Introduction to kansei engineering

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Introduction to kansei engineering

Kansei engineering is first and foremost a product development methodology in the category of emotional engineering. Kansei engineering´s main goal is to translate costumers’ impressions on existing products and product concepts, then fix the impressions to concrete design parameters. Simply put, psychological impression (kansei) – Kansei engineering – design solution. However, it is not completely correct to say that “impressions” is the only emotional factor at work. The term of kansei is much more than simply “impressions” (Simon, 2005, pp. 49,50) (Mitsuo, 2018, pp. 177,178).


The word kansei originates from the Japanese kanji-signs “Kan” and “Sei”. Which means sensitivity and sensibility. Describing what kansei means however, is not that easy. Kansei is one of those words that cannot be directly translated. Kansei is not a simple impression, or a feeling it is something more, it is atmospheric and personal. An emotion received from all the senses to create a whole. One can try to explain kansei in simpler terms, in fact, there are several different definitions of what kansei is. what they all have in common however, is that kansei deals with emotional stimuli, received from all 5 senses, derived from individual subjective impressions when interacting with an artefact, situation or environment. Though subjective in nature, the personal kansei of one individual, may not be entirely unique. It can be grouped, evaluated and turned into data, which is where kansei engineering steps in. But, how can subjective emotions be evaluated (Simon, 2005, pp. 36-39)?
To give an example: A specific kansei arise when person is subjected to an artefact in a certain context. A walk through the forest, beneath the first spring sun can evoke kanseis such as beautiful, fulfilling, happy etc. Consider however, that these kanseis are just a small part of the overall experience. One might feel glad that the winter is over or just content that the spring sun is out once again. The situational complexity must be contained somehow and what seems to be the correct option is to apply a hierarchic thinking 2.1.2. A first degree kansei Is a collection of many transitory, lower kanseis, which appear spontaneously and build a higher degree kansei. The higher level kansei can be summarized in one general kansei. In contrast to the higher degree kansei, the lower degree kansei arises instantly whereas a higher degree kansei take some time to build up. Lower degree kanseis are often are more individual than higher degree kanseis. This means that many may feel happy, which is a higher, general kansei, when walking through the forest on a warm spring day, but all does not view it as beautiful, which is a kansei of a lower degree (L, et al., 2018, pp. 473,474) (Simon, 2005, p. 44).
The question arising is now how the individual kansei can be and converted into useful information for product development. Kansei is an internal sensation, but it can only be measured using methods based on external reactions. Because of the delicate structure of kansei, which often includes small nuances of emotional impressions, mapping methods must be sensitive enough to include these nuances. Methods that meets these demands are grounded on semantic descriptions. Methods measuring physiological responses, however, are often regarded as too inexact and unnuanced. Measurements of semantic exploration and description of the kansei are foremost interview techniques. (Simon, 2005, pp. 45,46).

Applying kansei engineering

Kansei engineering utilizes certain stimuli, product samples and describing words, which are fed into the model system. The output from the engineering system is recorded usually in interview or questionnaire form. The data represents the correspondents perceived kansei of the affected product. However, using kansei engineering models does not necessarily mean that the outcome of the study reflects the correspondents true kansei. It is just an image taken at a certain point of time under certain circumstances. it is impossible to accurately predict an individual’s kansei which all users of this methodology must take into consideration. Kansei engineering is a successful method, but it is not infallible. There are limits to the methodology. Now how do you use kansei engineering? There are three main steps in the basic kansei engineering model. Choosing the affected domain, spanning the affective spaces and synthetization (Simon, 2005, pp. 40-43) (L, et al., 2018, p. 466) (Kerstin, et al., 2013, pp. 145,146).
Choosing the domain includes the selection of a target group, market-niche and specification of the affected product. Based on this information, product samples are collected, representing the total domain. The kansei domain can be understood as the ideal concept behind a certain product. The domain includes both existing products, concepts and unknown design solution. with utmost importance, it is vital to cover as much space as possible in the domain for the best results (Simon, 2005, pp. 52,56).

