Why we go on staycations

How can we escape the tyranny of objects shouting at us in our home?

We go on staycations to relax and unwind, but what difference does a hotel bring as compared to our own homes? Donn thinks the answer lies in the products we have at home, and shares how products that are inappropriately designed for human use at home are driving us to find an escape elsewhere.


  • Appropriateness and delightfulness are two of Donn’s criteria for making products that people love
  • Delightfulness can come in various ways: exceedingly nice to use, designed to consider the feelings of the user when in use, having a satisfying interaction, simply being cute
  • One way of looking at appropriateness and seeing the difference in the way a product fairs on the store shelf versus in your home— just because somethings sells better, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for use
  • When designed to sell well, products are often designed to be shouting at you with its fancy features, in order to convince a potential buyer, yet these loud products don’t fit as well when put into the daily use context in the home
  • Escaping this tyranny of objects we have in our homes is why Donn thinks we go on vacations, because everything in a hotel is well curated and appropriate for a relaxing time away

Full Transcript

So that delight can come in many ways, right? I mean, there are other ways, whether the interaction is satisfying, or whether it’s just simply cute. But beyond all of this added so-called delight, I think the appropriateness is one of the most important factor.

Hi Donn, today we have some questions on making products that people love. Do you have a definition for what makes something lovable to people? Like a product or any designs that you put out? Do you have any criteria or maybe three things that make things lovable?

Yeah, I think this is interesting question that maybe it’s what many innovators, marketers, designers are wondering about, right? When you want to do product, how do you measure its value? How do you measure that this is good enough? What decisions to make, like should you style it a bit more or less? Is it just the designer’s preference? Or is it just simply what the brand dictates it needs to be, or what the marketing person is telling you?

Now, I think, if I were to try to give this a very short answer, and I’m not sure if it’s exhaustive—this is off the cuff. I think, generally, for me, a product must be appropriate. That’s one. And the second element is that a product, beyond just being appropriate, perhaps is a little bit more delightful. And what I mean by that, that comes in different ways. Sometimes it is delightful because it’s exceedingly nice to use in a certain way. Or it’s more sensitive than typical, with regard to what your feelings are when you use it, as compared to another product, and therefore you feel like somewhat understood by the product, or at least you feel that the creator of the product understood you and your feelings while you’re using these things. So that delight can come in many ways, right? I mean, there are other ways, whether the interaction is satisfying, or whether it’s just simply cute.

But beyond all of this added so-called delight, I think the appropriateness is one of the most important factor. So in short, that’s what I would say, forms a bit of that fundamental around what qualifies as things that people love that is beyond a designer’s own preferences.

It’s bigger than the marketers desire to sell it, because sometimes something sells better if it’s not so appropriate. I don’t mean like iffy stuff, I don’t mean like inappropriate, you know, that’s not what I mean. I mean, it’s like—you see, you take a, say for example, a shaver. When you’re in the store, you see it on a shelf, amongst all the other shavers, you want to buy the one that feels like woah it’s super powerful, a lot of features. So it looks like all dressed up and maybe even hyper ergonomic in terms of its look. That’s on the shelf. And that might be the thing that causes you to say, I’ll buy this, because it feels like it has a lot of features. You bring this and put it at home inside your shower, and your shower becomes like a, you know.

In an environment where maybe you’re supposed to be a bit more relaxed, then you have this sports car razor that is kind of shouting out at you in that space, then it’s actually inappropriate for that situation.

And actually, that’s why we have this tyranny of objects in our homes. Every object is trying to sell you, and therefore they are all shouting. But once you bring them all home together, they are shouting to you about like, I’m so fast, I’m so powerful. And I sometimes as a designer, suspect that that is why we go for staycations. And that’s why a hotel stay feels different, because things are a bit curated. The objects are not in the way. The objects are at least not trying to all call out to you. And when you come to your own home, it’s like everything is shouting at you.

So I think therefore appropriateness for a human user, in actual use case, may be very different for appropriateness, say for selling, and this is the eternal kind of a conflict I have. And as a designer, it’s always this question that you are grappling with.

Desiree Lim, Kevin Yeo, Matthew Wong


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