Designing objects with meaningful associations

Daniel Orth, Clementine Thurgood, Elise van den Hoven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
477 Downloads (Pure)


Objects often become cherished for their ties to beliefs, experiences, memories, people, places or values that are significant to their owner. These ties can reflect the ways in which we as humans use objects to characterise, communicate and develop our sense of self. This paper outlines our approach to applying product attachment theory to design practices. We created six artefacts that were inspired by interviews conducted with three individuals who discussed details of their life stories. We then evaluated the associations that came to mind for our participants when interacting with these newly designed artefacts to determine whether these links brought meaning to them. Our findings highlight the potential of design to bring emotional value to products by embodying significant aspects of a person’s self-identity. To do so, designers must consider both the importance and authenticity of the associations formed between an object and an individual.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-104
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Design
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Attachment
  • Emotional value
  • Life stories
  • Object associations
  • Product design
  • Self-identity


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