Designing For Happiness

Can design save humanity?

The Context

Digital products (social media, messaging, games), traditional services (banking, airport), new services (Airbnb, Uber) and physical objects or spaces (e.g. furniture, electronic appliances, buildings) have all been designed.

However, design is rarely used to define a company's strategy, arguably the most influential parameter to the final equation that governs the experience of its customers.

As a consequence, design often happens by default and sometimes following constraints that ignore the deleterious effects they can have, for instance fueling pernicious service ecosystems or encouraging irresponsible consumption.

This is not to say that we, designers, don't have our share of responsibility: In a global economy that went in four decades from focusing on selling physical products to digital services, the tools we use everyday could use a facelift. User-Centred-Design for instance, probably the most popular of all, is too exclusive in its target and too vague in its criteria. As a consequence, it often encourages the design of products and services that focus on providing short-term satisfaction to their users while ignoring the rest.

Looking into the future and with the fast development of technologies such as mixed reality, metaverses and artificial intelligence, it is clear that more and more of people's life experiences are going to happen through digital products and services. While we don't believe it is a designer's role to veto technological evolution, we certainly see a considerable risk when design is too often confined to the role of making products or services desirable when it could be used as an instrument for positive change.

Opportunity & Vision

We want to change the way people and organisations think about design while equipping designers with new tools that can help tackle the big challenges of our time, from the evolution of human interactions to the future of the planet, its fauna and flora.

Across all cultures and religions, happiness is a shared goal of human beings. We think design has to be given a grander purpose than the short term satisfaction of the user and that designers should be encouraged to consider how their decisions impact users in the long term. This also means thinking beyond the user and looking at how these decisions will affect :

  • non-users (e.g. the user's family)
  • the people who work to provide the products or services that the user is buying
  • the environment, which is still too often considered as a supply of free assets to be converted into marketable products.

How Can Design Influence Happiness?

Most psychologists and philosophers converge on the definition of the elements that have an effect on our happiness. Using their work to break down hundreds of designs from traditional physical products to futuristic digital services, we have identified 7 pillars of happiness that can be used by designers to challenge themselves, measure their ideas against and generate original concepts.

The pillars of happiness for design

Note: Some pillars will have more or less relevance depending on the type of design at play and the DO/DONTs tags are provided as means of illustration.

How Do We Use It?

As part of our research and experiments on this topic, we have come up with design routines that we now use to generate ideas and make decisions for all our projects. We are also working on a guide for designers and anyone interested in this topic.

If you would like to know more, if you need us to help you or your organisation, write to us:

If you haven't seen it yet, you can also check out The Worst Crit Of Your Life, a satirical website we have created in order to "manipulate people into wanting to design for happiness".

A screen capture of the worst crit of your life website


Serra Umut, Fred Wordie, Santiago Taberna, Kevin Cobb, Samuel Iliffe and Guillaume Couche


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  • The pillars of happiness for design
  • A screen capture of the worst crit of your life website