What do people mean by “the vibe”? Can human-centred design methods help produce better vibes? We have assembled rigorous qualitative data about “designing better vibes” from professional designers, musicians, educators, marketers, etc.
Have you ever walked into a store and decided to leave because you didn’t like “the vibe?” Designers often explicitly aim to create the “right” vibe for a website, brand, community or physical space. “Bad vibes” can be a reason for leaving a bar, resigning from a company or breaking up with a romantic partner. Most people seem to have an intuitive understanding of what vibes are, but the concept hasn’t really been formally understood. This is despite the fact that vibes (#goodvibes, #badvibes, #sundayvibes, etc) have been tagged in over 83 million different Instagram posts!
But what are vibes -- do they really exist? Psychologists often tackle concepts used in common language and then operationally define them so they can be measured and studied. However, this hasn’t yet happened with the study of the vibe. We’ve only identified a small handful of scholarly papers that have seriously investigated the vibe.
In order to advance our understanding of the vibe (and to design better vibes), dozens of master’s students at TU Delft have been conducting small qualitative research projects to gather perceptions and insights. They’ve conducted over 100 interviews with a wide swath of society, from the young to the elderly, interviewing architects, product designers, shopkeepers, DJs and educators. Our qualitative data aims to provide a base for future work in psychology to operationalize and measure the vibe.
Some of the findings? First, many professional designers do care about designing “the vibe.” Second, people broadly understand what is meant by the vibe, even across age groups. Third, “positive vibes” can sometimes create “the wrong vibe” when used in inappropriate places.