Let’s get emotional!

22 Jan

If you can’t feel it, you won’t want it!


I just read Built To Love: Creating Products that Captivate Customers (by Peter Boatwright & Jonathan Cagan), which said,

“…as consumers, our responses to rational features account for only 15% of all the decision we make. The rest of the decision process operates subconsciously, where emotions dominate. The result of the traditional marketing approach is that customers experience a “sense” gap.”

Elsewhere, Emotional Design (by Donald Norman) talks about how the emotional aspect of decision-making is absolutely critical and functional in our everyday lives, otherwise when faced with a wide spectrum of choices and all rational attributes weighing in equally on every side, we’ll be crippled to decide on which option we’ll prefer. Yaaaay hoorah for all die-hard shoppers – now even scientists agree with your impulse buys at the great once-in-a-lifetime sale… hahah.

But Built To Love also talked about the difference between “associated emotions” and “supported emotions” which a product evokes. Associated emotions are the emotions which marketing campaigns show, but not necessarily something which you yourself feel when using the product. For example, take those many “man-ly” ads of smoking, which may not be an emotion which many smokers relate to when they smoke. Supported emotions, on the other hand, go hand in hand with every interaction with the product.


So after reading all that, I wondered what emotions might the Book Bag evoke… Of course the book advocated that to truly have a game-changing product, the emotions must be designed into the product right at the onset; emotions which resonate with customers and company, and designing these emotions into the touchpoints of product interaction. Too late for me, but I thought it an interesting exercise to do now that everything is kind of over…



How emotional is the Book Bag?

So just how can a paper bag be emotional to users?! I think this is something a plain ol’ paper bag had not done in some time? Ladies handbags, yes, can get emotional, but the ubiquitous paper bag used for grocery shopping? Maybe the only emotion is something that comes out from pure utility, a feeling of security (out of familiarity, that it reliably performs its functions)……?

Do I make you emotional?

So how about the Book Bag? What emotions does it evoke? How does it emote you?

I’d like to hear more from you, but I’ll start the ball rolling with mine (which may or may not be relevant to your unique point of view). I think the first thing it evokes in me when I see it is curiosity. I’d seen it in my friends when I showed it to them or left it on the table, and they asked/wanted to see/hold it…I see it in myself, whenever I see it, even though being responsible for its birth. There’s something about it looking so much like a book but not really (one can tell pretty quickly it’s not a real book through the handles and flaps). That sense of curious wonder, with a play-like tinge to it. Yet its antique-ish, ‘leather-bound’ exterior shows that the play is not a childish or stupid kind of play, but a more serious type, like serious fun for grown-ups. Play which we can learn from and enjoy in the process while not find it boring.

Of course all those feelings would be for nought if the bag didn’t live up to its utilitarian purposes of carrying stuff – which is why we always feel kinda cheated when we buy things we don’t need or things which look pretty/slick but performs poorly. Through the added CD and receipt pocket, and strategic locations for leaving the Book Bag and how it fits into the readers’ journey, I believe (I hope) it fulfills its intended uses.

So, to sum up those emotions:

Curious wonder. Serious fun.

And how does it resonate with readers? I see some alignment there, since after all those same feelings are what reading is all about, isn’t it? We read out of curiosity, out of wonder, and hopefully be entertained along the way (if it’s boring we won’t be reading it!). And certainly it’s somewhere along these values which NLB delivers its products and services.


Do you agree?




BBB = Book Bag bento

20 Jan

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” so said Leonardo da Vinci.  And there’s nothing quite like a Japanese bento to showcase the beauty of sophisticated simplicity…


Stop press update

It always sounds so cliché, but like they always tell you,”Always expect the unexpected…” I should have bore in mind those very wise words, ’cause I almost died when I saw the latest update on the NLB website – they extended the deadline to 31 Jan 2011 after I submitted my package! After all those late nights and long hours…… Now somebody kill me……



It’s all in the packaging

OK, I’m recovered from the shock now.

It was fun, fun, fun all the way in the final stages of this Book Bag project, from doing the fashion shoot to designing a slideshow video for ‘selling’ the Book Bag. On top of that, I had also decided to supplement my e-submission with a package containing the physical hard-copies of the final prototype, a few product photos to go with the prototype, and a CD saved with all the design templates, slideshows.

