Emotionally Durable Design

Building Lasting Relationships Between Users and Products

Emotionally Durable Design
Alessi Kettle

In an era of rapid consumption and frequent product replacement, the concept of Emotionally Durable Design (EDD) emerges as a solution aimed at fostering sustainability by enhancing the emotional connection between users and their products.

This approach not only seeks to reduce waste and prolong product lifespans but also encourages a more mindful and appreciative relationship with the objects we use daily. Let's explore what Emotionally Durable Design entails and its key characteristics.

What is Emotionally Durable Design?

Emotionally Durable Design focuses on creating products that forge a deep, lasting bond with users. This bond extends beyond mere functionality, engaging users emotionally and making them less likely to discard the products. The goal is to create items that remain meaningful and cherished over time, thereby reducing the frequency of replacement and consumption.

Key Characteristics of Emotionally Durable Design

Emotionally Durable Design can be distilled into five main product qualities: involvement, identity adaptation, animacy, memory evocation, and rewarding. These qualities guide designers in creating products that users are likely to keep and cherish for longer periods.

1. Involvement

Involvement refers to a product's ability to continually stimulate and engage the user through novel, interesting, and exciting functionalities or interactions. Over time, many products lose their initial appeal, leading to disuse and eventual replacement. To combat this, products should be designed to remain intriguing and engaging. For example, the temperature-sensitive wallpaper designed by Shi Yuan changes color based on heat, providing an ever-changing visual experience that maintains user interest.

2. Adaptation to User’s Identity

Products that adapt to and reflect the user's identity over time become more personal and meaningful. As people evolve, so do their tastes and preferences. Products that can adapt or evolve with the user’s changing identity can maintain relevance and significance. Rimowa suitcases, for instance, gain unique dents and stickers from their journeys, visually narrating the owner's travel experiences and making each suitcase unique and personal.

3. Animacy

Animacy, or the perception of a product having a "soul," can significantly enhance emotional attachment. Products designed with a sense of animacy appear more alive and engaging. Designer Hella Jongerius, for example, intentionally adds imperfections to mass-produced items to give them character and individuality, making them feel more alive and soulful.

4. Memory Evocation

Products that evoke personal memories or sentimental value are often retained longer. Such products serve as reminders of significant moments or periods in the user's life. While it is challenging to design new products that instantly evoke memories, incorporating elements that can accrue sentimental value over time, like the Tivoli radios which blend modern technology with nostalgic design, can be effective.

5. Rewarding

A product that provides rewarding interactions or experiences encourages a long-lasting relationship. This can involve mutual benefits, where the product rewards the user’s care and attention with continued functionality or enhanced performance. For instance, car enthusiasts who spend hours polishing their vehicles often develop a deep bond with their cars, deriving satisfaction from both the activity and the car's appearance.


Emotionally Durable Design offers a pathway to sustainable consumption by focusing on the emotional connections between users and their products. By designing for involvement, identity adaptation, animacy, memory evocation, and rewarding interactions, designers can create products that users cherish and retain longer.

This approach not only contributes to reducing waste but also enriches the user experience, leading to more meaningful and lasting relationships with the objects that fill our lives.


Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences and Empathy
Emotionally Durable Design presents counterpoints to our ‘throwaway society’ by developing powerful design tools, methods and frameworks that build resilience into relationships between people and things. The book takes us beyond the sustainable design field’s established focus on energy and materials, to engage the underlying psychological phenomena that shape patterns of consumption and waste. In fluid and accessible writing, the author asks: why do we discard products that still work? H
Extending Product and Service Lifecycles through Emotionally Durable Design principles | Punctuate Design
In this next article, we decided to adopt a more research driven approach where we vulgarize an interesting emerging concept in sustainable and emotional design called the emotional durability of design


Emotional Durability Design Nine—A Tool for Product Longevity
How can we develop products that consumers want to use for longer? The lifetime of electrical products is an ongoing concern in discussions about the circular economy. It is an issue that begins at an industry level, but that directly influences the way in which consumers use and discard products. Through a series of workshops and knowledge exchange sessions with Philips Lighting, this paper identifies which design factors influence a consumer’s tendency to retain their products for longer. These were distilled into a guiding framework for new product developers—The Emotional Durability Design Nine—consisting of nine themes: relationships, narratives, identity, imagination, conversations, consciousness, integrity, materiality, and evolvability. These nine themes are complemented by 38 strategies that help in the development of more emotionally engaging product experiences. We propose that the framework can be applied at multiple points during the new product development process to increase the likelihood that ‘emotion building’ features are integrated into an end product.