No one really gives much thought to the coffee mug they're sipping out of, or the chair they're sitting on. Yet, there is more thought from designers, producers, and even consumers that goes into thousands of products every day.
Accomplished graphic designer and UT alumnus Michael Hendrix gave insight on the consumer psychology behind the preference of everyday objects Monday night in the McCarty Auditorium.
Hendrix is partnered with IDEO, a global design firm that creates human-focused product designs to help companies produce more consumer-centered goods.
Though the designs of products have changed throughout the years, Hendrix and IDEO have a simple strategy to getting consumers what they want to buy and producers what they want to sell in future products. And they plan on doing so through basic psychological reasoning.
Thousands of products on the market are favored over competing products, but consumers have historically failed to explain why this is, and they're not the only ones with this same issue.
"Most designers have that same problem," Hendrix said. "We believe in (a product) so passionately, we know in our gut it's true, but we can't really explain why."
Hendrix said it's less about finding the reason certain products are preferred and more about how they are connected to consumers from a mental and physical aspect.
To explain this, Hendrix used a well-known philosophical idea which only inhibits the potential of design.
"Descartes said that our minds and our bodies are separate," Hendrix said, "but if you fall into that trap, you really fall into the trap of only using your logic and not listening to your body, so this ignores the deep unspoken appeal of design."
Because of this hitch in market design, Hendrix and IDEO are aiming to change the way producers target their audience's product desires.
To explain the reasoning behind the connection between the materials we are drawn to and emotional and physical intuition, Hendrix used a number of compelling examples of research results.
Research stating that people tend to watch more romance-centered movies when it's cold outside – they have a desire for emotional warmth when missing physical warmth – and that a heavier clipboard makes workers more confident in their work was used to support his thoughts and captivate the audience.
To further prove his point, Hendrix gave each audience member a pencil and then directed them to hold it horizontally between their teeth. Hendrix then told a joke, which according to research, was funnier to the audience because everyone was already smiling due to the placement of the pencil.
The muscles in use during the short experiment were claimed to be the reason behind the laughter that followed his joke. And it's this same concept that has companies catering to human emotion through their goods.
Not only did his research resonate with the audience, but his presentation also left an impression.
Among those in the audience left reeling about Hendrix's intriguing presentation was Kara Sutton, a senior in graphic design.
"I thought he was a great speaker," Sutton said. "At first, I think it was a little bit slow, but overall, the slides were great and it was super informative. He was excellent."
But the presentation wasn't favored just for his examples, research and innovative thoughts. It goes much deeper than that, just as Hendrix himself preached Monday night.
"Your body informs your mind as your mind informs your body," read Hendrix's last slide.
Hendrix concluded this thought-provoking idea with one last, inconspicuous key to his presentation, which further supported his presentation as a whole.
"And if anything you heard tonight sounded important to you," Hendrix said, "it's because of the heavy font I used."