Final submission title Final submission package Close-up of contents - CD, prototype, photos Wrapped and bounded for NLB!

The final package looks very hand-made and rather rough on the edges, really. It reminded me of those school art projects I used to submit, with lots of hand-written/-drawn stuff on cardboard – would this be deemed too “unprofessional” or “kiddy”? I wondered if I was better off actually leaving my submission to just digital format… If only I had more time to do up a really slick package for submission…

Here’s the slideshow and video I did for Book Bag ‘marketing’:


In the end, I decided to submit everything, bento box and all. I’d already done it, and what’s there to lose? Maybe there’s a slight organic beauty about the hand-made quality… hahaha I’m self-rationalising (again).

What do you think? Rustic cardboard charm or modernist slick?

This blog is now on Tumblr.

19 Jan

Tumblr is a micro-blogging, social networking platform which is great for sharing random bits of photos, music, videos, quotes, links. It’s a bit like Twitter really, but less text-based. I feel it’s at least a great place to park all those ‘homeless’, random bits and pieces of quotes, pictures and video from the Internet which I had posted across the entire blog.

Check it out! 🙂

[Click on this picture to view my Tumblr site.]


The other fashion shoot

18 Jan

The uncut, unabridged, other version is here! The other shots which didn’t make the cut to the main fashion shoot set of pics…


what happens when you get a call while reading? chief photographer droolz poseur poseur zzzz pondering reading seriously haha in the midst of reading? watch thru the hand snooze snorez u taking me yawn secret hiding door behind ready get set it's hard to tell if this isn't a library slurp are you done yet blurring past again awaiting in vintage blurring past in time lapse blurring past on escalator walking, supersampler style another waiting sitting down awaiting at MRT station hmmm


The Book Bag goes live!

18 Jan

An object becomes alive through the warmth of our touch; the moist breath we breathe upon it; the soulful utilitarian/social/physical/emotional meanings we give to it; the day-to-day human-like interactions we have with it…


The fashion shoot for the Book Bag was great fun! First, let’s thank the photographer of the day, my sweetest girl:

Chief Photographer in rare pose


The location

The Food Republic food court at Suntec City, which is designed to the likes of a old 19th Century European library, was the perfect location for the shoot! I’d like to think that if the Book Bag is a spy, it’s secret hideout would be here. Why? Because one is in disguise as a library, another in disguise as a book – the square hole meets square peg situation!

Hahaha :D… ok ok cheesy humour aside (you might find that a lot here on ths blog…pardon the puns), see how the Book Bag comes alive through these ‘everyday’ shots (taken entirely on the iPhone 4 and various camera apps):

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Obviously you won’t be doing what I did for some of the shots (like ‘reading’ the Book Bag… duh!). But fun was the operating word here. And just how often could you have fun with a darn paper bag?! I hope this presents another level of head/heart/gut engagement with you, who might use it one day… and I hope you had as much fun playing with it as I did!


What is the most book-like book?

17 Jan

It is about tapping on our collective visual memories, our cultural database of archetypes…


But a short digression first…

Well! I finally submitted the final designs and prototype to NLB for the “Brown Bag Design Contest‘! I manage to make the deadline, in email and hard-copy submissions. *phew. It’s a huge relief now that the stress of submission is over. A quick sneak preview of the final product – just for you…

Final submission package

Hard-copy submission of the Book Bag - CD and photos included!

I’ll get to blogging about this soon enough! First let me catch up on where I left off previously…about the making of the final design and prototype.


Pinning down the most book-like Book Bag

A close friend had commented (during my testing stage) that perhaps the generic “book” image used for the design could be changed to an actual book design which most people can relate to. Like say for children, the most easily-recognised book to them might be an Enid Blyton book cover, or Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book cover for children.

