Because products are often discarded while still fully functioning, it may be possible to support durability with design that stimulates a more enduring product-owner relationship. This paper is based on the proposition that one promising approach to support such prolonged relevance is by developing products with a higher predisposition for the attribution of happiness-related symbolic meaning. The study was based on a framework with six types of symbolic product meanings: positive relations with others, personal growth, purpose in life, environmental mastery, autonomy, and self- acceptance. In a pre-study, fifty existing symbolically meaningful products were selected based on these six symbolic meanings. In the main study, seven designers and design researchers analysed these fifty products with the aim to uncover underlying design directions. This resulted in sixteen design directions. The directions can act as a source of inspiration to designers when aiming to design for a long-term meaningful product-owner relationship.


Casais, M., Mugge, R. & Desmet, P.M.A. (2015).Extending product life by introducing symbolic meaning: An exploration of design strategies to support subjective well-being. In T. Cooper, N. Braithwaite, M. Moreno & G. Salvia (Eds.),Product Lifetimes and the Environment (PLATE) Conference Proceedings. Nottingham Trent University: CADBE, 44–51.

Extending product life by introducing symbolic meaning