The semantic space

The idea behind the product can be described from two different perspectives: the semantic perspective and the description of product properties with each spanning an individual vector space. Subsequently these spaces are analyzed in relation to each other indicating which of the product properties evokes which semantic impact (L, et al., 2018, p. 466).
The kansei is hierarchic. This means that one higher level kansei is combined of several lower kansei and facilitates the representation of correspondent’s affective values. For example, the low level kansei of slow, fast, agile, and quick can be summed up to a single higher level kansei, like “kinetic”. In kansei engineering only higher level kanseis are connected to product properties in order to achieve a better generalization of the results. The purpose of spanning the semantic space is to identify these higher level kanseis from a greater number of lower kanseis (Simon, 2005, pp. 57-59).
Spanning the semantical space is done in three steps. first, collection of low level kansei words. A kansei word is a word describing the product domain. Often these words are adjectives, but other grammatical forms are possible. In order to get a complete selection of words all possible sources can be used, even if the words emerging seem to be similar of the same. Suitable sources can be magazines, literature, manuals, experts, experiences users, studies etc. Depending on the domain, the number of existing kansei words can range up into the hundreds. It is important to select more words than seemed necessary to avoid missing important kansei possibilities which can affect the result of the kansei engineering study.
In the second phase, the kansei structure identification phase, higher level kanseis are identified and compiled from the collected set of kansei words. In the third step the words are sorted and combined for easier evaluation and synthetization (Markus & Tan, 2011) (Simon & Lluis, 2018, pp. 22,23) (L, et al., 2018, pp. 473,474).

The space of properties

When the identification of the core product values and Kansei words is complete, the next step is to identify the design elements that affect the product towards those specific values. When defining the affective product properties, it is important to find the physical properties that affect the user and strengthens the products perceived kansei. However, it is not easy to decide what property of the product evokes a certain kansei and how the kansei is influenced when this property is changed (Simon & Lluis, 2018, pp. 23,24)1.3.
When performing a kansei engineering study, the goal must be that all participants experience the kansei of the product in question. Otherwise, the impact of the affective values cannot be measured. Sensory organs are vital in kansei formation. Kansei however, is subjective in nature. What is clear however, the first interaction of an object is almost always visual. Depending on the individual’s preferences, they can choose to further explore the object using the other senses, adding more input. There are differences in the importance of the sensorial input. Sight is considered as the most important sense. the other senses of hearing, smell taste and touch are usually used in a complementary manner. However, in kansei engineering, this ranking is not very relevant. Because, the significance of sensory input can vary dependent on the product examined 2.1. This is an important aspect to consider when spanning the space of properties. What kind of product is the study focused on? When determining the quality of a cup of coffee, the taste and smell clearly are the most important senses. While evaluating the quality of a fabric, vision and touch is the most affective senses. The degree or importance depends on the product in question. To provide the correspondent the possibility to constitute a full kansei, you have to define what degree of interaction is necessary and choose the affective properties after the affected senses (Simon, 2005, pp. 47,57-61,64-71). Finally, all selected properties are brought together to one set of product properties to be used in the synthesis step.


In the synthesis step, the semantic space and the space of properties are linked. For every kansei word, several product properties are found, affecting the kansei word (Simon & Lluis, 2018, p. 23).
The identification of relationships conducted in the synthesis phaser is the core of kansei engineering. Several tools have been developed and are used for this part. Both mathematical and non-mathematical methods, for example: Fuzzy logics or Linear Regression Analysis or even focus-group based surveys. They all have in common that they establish a connection between the two Spaces. Which provides information of how certain intended affective aspects can be represented product. Also, it becomes possible to choose product properties in a way that an intended feeling is imposed on the product, as is the case in this thesis. One of the most common methods is the use of evaluating surveys. The main components of these surveys are questionnaires or interviews. They enable fast information from large numbers of participants to be generated with minimal resources. Questionnaires and interview survey possess some limitations however, the affective window is often limited to the visual senses only which will decrease the grade of the perceived kansei. Which can lead to mislead conclusions (Simon, 2005, pp. 62-64,72) (L, et al., 2018, p. 473).

1 Introduction 
1.1 A friendly product
1.2 Research questions
1.3 Delimitations
2 Theoretical Background 
2.1 Perception
2.2 The feeling of colour
2.3 Natural Colour System [NCS]
3 Method 
3.1 Introduction to kansei engineering
4 Approach and Implementation 
4.1 Road to a friendly kansei
5 Result 
5.1 Questionnaire
5.2 Interview
6 Conclusion and discussion
6.1 Friendliest option? …
6.2 Working with kansei engineering
6.3 What is friendly?
6.4 Reflections
7 References
8 Attachments

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