Experience goals in designing professional tools : evoking meaningful experiences at work

Yichen Lu

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


For most adults, work is an important part of life. Experiences at work are shaped considerably by the workplace context wherein professional tools often play a crucial role. Given this significance, this doctoral research is concerned with human flourishing at work as mediated by professional tools and work-related service touchpoints. This dissertation concentrates on prioritising meaningful experiences as high-level design goals in the early phase of the design process, which enables a creative approach to professional tool innovation. In the last three decades, the societal change from the materialistic to the experiential has boosted business-to-consumer design practices with a focus on experiential quality. Compelling consumer experiences in daily life have raised the bar of people’s expectations for desirable experiences at work. In contrast, current work tool design in the business-to-business setting is mainly driven by product performance criteria, system productivity, and cost efficiency. The value of meaningful experiences at work as a catalyst for employee flourishing seems largely neglected in work tool design. This dissertation therefore proposes to shift the orientation of work tool design from product-centred problem solving towards experience-focused possibility seeking. This research follows Hassenzahl’s proposition of experience design, to think intended experiences before concrete design outcome. To maintain the designers’ focus on experiential objectives throughout the design process, this dissertation introduces a key conceptual instrument of inquiry into design practice, namely, the experience goal (Xgoal). This dissertation defines Xgoals as high-level design objectives that concretise the intended momentary emotion or lasting meaning that a person feels about a product or service to be designed. The main challenges of Xgoal setting and realisation correspond to a design abduction process in which designers constantly experiment with tentative Xgoals until a preferable match between the two emerges. Thus, this research investigates Xgoal setting and utilisation for work tool design in the specific context of the Finnish metals and engineering industry where traditional problem-solving engineering design dominates. Theoretically, this research utilises the multidisciplinary lenses of positive psychology, organisational management, and possibility-driven design thinking to study Xgoals in creative design practice. Methodologically, this dissertation extracts data from 20 master student projects that collaborated with heavy industry companies. These projects were deliberately designed for meaningful experiences at work in relation to professional tool innovation. The analysis of these project reports emphasises design reasoning for Xgoal setting and utilisation in design activities. Finally, Xgoals as designerly instruments were evaluated in expert interviews. The findings of this research first indicate that Xgoals with in-depth meaning can lead a possibility-driven design process because Xgoals define the in-depth reason for design opportunities rather than a means to a solution. Xgoals can facilitate the considered design space expansion from the main product towards a product-service system and from styling towards human-product interaction, face-to-face communication, and organisational strategy. Second, the findings suggest that the mechanisms of meaningful work can complement a Positive Design Framework, and further propose Xgoals in terms of design for virtue, personal significance and pleasure intertwined with the meaningfulness of work. Third, this research uncovers design strategies for experiences of pride at work along social and temporal dimensions. Finally, this dissertation suggests the generative, reflective, and communicative functions of Xgoals in design practice. This research contributes a theory-inspired and design case-based approach to tool design for evoking meaningful experiences at work. Future studies on this could concentrate on applying the proposed framework and design strategies to other domains, and further develop context-dependent Xgoal setting and utilisation methods for possibility-driven design.
Translated title of the contributionExperience goals in designing professional tools : evoking meaningful experiences at work
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Hyysalo, Sampsa, Supervising Professor
  • Roto, Virpi, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8079-6
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8080-2
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • experience-focused design
  • possibility-driven design
  • experience goal
  • meaningful experiences at work
  • work tool
  • design strategies
  • pride


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