Similarities and differences between humorous and surprising products

DS 87-8 Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 17) Vol 8: Human Behaviour in Design, Vancouver, Canada, 21-25.08.2017

Year: 2017
Editor: Anja Maier, Stanko Škec, Harrison Kim, Michael Kokkolaras, Josef Oehmen, Georges Fadel, Filippo Salustri, Mike Van der Loos
Author: Borgianni, Yuri; Hatcher, Gillian
Series: ICED
Institution: 1: Free University of Bolzano-Bozen, Italy; 2: University of Strathclyde, United Kingdom
Section: Human Behaviour in Design
Page(s): 031-040
ISBN: 978-1-904670-96-4
ISSN: 2220-4342


Innovative products can be described as both useful and novel— or ‘unexpected’. Literature suggests that surprise combined with humour may be a powerful tool in creating the positive ‘unexpectedness’ than can enhance perceived value and foster meaningful relationships between product and user. Surprise and humour both rely on mismatches of expectations and unexpected outcomes, however, they are not inter-changeable. Their relationship when embodied in product design is not fully understood, and guidelines for creating surprising and humorous products with long-lasting impact have yet to be defined. The objective of this research was to analyse the mutual effect taking place between the perception of humour and the display of surprise embodied in products, and in particular the capability of humorous characteristics to boost the effect of surprise. Building on previous experiments in which a set of products were evaluated for surprise, we verified humour in the same products with a group of comedians and non-comedians. Results indicate that products evaluated as ‘funny’ positively influence their capability to evoke surprise, but other factors are likely to be highly influential.

Keywords: Surprise, Humour, Design methods, Creativity, Early design phases


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