
  • If the answers differs, why is it so?
  • the most proud of owning
    – New wallet he bought after his wallet from girlfriend got stolen
  • interesting story related to that object
    – He liked his new wallet since a few years ago, when he saw his friend has a older version of it. After he lost his wallet, he sort of looked around for different designs for a while, but when he came up with this new version of his friend’s wallet, he decided to buy this right away.
  • emotionally attached
    – No
  • object that is pet-like / creature-like
  • ClockChan
    – interesting, it is like a buddy which encourages you all the time. It is funny and he wants one.





  1. I was expecting to learn how people may like or dislike some ways of operating/ using objects from the study. However, it seems most people are not very aware of how they use objects around them, and do not remember much of the corresponding user experiences. When I was asking questions related to operation of objects, I end up with answers telling me how people like and enjoys social networking on smartphones or computers. I was not able to receive any response on the “off-line” aspect.
  2. Many interviewees reckon there is some contradiction between emotional objects, practical objects and functional objects, and is hard to see all three qualities in one object.
  3. In the case of participant A, it is clear that emotional attachment will lead to a longer life span of a product (she is more than willing to fix the bolster if it is damaged). However, when treating her 1st handbag she bought with her own money, it seems the level of emotional attachment is very different (she doesn’t care if it will gets dirty or not though she values the bag a lot). The two contradicting cases shows the level of emotional attachment may be related to factors like the length of ownership, the experience one has with an object, and the first impression towards an object may relatively be less important.(She loves the bag at first glance, but do not remember what she feels when she receive the bolster)
  4. I have also realised that interviewees actually are required to have some level of creativity or imagination to feel a product as pet-like/ creature-like object. It may be challenging to discover this area by interviews. Cultural props may be a better way to continue this research.
  5. For ClockChan, people’s responses differs when they were told it is a clock produced by a Japanese company, and when it is a clock produced by a Japanese toy company. Participant A, B and C were told “it is a clock produced by a Japanese company”, and they do not have much positive comments to ClockChan, and consider it very impractical. Participant D were told “it is a clock produced by a Japanese toy company”, and he had a very positive comment of ClockChan, and is interested to buy one. The marketing position is significantly impacting consumers’ response to a product.


Immediate Observation

I started observing myself in daily life.


I just moved 1~2 months ago to this room. As I was busy (and lazy) I did not unpack every thing, and still have boxes of stuff lying around my floor for a long time. It was a mess- until my friend came to visit me. And I took 2 hours on that morning to clean up, and presented my room as the following:


My Room 1 SMALL My Room 2 SMALL



I was surprised that it only took 2 hours to clean up. I have had many spare 2 hours before this morning, but I have always thought this is gonna take me 2 days to clean, so I did not start doing anything to clean up the mess.

It is hard to estimate time and effort. It would be good if cleaning is more attractive and exciting to do.



I have also observed how people store things- how cabinets and drawers and cupboards work in houses:

My-Cabniet-SMALL My-fridge-SMALL


Eeleen-Cabniet-2-SMALL Eeleen-Cabniet-3-SMALL

Eeleen-Cabniet-5-SMALL Eeleen-Cabniet-6-SMALL

Indah-Cabniet-1-SMALL Indah-Cabniet-2-SMALL

Indah-Cabniet-3-SMALL Indah-Cabniet-4-SMALL Indah-Cabniet-5-SMALL Indah-Cabniet-6-SMALL Indah-Cabniet-7-SMALL Indah-Cabniet-8-SMALL Indah-Cabniet-9-SMALL


Indah-Kitchen-2-SMALL Indah-Kitchen-Overview-SMALL Indah-Kitchen-SMALL Indah-Toliet-SMALL




Donald A. Norman

Emotional Design Emotional Design- 3 TeapotsThe Design of Everyday things


Norman wrote the most influencing books on the topic of emotional design. He argues the user enjoyment of a product is the key for a product’s success.


The design and Emotion Society

Design and Emotion

The Design & Emotion society is established in 1999. It is an open international network of researchers, designers and companies interested in emotional driven design. They organise conferences and workshops for professionals to meet and discuss on the issue of emotional design. The book Design and Emotion: The Experience of Everyday Things presents a colourful collection of ideas and views of the field.

2014 Design and Emotion Conference


Rolf Jensen

Dream Society

“ Functionality is more and more taken for granted in products, and users are looking for fulfilment at an altogether different level of appreciation.”

Jenson predicts the dream society (where people lives to the driver of dream, adventure, spirituality and feeling) is coming soon, as information society is fully developed.

The Field

Here are some of the designers that inspires me.



Eyal Hirsh – Tail Stool

Tail Stool

Eyal Hirsh - Tail Stool

This design reveals the possible relationship people can have with furniture and objects around the house. The stool is creature-like, and has a strong personality in it. It attracts people to play with it.




Hara Design Institute- HAPTIC 2004


In 2004, Hara Design Studio has an exhibition a haptic study. Artists, designers and creative people all came together and created some very sensorial pieces. They were asked to start by designing the sensory experience instead of the appearance of the objects.

Geta - Shuhei Hasado

KAMI TAMA2 - Kosuke Tsumura

Juice Skin - Naoto Fukasawa

Gel Remote Control - Panasonic Design Company





Héctor Serrano: Super Patata


This touchable light changes people’s expectation and perception to light – it is tangible.

Raw Edges: Booken/ Pivot

Both designs has added a twist to our everyday life by presenting an usual function of a furniture in an unusual way. Booken 2


Booken is a bookshelf that completes itself when user hang their books on its slats. The books are then transformed to a surface, where you can write, read and store things on.

Pivot Desk: Vanity


Pivot and Pivot Desk are drawers that doesn’t really look like drawers.



Tokujin Yoshioka: Venus Crystal Chair

VENUS Natural Crystal Chair

Tokujin Yoshioka uses extraordinary materials to tell stories. He grew a crystal chair to arouse discussion and thoughts on ecology issues.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.