‘Product Appearance, Emotions and Identity: Personal Relations with Significant Products Described by Young Adults with Disabilities’

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Today we use products to shape our identity, by communicating to others who we are and what we want to be. Using products for communication of identity seems especially important for young adults. Persons with disabilities live with double identities. Sometimes it is important to be a person with a disability (e.g., someone in contact with health care and other welfare systems in society), while at other times, it is important to be considered like everybody else (e.g., job contacts, friends, etc). Assistive devices are rarely viewed as symbols of social status. Instead, they emphasise differences and often increase the user’s feelings of apartness. Young adults with disabilities were interviewed about their emotional relations with personally significant products: a conflict between the identity of the product and that of the user was demonstrated. This was particularly apparent in situations where the user needed to use a product which she or he did not like, in this case assistive devices. In the comments about products which elicit negative emotions, three strategies for handling the feeling of dislike were described: 1) putting up with and accepting the situation, 2) abandoning the product, and 3) changing the product or creating something new. All strategies that the interviewed persons used to manage their negativism may be prevented by and are affected by product design. One main task of an industrial designer is to create products based on the desired product identity. Changing the way the product looks, can decrease the emotional conflict between the user's desired identity and the identity of the product; in the long run, assistive devices can be created which are experienced as positive symbols rather than stigmas.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics


  • Product experience, Self-image, Product appearance, Product identity, Emotions, Assistive devices, Users, Disabilities, Stigma
Original languageEnglish
JournalTechnology and Disability
Publication statusSubmitted - 2011
Publication categoryResearch