Understanding Impression: An Engineering Approach to Design
Author: Yamada, Kaori
Supervisor: Taura, Toshiharu
Institution: Graduate School of Engineering, Kobe University
The most significant ambition in design is to create objects that resonate with deep feelings felt by humans. To create these objects, it is important to understand people’s impression. Humans recognize objects via hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste. In particular, humans receive a great deal of information visually and auditorily. Therefore, the visual and auditory senses are essential to the reception of impression. In recent years, design has been mainly directed toward forms and shapes. However, the field of design has widened its scope to include dynamic expression, such as animation. Today, the number of user-generated content has been increasing. Users are assumed to be not only receiving impressions from external sources but also to be generating impressions within their minds. They are also thought to have certain anticipations regarding products. I term the feelings concerned with these anticipations as “active impressions.” These are expected to be essential to the design of “good” products. On the other hand, an object that cannot be easily imagined from existing objects may resonate with deep feelings. For example, music differs from natural sound in that it is an artificial creation of humans, and we can be deeply impressed by music that evokes feeling. Based on these considerations, with a focus on the relation between impression and objects, the purpose of this study is to investigate two topics. First, the effect of differences in modality on the phenomenon of active impressions is investigated. Second, in the field of motion, the study seeks to validate whether motion that is beyond ordinary human imagination can produce emotional impressions that resonate with deep feelings. Regarding the first topic, I investigated the differences between light and music. To confirm the differences between light and music, I performed an experiment based on the structure of the opera. In an opera, an extra-dramatic interpolation that set the mode of the play was used to elicit anticipation. I assumed that the anticipation is thought to be an active impression; thus, the stage effect in an opera is thought to be an exemplar of products that make users produce active impressions. Therefore, I used an actual opera story and its intermission music in an experiment. In the experiment, the subjects read the first half of the story. Next, the subjects in the lighting group were shown the lighting display, while subjects in the music group listened to the music. Subjects then described what they expected would happen in the second part of the story. With the results of the analysis of descriptions, I infer that lighting may lead to various associations; hence, subjects who were presented with the lighting display wrote many anticipated scenarios for the second half of the story. In contrast, music may induce a passive effect on impressions. The results of the experiment indicate that different kinds of media or modalities wherein impressions are generated and received have varying effects on active impressions. Regarding the second topic, the study was based on the hypothesis that motion beyond ordinary human imagination can produce emotional impressions that resonate with deep feelings. This hypothesis was then validated by me. First, a method of designing a creative and emotional motion was developed, and a computer system based on the method was constructed. The method was based on the following strategies: “analogy with natural objects,” “emphasis on rhythmic features,” and “blending of motions.” To investigate the effect of extending the motion itself beyond ordinary human imagination by emphasizing the rhythmic features of the motion, I performed an experiment using three types of motion that were created, which differed in the way they emphasized rhythmic features. The SD (semantic differential) method was used to evaluate the motions in this experiment. The result of this experiment shows that there is a tendency for motions extending beyond ordinary human imagination to produce emotional impressions, which confirms our hypothesis. Next, I investigated the cooperative effect that the auditory sense has on the emotional impressions of motion; this was done by adding sound to the motion. Thus, I extended the method and the system by adding “movement of the entire design target” and “design of the sound to be played with the motion.” After this, an experiment was performed. The result of this experiment indicates that motion with sound was more difficult to imagine than motion without sound. The results of both experiments show a tendency for creative motion that extends beyond ordinary human imagination to be imbued with more effective emotional impressions. These results imply that the methods employed to emphasize the rhythmic features of the motion and to add sound to it make the motions more creative and emotional. In conclusion, this study was focused on the relation between object and impression. The study has two main findings. First, different kinds of media or modalities wherein impressions are generated and received have varying effects on active impressions. Second, there is a tendency for motion that is beyond ordinary human imagination to produce emotional impressions, and adding auditory expression to it makes the motions more creative and emotional.