Harnessing nostalgia : literature review

I’m going to heavily abbreviate this section as it was necessarily exhaustive in its original form. All the references will be given in a bibliography at the end of this post.

Kansei engineering and emotional design


Defining kansei has caused debate in the field of emotional design and engineering for decades, and various dominant definitions have been consulted to aid the interpretation of the discipline for this project. Lévy states that kansei engineering “proposes to measure and to analyze consumers’ implicit needs and to associate them with product design characteristics” (2013, p.84) – a challenging task, as ‘implicit’ suggests the consumer may not know what these needs are.

The more attraction and affinity the user feels towards an object, Gaspar et al. propose, the more efficient and effective the object is. By awakening emotion in the user, imagination is awakened at the same time – the user realises they need the object, and they can imagine how their life may be improved or enhanced by that object (Gaspar et al., 2013).

Fukuda (2013) adds a further nuance by emphasising a focus on satisfaction within design, rather than a focus on function: in this way, he argues, design needs to evolve to keep up with an increasingly open world and society. He argues that in such a world, emotional design and engineering are required in order to properly navigate the shift in priorities from finding the optimum design, to finding the most satisfying design for the user. Since in- creased openness and connectedness means “the role of the user is fundamentally shifted from passive observer to active contributor” (Twigger-Holroyd, 2017, p.11), design must become more communicative, as designers must receive users’ experience
in order to utilise that knowledge for better design outcomes (Gaspar et al., 2013; Lévy, 2013). Kansei design methodology offers the tools to do this, by translating “impressions, feelings, and demands of users” (Gaspar et al., 2013, p. 108).

Impressions and feelings are two factors that stand out among kansei definitions and encourage the link to nostalgia and garment design within this project. Nostalgia arises as a feeling – it is more than factual memory. As anyone who has felt nostalgia may attest, it can arise as a series of impressions (of a time, place, smell, sound, feeling, etc.) rather than a concrete or visual memory. It is the intention of this project to use kansei methodology to harness these impressions and feelings, and design with the intention of provoking them.

“The incorporation of the Kansei method during the design process will also improve human relations with the objects, and will assist the production of products with higher added value, not just technicians [sic.], functional, esthetic, and cultural, but also that satisfy the subjective desires and human aspirations.” (Gaspar et al., 2013)

Kansei in the clothing industry

Little groundwork for kansei design methodology has been laid within the clothing industry, where literature is limited to the implications and applications of kansei design within e-commerce (Anitawati et al., 2006; Lokman & Zolkefley, 2015; Noor, et al., 2008). Lokman and Ibrahim write briefly on the subject relating to children’s clothing design specifically (2010), and their work deserves further exploration. Kansei words, as explored by Lokman and Ibrahim (table 1), emerge as the tool with the greatest potential for clothing design grounded in nostalgia, as words hold the potential for the highly subjective goal of generating impressions within consumers.

Table 1: Kansei words, Lokman & Ibrahim, 2013 p.87

However, within a project grounded in the evocation of the visual in order to generate impressions relating to nostalgia, it is proposed that kansei images may better serve as a design tool. By generating nostalgia impressions through images during the design process, the influence of these images may extend through the design to the consumer – by way of marketing, styling, and storytelling, as well as through physical manifestation of the garment – to provoke an emotional reaction to the garment and the impressions it contains.

I’ll hold off there as -phewf- this is a lot, next time we’ll look at nostalgia specifically, and move more into the clothing and fashion industries.


Anitawati, M.L. Nor Laila, M.N. & Nagamachi, M. (2006) ‘Kansei engineering: a study on perception of online clothing websites’, in Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Quality Management and Operation Development 2008.

Fukuda, S. (2013) Emotional Engineering vol. 2. Springer.

Gaspar, V., El Marghani, R., Claus da Silva, F., Knapik, L., & Verri, M.A. (2013) ‘Kansei engineering: Methodology to the project oriented for the customers’, in Fukuda, S. (ed.) Emotional Engineering vol. 2. Springer. pp. 127-149.

Lévy, P. (2013) ‘Beyond kansei engineering: The emancipation of kansei design’, International Journal of Design, 7(2), 83-94.

Lokman, A.M. & Ibrahim, E.N. (2010) ‘The Kansei semantic space in children’s clothing’ in IEEE International Conference on Information Retrieval and Knowledge Management, 2010, pp. 85-90.

Lokman, A.M. & Zolkefley, M.K.I.K. (2015) ‘Cross-cultural Kansei measurement’, Communications in Computer and Information Science, 545, pp.242–251.

Noor, N. M., Lokman, A.M., & Nagamachi, M. (2008) ‘Applying kansei engineering to determine emotional signature of online clothing websites’, in ICEIS 2008 – Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems.

Twigger-Holroyd, A. (2017) Folk fashion : understanding homemade clothes. London: I.B.

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