In cognitive design we create artifacts that generate specific mental states when seen or used. In addition to core functionality and ease of use, cognitive designs reliably deliver a particular think-and-feel experience. Retro car designs that invoke nostalgia, educational events that generate wonder and websites that help you forge deep personal relationships with others are examples.
But designing think-and-feel experiences that meet deeply felt psychological needs is hard. One reason is that you must understand what other people really think and feel. And that requires something that business have not normally focused on – empathy.
But all that seems to be changing. According to a recent column by Geoff Colvin in Fortune, Employers are Looking for New Hires With Something Extra: Empathy. The author did a quick online search for jobs paying over $100K involving empathetic traits and got a thousand hits with positions from firms ranging from McKinsey to Mars. Brad Smith, CEO of Inuit (a $4B software company) hits it on the head:
Designing emotion into the product is now something you really have to think about explicitly and measure yourself against”.
This is a big claim from a technology company and one that signals cognitive design is starting to move into the mainstream.