Design for broken hearts : an exploration of how design is involved in coping with relationship loss

W.J. She, P.M.A. Desmet, H.N.J. Schifferstein

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic

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Relationship loss is a fundamental life experience for all human beings. It is the experience of losing someone significant such as a parent, friend or lover. Whether it is through the breakup of a romantic relationship, the passing away of a family member, or in other ways, coping with loss is inevitable for all individuals. Besides inevitable, coping with loss is highly individual because people differ strongly in terms of how they experience loss and in terms of the strategies they use to cope with their loss. Loss is a frequently studied subject in various disciplines such as philosophy, psychology and sociology. However, in the design field, loss is relatively less explored. This study aims to explore how design is involved in the experiences of loss and in loss coping. The main proposition in this study is that even though design cannot solve the problem at hand (the loss is a given fact), it can support people in their coping processes. A phenomenological study with 18 participants is reported to understand the roles design plays in people’s loss coping experience. The study consisted of two phases: a sensitizing phase and an interview phase. The results indicated that design can intervene people’s loss experience, and that it can do so both by facilitating and impeding the loss coping process. On the basis of the results, seven main functions are proposed that design can have in the loss coping process.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes
Event20104 International Conference on Culture and Creativity (ICCC 2014) - Tainan, Taiwan
Duration: 1 Jan 20145 Dec 2014


Conference20104 International Conference on Culture and Creativity (ICCC 2014)


  • design approach
  • relationship loss
  • loss experience
  • loss coping process


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