What is at the heart of transformative product experience? To find out, we immersed ourselves in the experiences of consumers and workers as they used their coolest products. And we discovered what makes things cool!

We conducted field interviews with more than ninety people: Sixty consumers between 15 and 60 years old and thirty enterprise workers. We asked people to show us products with some technical component that they experienced as cool. We talked with them about their experience, watched them use the products, and discussed how their lives were impacted.

We didn’t try to define “cool” for them. Instead, we let them define it by showing us the products they thought were cool.

The data revealed the key drivers of the cool product experience, which we’ve organized into The Wheel of Joy in Life and the Triangle of Joy in Use.

The Wheel of Joy in Life

The four Cool Concepts of the Wheel show how products enhance the joy of life, how they touch our core motives and humanness.

Accomplishment: Empower users to achieve all the intents of their life, using every bit of time to get their whole life done. Deliver value across place, time, and platform by helping people keep going in their unstoppable momentum of life. Accomplishment in life is the most impactful Cool Concept in the Wheel.

Connection: Increase the intimacy and collaboration in people’s real relationships at home and work. Help them make frequent contact, provide valued content to discuss, aid quick collaboration on the go, and find desired activities to do together. Communities of interest create connection this way too.

Identity: Help people develop, manifest, and celebrate their core selves. When people are able to be their best selves by using products, the products are experienced as cool. People have identity elements associated with work, parenting, hobbies, driving — any activity. Find the identity elements for your market and design for them.

Sensation: Deliver pleasurable moments of sensual delight through color, sound, movement, and animation. Modern aesthetic design is expected — poor design reduces coolness. Appropriate stimulation enhancing interaction creates a smile but distracting graphics reduces cool. Sensation augments any product, but is core for genres like games and entertainment.

The Triangle of Design in Use

The three Cool Concepts of the Triangle show how products enhance (or detract from) the joy of use by creating moments of magic.

Direct into Action: Provide immediate, simple fulfillment of core intents in moments. Products seem to “think for me” by bringing actionable content and options together with little or no user thought or direction. Direct into Action is the most impactful Cool Concept in the Triangle.

The Hassle Factor: Remove all inconveniences, set-up, plugging in, logging on, customization, and technology hassles from the product. Create the joy of relief by removing all the glitches and inconveniences that interrupt the flow of life. A “good enough” user experience is no longer good enough.

The Learning Delta: Deliver instant into action by creating products that need no real learning. Build on known interaction paradigms and natural interactions like touch, voice, and gesture. Nudge the user into use with tiny hints. Massively reduce complexity to achieve intents in moments without figuring out the technology.

The Cool Metric

The Cool Metric is a measurement instrument developed by InContext Design in partnership with SAP. The Cool Metric gives your team a new and different lens through which to view a product’s design. The results of the measure help your team understand where a product could better support the Cool Concepts.

The Cool Metric is a set of 40 questions that have been validated with over 2000 people worldwide. Using our analysis tool we deliver an overall Cool score and a score for each aspect of Cool. With these scores and our design principles associated with each Cool Concept we help our clients move the dial on their product’s coolness.

The Cool Metric differentiates coolness between different kinds of consumer and business software and between devices. It can be used to compare scores across competitors, or to focus an initial market study. It can be used between rounds of iteration to evaluate the goodness of an initial design or product concept. The Cool Metric works in the lab, in the field, and with a large population survey.

Let Us Introduce You to the Cool Concepts

Inspire your design and product teams to deliberately design for the cool user experience. Create transformative apps and products.

Ask about our talks, workshops, and strategic design consulting.
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