Lens: Type: Characteristic

Ways people are connected to others.

Photo: helena_wlt
man and woman holding each other and a dog

Personal and work relationships can directly affect a person’s actions and decision-making. One person can be a mother, a sister, a grandmother, a co-worker, a boss, and/or combinations of any of these. These relationships can frame a person’s total identity. A person who is a parent often chooses to do things in their children’s best interests instead of their own. Relationships aren’t just between people—some people’s relationships with their pets or plants can shape their priorities and provide a source of belonging and relatedness.

Relationships Examples

  • A brother
  • A person’s “church family”
  • Fellow soldiers in an army patrol
  • A pet parakeet
  • The neighbor who lives in the apartment above
  • Co-workers

Researching Relationships

Researching relationships and the strengths of those relationships can reveal a person’s priorities and preferred behaviors. It reveals the roles a person has to play in their daily activities. Knowing these roles can suggest a person’s time limitations, where they must spend money, and other responsibilities.

Questions to Ask About Relationships

  • Who is this person “responsible” for?
  • With whom does this person spend their free time?
  • What decisions must this person make for other people in their lives?

Look for These When Researching Relationships

  • People spending time with children
  • Calendar items scheduling events with others
  • Friends having fun together
  • People visiting others in hospitals
  • Visits to graveyards/memorials/services

Designing for Relationships

People’s relationships can be a constraint as well as a reason to design a product, service, or system. In some cases, a design will not “work” if a person’s relationships make it undesirable or prevent its use. In other cases, designers may need to create something that will repair, reinforce, or recognize important relationships.

Designing to Change or to Enhance Relationships

child watching teacher on screen
Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

Relationships Suffering in Online Primary School Classrooms

A fourth-grade teacher wants her students to feel a sense of belonging and community in the classroom. She believes this enhances learning. However, during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, she is unable to meet with her students in-person. What could be designed to help students develop relationships?

Scenes Components People People: Relational People: Relational Characteristics Relationships


A fourth-grade public school teacher and her students

Scenes Components Context Context Behavior Climate


The 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic

Scenes Components People People: Meaning-Making Values


Learners deserve a sense of belonging and community in the classroom

a girl holding a journal
Photo by Dids from Pexels

Pass Kindness Around Game

Every week, a different student writes in a journal that gets passed to the next student. Some students write and others draw, but with each passing, the journal collects stories and images made by those in the class. Students feel related to one another when they see one another’s work in the journal.

Designing Within Relationships Constraints

Support Group Meetings for Foster Parents

Foster parents often care for several children, which requires significant time and monetary resources. These people need emotional support from others to feel grounded. Still, their time is very limited and childcare is expensive.

Scenes Components People People: Relational People: Relational Characteristics Relationships


Foster parents and the children in their care

Scenes Components People People: Motivation Mood


Foster Parents feel care for their children but also overworked and stressed

Scenes Components Context Context: Setting Time


Parents have limited available time during the week

Support Group Scheduling

Scheduling support group meeting times must consider foster parents’ schedules and obligations. Meetings are scheduled on a rotation from month to month so caregivers do not have to miss the same time every meeting.


References and sources that support the inclusion of this Aspects of Experiences for Design component.

Social Sciences

Crocker, J., Canevello, A., & Brown, A. A. (2017). Social Motivation: Costs and Benefits of Selfishness and Otherishness. Annual Review of Psychology, 68(1), 299-325. doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-010416-044145

Ellemers, N., & Haslam, S. A. (2012). Social Identity Theory. In P. A. M. V. Lange, A. W. Kruglanski, & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology, Volume 2 (pp. 380-398). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Kadushin, C. (2012). Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78. doi:10.1037//0003-066X.55.1.68

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2004). Autonomy Is No Illusion: Self-Determination Theory and the Empirical Study of Authenticity, Awareness, and Will. In (pp. 449-479). New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2008). Self-determination theory and the role of basic psychological needs in personality and the organization of behavior. In Handbook of personality: Theory and research, 3 (pp. 654-678).

Turner, J. C., Hogg, M. A., Oakes, P. J., Reicher, S. D., & Wetherell, M. S. (1987). Rediscovering the social group: A self-categorization theory. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell.

Turner, J. C., & Reynolds, K. J. (2012). Self-Categorization Theory. In P. A. M. V. Lange, A. W. Kruglanski, & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology, Volume 2 (pp. 399-417). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.