Designing with the Body

From Design Thinking, Design Theory

Designing with the Body

Somaesthetic Interaction Design

By Kristina Höök

Interaction design that entails a qualitative shift from a symbolic, language-oriented stance to an experiential stance that encompasses the entire design and use cycle.





Interaction design that entails a qualitative shift from a symbolic, language-oriented stance to an experiential stance that encompasses the entire design and use cycle.

With the rise of ubiquitous technology, data-driven design, and the Internet of Things, our interactions and interfaces with technology are about to change dramatically, incorporating such emerging technologies as shape-changing interfaces, wearables, and movement-tracking apps. A successful interactive tool will allow the user to engage in a smooth, embodied, interaction, creating an intimate correspondence between users' actions and system response. And yet, as Kristina Höök points out, current design methods emphasize symbolic, language-oriented, and predominantly visual interactions. In Designing with the Body, Höök proposes a qualitative shift in interaction design to an experiential, felt, aesthetic stance that encompasses the entire design and use cycle.

Höök calls this new approach soma design; it is a process that reincorporates body and movement into a design regime that has long privileged language and logic. Soma design offers an alternative to the aggressive, rapid design processes that dominate commercial interaction design; it allows (and requires) a slow, thoughtful process that takes into account fundamental human values. She argues that this new approach will yield better products and create healthier, more sustainable companies.

Höök outlines the theory underlying soma design and describes motivations, methods, and tools. She offers examples of soma design “encounters” and an account of her own design process. She concludes with “A Soma Design Manifesto,” which challenges interaction designers to “restart” their field—to focus on bodies and perception rather than reasoning and intellect.


$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262038560 272 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 19 b&w illus.


  • As interactive technologies move off of our laptops and mobile devices and integrate more closely onto and with our bodies, we will need new metaphors, themes, and design strategies to confront these challenges. Kia's Designing with the Body provides a refreshing and essential philosophical guide to restructuring our design thinking and action to appropriately and aesthetically blend our future body-based technologies through somaesthetics. A must-read for any designer, technologist, or practitioner of body-based wearable and interactive experiences.

    Eric Paulos

    Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the Berkeley Center for New Media, University of California, Berkeley

  • Höök's suggestion, that we should be mindful of bodily experiences as fundamental for interaction design, is a wonderful corrective to the increasingly aggressive dematerialization of big data, AI and social media. From its first-person accounts of horseback riding to its negotiation of interdisciplinary theory, the clarity, warmth and assurance of this account reflects the author's deep and long-standing engagement with these issues—this is truly an exemplary example of design research.

    Bill Gaver

    Interaction Research Studio, Goldsmiths University of London

  • Kristina Höök's Designing with the Body is the first book that offers a somaesthetic theory for interaction design. Using a series of personally involved and challenging interaction design studies, Designing with the Body creates a manifesto for soma design theory, where design is called upon to recognize that somaesthetic appreciation skills will improve design and designing—both for end-users and designers. I strongly recommend this book as the first comprehensive and detailed account of theoretically guided research through design in the service of innovative design practice.

    Gilbert Cockton

    Professor of Design Theory, School of Design, Northumbria University

  • Kristina Höök has produced a subtle, experience-based outline for design based on bodily experience. She draws from pragmatism and Asian design experience related to embodiment. Her opening illustration of human-horse relations showed me she has good insight into empathizing deeply. She knows what only excellent riders know.

    Don Ihde

    Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, Stony Brook University