Synthesising Personality

As more and more “intelligent” or “smart” products emerge, we see a general increase in products that require us to interact with them and that respond to our actions with different behaviours. These behaviours play a big role in how we perceive the product as a whole, along with the more classic properties of the product design, such as aesthetics and function. But where form and function are well-known, sometimes even tangible parameters, behaviour is a lot harder to grasp and discuss.

I decided to base my work in cognitive psychology and behaviourism, where my main influence has been the work of Valentino Braitenberg and Hans Jürgen Eysenck. Eysenck’s P-E-N theory states that the human personality consists of three main constituents; P, E and N: Psychoticism, Extraversion/Introversion and Neuroticism. The three traits are not equally weighted, but they are, according to Eysenck, considered the basic elements that define human personality.

In order to make the three traits easier to discuss and refer to in relation to product design, I have built three everyday objects representing each trait through an added layer of behaviour.

The Psychotic Plant: It means that the plant, when taken to the extreme, is completely fearless and does not think about the consequences of its actions or input from others. Some might perceive it as suicidal, but actually it doesn’t even think that far. If it dies, it’s not on purpose. This plant heard that the sun rises in the east, so it only has one goal in life: to go east no matter what.

The Extraverted/Introverted Lamp: This lamp cannot be turned on or off, it can be turned extraverted or introverted instead. When extraverted it lights up brightly, moves its head curiously around and reacts to you when you put your hand in its field of view. When introverted, the lamp gets dim, looks down and responds to your actions in a completely different way.

The Neurotic Netbook: Few modern everyday objects frustrate people as much as computers. But actually people also frustrate computers. This laptop’s main trait is neuroticism. It gets scared easily, it doesn’t like it when too many people are around and it gets stressed out easily. It only has one limb, a screen – and it will use it to communicate its current mood.