Designing objects with meaningful associations

Daniel Orth, Clementine Thurgood, Elise van den Hoven

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)
    366 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

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Strategy and Management
    • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
    • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
    • Marketing


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