Products nowadays are bought, used and thrown away again. To me, the way to counter this process is design for attachment; can we make people care again for the products they own? For my Master graduation project, I went on an explorative journey to discover elements of attachment: qualities that support a stronger emotional bond between user and digital product.


Based on a reflection of attachment literature I concluded that digital products require a focus on both the physical artifact and the digital content. I hypothesized that the digital products should continuously adapt to the user affecting all product aspects: appearance, interaction, functionality and content.

In the first exploration phase, I performed a series of case studies: small design iterations on different types of digital products (mp3 players, cameras and e-readers). The concepts from the case studies are coded and clustered into a first set of elements of attachment.

Case study on cameras

In the implementation phase, these elements are used in the in the design of a new mobile phone concept: FLEX. FLEX has been evaluated on its translation of the elements and its ability to support attachment through expert review sessions. From evaluation, I defined a refined set of elements of attachment.


Elements of Attachment

The elements of attachment that we discovered are: ‘Knowing each other’, ‘Creating focus’, ‘Sharing memories’ and ‘Reflecting identity’. ‘Knowing each other’ is based on the idea of growing familiarization of interaction. With time, adjustments between user and product make the interaction personalized. ‘Creating focus’ explains how the product can grow to supports more specific and goal oriented functionality by enhancing often-used features and forgetting about lesser-used functionality. 
The element ‘Sharing memories’ triggers recollection of shared experiences between user and product, which leave their mark on the product. 
Lastly, ‘Reflecting Identity’ changes the appearance of the product to express the connection between user and product towards others. The four elements can be used as inspiration and guidance in different phases of the design process.