Notes on design

Dr Lionel Tiger’s Four Pleasure Model

The Four Pleasure model is a framework that can be used to help evaluate how pleasurable a product will be use and own.

Read More ...

Dr Lionel Tiger’s Four Pleasure Model

The Four Pleasure model is a framework that can be used to help evaluate how pleasurable a product will be use and own. It can also be used to identify and generate opportunities to enhance a product.

#The pursuit of pleasure

Canadian born anthropologist Dr Lionel Tiger published a book in 1992 entitled ‘The pursuit of pleasure’. The book discusses pleasure and the part that it has played in evolution and survival.

The ideas have subsequently been popularised and developed by Patrick Jordan as the ‘Four Pleasure Framework’ and are widely used in product design. Donald Norman also draws upon the ideas in his book ‘Emotional Design’.

In the book he proposes a Four Pleasure model that categorises the four broad types of pleasure enjoyed by people:


Physio-pleasure is a sensual pleasure that is derived from touching, smelling, hearing and tasting something. It also conveyed by an object’s effectiveness in performing the action for which it is designed.

#Examples of physio-pleasure

Some magazines (I’m thinking of Eye Magazine) have both a wonderful texture due to the quality of the paper stock combined with a fantastic smell as you open it’s pages. Leather goods have a similar effect – more for some than others.

A refined and well engineered tool such as a Wüsthof cooks knife has a pleasing heft and balance that is noted immediately upon using the tool. It also conveys a pleasure to the user of being highly effective — making light work of the often mundane tasks for which it is employed.

When we close a car door and it makes a satisfying clunk we experience a certain pleasure. This is a combination of the acoustic feedback that the door is definitely closed, combined with an aesthetic enjoyment of the sound itself. The sound will have been engineered to produce this response.


Psycho-pleasures are pleasures that are derived from cognition, discovery, knowledge, and other things that satisfy the intellect.

#Examples of psycho-pleasure

The first time that you pick up an iPod/iPhone/iPad and start playing with it you quickly get an idea of how it works. Even if you don’t get it straight away, it is learnable, memorable and pretty consistent — you soon get to know the ropes. This leads to a certain sense of satisfaction because, largely, ‘it just works’.

Games are enjoyable because they present challenges that we need to figure out. Whether finishing the Rubik’s cube, or achieving checkmate in a few moves, there is a cognitive-emotional pleasure that is derived from such activities.

Horizon is one of my favourite programs. The reason that I enjoy it so much is because I get to discover new ideas and expand my mind with thoughts of m-theory and other crazy science. I may not wholly, or indeed even partially, understand it but I do enjoy the act of thinking about it.


Socio-pleasures, as the name suggests, are concerned with pleasures derived from social signifiers of belonging, social-enablers and other social self-identification factors.

#Examples of socio-pleasure

Facebook is a tool that enables people to have a greater sense of community and involvement with one another. Often geographically disparate friends can still retain a foothold in one another’s lives.
For most web designers, especially a few years ago, owning an iPhone was more or less de rigeur in the same way that a Blackberry is for crack dealers and bankers.

At school, wearing a pair of Adidas-like ‘one stripe too many’ trainers in PE would lead to mockery. No-one was suggesting that the shoes were of a lesser quality, simply that they said you were too poor or socially unaware to have the ‘proper’ ones.

Certain objects or features provide a talking point, a sense of identity, a way to differentiate and create a starting point for dialogue. This could be a Mohican, an audiophile sound system or a folly that you have built on your estate.


Ideo-pleasures then are pleasures that are linked to our ideals, aesthetically, culturally and otherwise.

#Examples of ideo-pleasure

I have a mug from Ikea. It is largely unremarkable and utilitarian, however I always glean a small moment of ideo-pleasure when I wash it and place on the draining rack as it has a really elegant design feature. It has grooves scored into the base so that all of the water on the base runs off when it is placed upside down. Lesser mugs pool this water, often leading to a suprise when the mug is taken from the draining rack. This reflects my own ideological standpoint that everything can be made better, often through very small and elegant changes.

Aesthetic sensibilities are often closely linked to our ideological or cultural identity and determine to a great extent the pleasure a product may bring. Many people that get a great deal of pleasure from driving VW camper vans. They are often impractical, unreliable and relatively expensive in comparison to other vehicles that offer greater utility.

There is a clear business case for producing local/green/fair-trade produce as people derive pleasure from ethical shopping. Hence all of the heritage-style, Clarendon on matte-finish packaged products that reflect a faux-traditional, good old days aesthetic.

#See also: