Tag: anthropomorphism and design


Hair Matter(s)

Clothing made of human hair. Alix Bizet, French student at the Design Academy Eindhoven, collected hair from African American hairdressers to create jackets and hats for her project Hair Matter(s). Why? Because she sees it as a sustainable solution, an animal-friendly alternative to fur and an entrancement of our cultural an ethnic differences.

We don’t know if fashionistas are willing to wear her striking outfits, what we certainly know is that our peculiar image of the week makes us shiver with Anthropomorphobia.

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The Sweating Wall

Let’s Sweat the Heat Out: Sweating Wall Concept

Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Spain have created a prototype called Hydroceramic: a composite material able to lower the temperature of an interior space by five degrees Celsius. Inspired by the sweating human skin, the team sees the modern architecture as an organism, exploring new design possibilities from both material and behavioural perspectives.

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smiling dustpan
anthropomorphism and design

#11: Don’t Use Anthropomorphism if it Does Not Serve Any Purpose

Part 11 of the series 11 Golden Rules of Anthropomorphism and Design

Anthropomorphism can be a powerful tool in product design. But there are also risks involved that urge designers to be careful in their implementation. This final Golden Rule is also a warning: Don’t use anthropomorphism simply to ‘dress up’ a product; it will make it distracting and confusing, and although it may increase the initial appeal of the product, people will soon lose interest for it, as the promise of human likeness is empty.

anthropomorphism and design

#10: Enhance Human Experience, Don’t Replace it

Part 10 in the 11 part series Anthropomorphism and Design.

The hidden danger with interactive products is that they will become so good at fulfilling our needs that they start to replace actual humans. This is not a futuristic scenario: In an increasing number of locations, from supermarket self-scan checkouts to online bookstores, automatization has replaced human contact. Eventually this may lead to us becoming alienated from other people, which seems to contradict today’s rapidly increasing communication possibilities. Anthropomorphic products have the potential to support, stimulate and enhance human contact, but they may also eliminate it.

dog and roomba
anthropomorphism and design

#9: Be Aware of the Ecosystem You’re Invading

Part 9 in the 11 part series Anthropomorphism and Design.

With most products, one wouldn’t normally worry about the environment that it enters. However, anthropomorphic products inevitably elicit responses from others, even from non-human entities. This can have obvious advantages, for instance, when a human-shaped scarecrow frightens off the birds. But when daddy’s new toy frightens the children or the pets, there is a significant chance that it will end up on the attic. Bringing home an anthropomorphic product can be like introducing a new person into the household, which doesn’t always go as smoothly as the family might hope.

Image via I’m Not Obsessed.

voodoo knife block
anthropomorphism and design

Rule #8: Use Human Ethics

Part 8 of the 11 part series Anthropomorphism and Design

Anthropomorphic products blur the boundaries between products and people. Ethical norms for people don’t usually apply to products and vice versa. For example, there’s no need to apologize if you accidentally run into an object. But with an anthropomorphic product, you might instinctively say sorry, because it seems like the right thing to do. People can apply their attitude towards humans to products, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But transferring attitudes from a product to a human might lead to problems, especially when the product induces abnormal social behavior. Don’t make your product do what you wouldn’t want a person to do.

Image via Lazy Bone.

clippy suicide
anthropomorphism and design

Rule #7: Respect Social Standards

Part 7 of the 11 part series Golden Rules of Anthropomorphism and Design

Anthropomorphic products enter the human social space. Humans have the most complex social behavior of any organism on Earth. Anyone or anything trying to join in should be careful to do it right. Although an anthropomorphic product may function perfectly, if it crosses social boundaries it will still tick people off. This can cause the product to become a social reject, which won’t do sales much good. Luckily, it’s not hard to figure out why things go wrong. Imagine a scenario where a person and a product interact, then replace the product with a second person. If the actions of the second person and the product don’t match up, then there’s something off about the product’s design.

Image via Anvari.

robot school teacher
anthropomorphism and design

Rule #6: Meet People’s Expectations

For past entries and an introduction to the 11 Golden Rules of Anthropomorphism and Design, click here. 

People expect many things from each other: Expect them to say hi in the morning; expect them to buy a ticket for the bus; expect them to watch out when driving a car; expect them to do their jobs well. People also expect certain behaviors from anthropomorphic products. When a product works differently than promised, this can cause confusion or anger. When a person gives commands to a product and the product ignores him, he becomes frustrated, because the product feels like a person who rudely turns his back. You wouldn’t accept that behavior from a person, so why would you accept it from a product?

The robot Saya has been developed to teach elementary-grade school children. She can speak different languages and make facial expressions, and hopefully confirm to what the kids expect of an instructor.

Image via The Daily Mail.

aibo dog
anthropomorphism and design

Rule #5: Consider Zoomorphism as an Alternative

For past entries and an introduction to the 11 Golden Rules of Anthropomorphism and Design, click here. 

When a product imitates animal behavior, the strict social rules governing anthropomorphic products don’t apply. People may be much more forgiving when a zoomorphic product makes an error, and fascinated rather than disturbed when it behaves other than expected. Similar to how we think a person walking in circles on the street is weird, but a dog chasing its tail is funny, Sony’s robot dog Aibo is considered adorable, while Honda’s humanoid robot Asimo seems clumsy and slow.

angry young computer
anthropomorphism and design

Rule #4: Complex Products Tend to Be Anthropomorphized

For past entries and an introduction to the 11 Golden Rules of Anthropomorphism and Design, click here. 

Think about a spoon. Now think about a spoon with a face. What do you think it is? Most likely, you think it’s a spoon with a face. Now think about a computer, which doesn’t have a face. Are you more likely to swear at the spoon or the computer? Humans have a natural tendency to anthropomorphize things they can’t explain. In the past, mysterious phenomena such as the weather, the sun or the moon were anthropomorphized in the form of gods.

Nowadays, technological products have advanced to such a degree that most people don’t understand them. They try to explain a device by ascribing human emotions and motives to its behavior. The more complex, capable and autonomous a product is, the more likely it’s going to be anthropomorphized. Designers of technologically advanced products should anticipate how users will anthropomorphize their product, and design it accordingly.

Photo via Top Design Mag.