Seymour’s background, including advertising and film production, complements his partner’s product design skills. He writes regularly in the British press and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs on design.
Australian designers were fortunate to hear some of Seymour’s progressive ideas on what he calls “emotional ergonomics” when he was guest speaker at Sydney Design Week, entertaining a captivated audience gathered at the Powerhouse Museum.
Emotional ergonomics, as Seymour describes it, is a very simple concept. “It has to do with how we feel, much more than how we think.”
Seymour believes the emotional centres in our brain trigger responses that make us feel emotionally about a product or thing. He calls it “appeal psychology”.
“The light that goes out slowly when you close the car door... why do you like it?” asks Seymour, suggesting it’s something we don’t think about but feel.
Seymour also referred to the sleep light on the Apple Macintosh... it doesn’t just go on and off, it ‘breathes’ slowly. “Why do we like it?”
“The more you feel the more you think,” says Seymour. “For example, when you walk into a store and you see something you like, you move towards it because you like it, then you feel you want it, and then you ask ‘What is it?’. It happens in this order.
“If we can find out why this happens then surely we are going to be able to make products that are better.” said Seymour.
On a lighter note, Seymour shared his company’s ventures into bra design with his audience.
“Larger women looking for bras have historically not had such happy experiences when shopping. They have had to walk to the back wall of bra shops to find the larger sized bras ‘hanging like the flags at Westminster Abbey’. Customers have just adapted
to this over time.
“Most things are wrong with a bra, so we had to start from the beginning. Around 80% of women wear the wrong size; you have to adopt a hostage position to put them on, and the underwires fritz the washing machine when they float out.
"Industry thinks they are moving forward by watching what their competitors are doing, not talking to customers and trying to find ways to make their products better.
“We didn’t come up with a new style, we came up with a new way of making a bra. The foundation is made from plastic that is over moulded with a soft elastomer. It provides enormous support and comfort for larger ladies and they no longer need to feel humiliated when buying a bra.”
Seymour says designers need to be on the look out for ways to improve product development according to what people are “feeling” rather than doing.
“Just because you can make something or technically achieve something, doesn’t mean you should.
“We speak a lot these days about convergence, but beyond this is divergence. Divergence is new stuff, we need to give it names and meanings.
It is one of the biggest problems we have. The only stuff that means anything is relevant stuff, the stuff we can use. If we don’t use it, it withers. This is why so many things that are introduced miss the point and go wrong.
“For example, a mobile phone with a camera in it... what will it be used for? What will become the dominant use of the product?” Seymour suspects that the designers and manufacturers don’t know the answers to these questions.
“You buy a product because you think you’ll use it for one thing, and then it hangs around in a drawer and gets ‘re-purposed’.
“If you watch what people do, you learn a lot, because you see where people are using products ‘wrongly’.
“Anthropology comes before technology. If you ask people what they ‘do’ in market research they will lie. They are trying to convert something that they feel into something that they think, then into something that they say... how does anyone expect to navigate new business opportunities by doing this?”