Which was a good point, because I would need the Book Bag to really resemble a book; to be the most ‘book-like’ in order for the ordinary man on the street to easily recognise the Book Bag for a book.  This reminds me of my philosophy classes in university, where we talked about Plato’s metaphysical theory of Forms, where abstract, non-material ideal types exist as the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. Like the idea of a “book”. There’s many types of books – novels, dictionaries, encyclopedia, coffee table books – but what is the concept of “book” which holds all these family of books together as “books”? Physical traits like paper, words printed on pages? Those traits could fit a magazine, not a book… Almost there but not really. Well, I don’t think I do justice to Plato here, but it points towards how we know things as things belonging to a family of things. Famed Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa asked the similar question in his namesake book,

“I wanted to design a chair-like chair, a table-like table… But this ‘likeness’ was something confined to the imagination, and I understood that it differed from person to person. Still, I wanted to design the kind of chair that when people looked at it, they said,’That’s a really chair-like chair.” If you ask people,”What exactly is chair-like?”, they don’t know, but if they see it, they can say, “Oh, that’s really chair-like”; this sensation is one that, as first glance, appears inconsistent. The reason why I wanted to design a chair-like chair is that I felt that, within this ‘chair-like’ sense, there was an element of reassurance. Perhaps it’s a nostalgic sensation. Designers and architects all design at least one chair. Their chair design is thus indicative of their identity. These chairs are not referred to as being ‘chair-like’, but as ‘whoever designed them-like’. So I thought that an anonymous chair was more likely to be thought of as ‘chair-like’. The idea of designing a chair to look like chair-like stemmed from a desire to break away from the ‘this is the chair so-and-so designed’ kind of mind set.”

So to echo his sentiments, it’s exactly that “element of reassurance”, that “nostalgic sensation”, the anonymity set within the imagination, which drives me to find that “Form” of the ‘book’. Which brings me back to the question: What is a “book”? What is the most “book-like” book? Especially to local Singapore?

I pondered. Searched. Asked around for ideas. Looked around under the sheets of bookstores and stock image websites. And one image kept popping up everywhere – a hard-cover, rectangular, portrait-orientation, typically vintage-looking, and leather-bound book. So my initial hunch for going with a leather book cover design as most “book-like”, as the one most generic book image which most people would recognise it and say, “Yes, that’s a book which looks most like a book.” The answer had come full circle. But not a wasted exercise though, because only through asking this question can I be really sure of the spirit of the design is accurate.


The making of

So…with firmer conviction, I ploughed on to finish up the final prototype of the Book Bag for the submission to the library. And added on a few extra useful touches inspired from my very initial ethnographic observation of library users.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


As you can see from the slideshow, there’s now the:

  • Outer clear-plastic pocket for keeping loan receipts – remember how my initial observations showed how library users fumbled with the receipts and found their own ways to keep them properly without losing them (in wallets, in between book pages, etc)? Now there’s a home for all those run-away slips of paper, and a highly prominent, visible and convenient place at that!
  • An inner CD pocket to snugly hold the CD you borrowed above ground level – to minimise impact shock on the fragile disc of plastic when carrying and putting down the Book Bag.
  • ‘Hidden’ instructions on the ‘page’ side of the Book Bag – in 3 simple steps (it’s really just 3, as the 4th step is to say there isn’t a step 4!), the users can read and understand how the Book Bag can be borrowed, used and returned.
  • A mock RFID tag (taken from an old book I bought from a past library sale) to demonstrate a possible position where the tag can be located.

I should really be using Tyvek ® ‘paper’ (Tyvek® is actually all recyclable plastic, which looks and feels like paper) for the final prototype, but it’s not easily found as bookstores don’t really stock them. So I worked around it by using some good ol’ vanguard sheet, and pasting the A4-paper design prints onto the skeleton of vanguard sheet. The accidental quality of using printed paper is the creases and wrinkles that comes with uneven glue spread underneath, which makes the book look even more authentic!


Next up: ‘Fashion’ shoot of the Book Bag, to illustrate how the Book Bag would look like when used in our daily lives. No more studio shots against plain white backgrounds – stay tuned to see the Book Bag go ‘live’!


‘Fashion’ shoot in progress.

14 Jan

It’s the deadline tomorrow! High stress! I’m rushing out the various things for submission – editing pictures of the ‘fashion’ shoot, slideshow, physical package… I think I won’t be able to sleep again today.

While this blog does catch-up with reality (I’ll update posthumous as we go), here’s some quick peeks at what had been happened at Book Bag city…

The making of, @ Book Bag city


See the Book Bag in real-life action!