Do Beautiful Things Work Better?

I still remember the first time I went snowboarding in my (then) new snowboard pants. My first real boarding pants, they felt good, looked great, and changed my world. As I became one with the mountain that day, I honestly felt like I became a better snowboarder.

But can new pants really make you a better snowboarder?

Donald Norman would suggest that they can.

I’m currently reading Emotional Design. Norman, a cognitive scientist, suggests that the design of a product, even on an aesthetic level, makes using those product easier to use. Why? Aesthetically-pleasing things make us feel good, and these positive emotions actually affect certain parts of your brain that “modify perception, decision making and behaviour.”

What do you think? Does good-feeling camera gear help you take better pictures? Do new shoes help you run faster? Does this all sound like a retailer’s clever pre-Christmas sales pitch?

And how does this affect how you design websites, make stuff and even decorate your work and living space?

“The surprise is that we now have evidence that aesthetically pleasing objects enable you to work better… Products and systems that make you feel good are easier to deal with and produce more harmonious results. When you wash and polish your car, doesn’t it seem to drive better? When you bathe and dress up in clean, fancy clothes, don’t you feel better? And when you use a wonderful, well-balanced, aesthetically pleasing garden or woodworking tool, tennis racket or pair of skis, don’t you perform better?” – Donald Norman

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