Human Factors of a Pleasure Boutique

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Master's Degree Programme in International Design Business Management
Master's Degree Programme in International Design Business Management
Anna Freud famously wrote that “sex is something you do, sexuality is something you are.” (King, 2011) The act of sex and the concept of sexual identity throughout history, and into the future, will continue to be amended in regards to what is considered so- cially acceptable and desirable. Advances in pharmacology (birth control, Viagra), technology (vibrators), sexual politics (gay mar- riage), social media (sex-ting), to name only a few, continue to change the emotional and behavioral conventions around sexuality. With these various social factors influencing the already complicated and private matter of sex and sexuality, it is further challen- ging to understand the nature of people as users in regards to design of sexual products and services. When considering the realm of the adult store industry, people as users, are often a hidden and an ever-moving target. Within Hel- sinki Finland, it is also a market mostly misunderstood and underserved by current adult store offerings. Previously unassociated with the adult store industry, I began to explore its vast offering in early 2012 in order to create a business plan for a ‘pleasure bouti- que’ within an entrepreneurship course. Through this process I discovered the industry to be fascinating, controversial and rapidly growing. After immersing myself in the market I felt there were many opportunities to satisfy unmet markets and customer needs through design. With the adult store industry steadily increasing and the cultural perception of sexuality evolving, the need to un- derstand people as users is especially important for the desirability and ultimate success of my business design concepts within this industry. To better understand how to satisfy user needs through design, this thesis focuses on creating and conducting a qualitative consumer research approach through ten extreme user interviews. It centers on two objectives, first to create a qualitative consumer research approach that more effectively investigates a taboo subject, in this case, sexuality. Creating this approach provides a ground plan on how to interview users regarding private topics, which as an outlined process, the creative industry currently lacks. To accomplish this, the methodology created utilizes a combination of existing research methods. The process draws from three fields: the user- centered realm of human factors research as well as areas of psychology and ethnography, as it relates to hidden populations and counter sub-cultures. The second aim of this thesis is to gain valuable insights through ten extreme user interviews that provide insights, inspiration and opportunities for satisfying user needs through design. This thesis begins with an introduction into related literature regarding sexual history and a personal immersion into the adult store industry. Stemming from this observation follows the research proposal: how to create and conduct a qualitative consumer research approach that allows the investigation of a private and taboo topic. Chapter two outlines the creation of the qualitative consumer research methodology, prior to introducing the ten extreme users and their interview summary findings within chapter three. Chapter three concludes with identifying and explaining the three key user insight themes found. These include the tensions surrounding the duality of gender, the duality of self (real and ideal mental construct) and lastly, the desire for feeling a sense of intimacy and sense of love (in agape form) over the mere act and objectification of sex and sexual objects. The fourth chapter discusses how these key insights have opened up areas of opportunity for design that will better satisfy and re- sonate with users in comparison to the original pleasure boutique concept. The first two opportunity areas describe how the design of visual communication could blur the lines between the genders and gender roles for a more unified concept of sexual identity. The third area focuses on the desire to ridicule the confines of social norms in regards to sexuality as a means to find liberation. This could also be embodied within the brand of the pleasure boutique and its visual communication. Lastly, the final insight discusses the opportunity for design messaging and visual communication to use elements illustrating a sense of agape love and intimacy that people ultimately desire. This area could push boundaries further by utilizing shared aspects from different religions that embody enlightenment and the sublime through aspects of agape love.
Whalen, Jack
human factors, qualitative consumer research, entrepreneurship, user centered design
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  • Abstract Thesis document appendix