When Plants Talk to YOU—Giving Personality to Things

I was browsing a new gallery of design stores near Chinatown, Manhattan, the other day when I walked through a plant store and noticed each plant had a placard describing it. These were no ordinary placards, however, they were self-introductions. The plants were introducing themselves to me!

“I’m Nina, and native to Africa,” one starts, “I’m known for my [pencil-like] branches that have little leaves at the tips.” The plants’ cards go on to describe their habits, likes, and dislikes, with such juicy tidbits as “I hate wet feet, and only like to be watered when my soil is dry,” and warning me “in the winter I go dormant.”

Have a look yourself below:

plants with their self-introduction letters

Say hello to Mugs and Nina, after all, they said hello to you!

Why is this a user experience design blog? Because this user found this experience highly enjoyable! There are a couple of things the storeowner did with the self-introducing plants that make for a fun user experience that might ultimately lead to more sales. Indeed, I myself did contemplate buying one at one point, although in the end I decided to stick with my plastic plants (much easier to dust fake plants than to water real ones).

Animating the inanimate

Wall-E and other robot

Aww look at these cute hunks of metal behaving like humans!

By giving the plants a voice, the store owner essentially gave the plants a personality. By telling you things like its likes and dislikes, and where its from, the plant seems more human and alive (Yes, plants are alive too but you know what I mean).The process of humanizing inanimate objects has been shown to make humans feel positive feelings toward said objects. In fact, that’s why robots are often made to look humanoid (of course, make them too humanoid and they become creepy).

Make your message medium amusing

Another benefit of presenting information in this manner is its novelty. It isn’t a set of instructions, and it isn’t a manual, but a letter. Unlike a manual, it’s interesting enough that people want to read it, which means you can put important information in there that you need people to know without making it feel like a chore. For example, Mugs the Mugo pine says that he “prefer[s] bright light” and tells us: “Take me out to get fresh air” because “I love the outdoors.” Like how you get a pet to take medicine by hiding the pills in its food, these plants are educating us on how to best take care of them! Gosh being trained by a plant, imagine that!

The Power of Psychology in Design

Psychology like this can be applied to design in any field, whether it is web, physical, or service design. Human psychology is powerful and important in design because our users are human, and humans have emotions like boredom, interest, or that “aww” feeling you get when you see something cute! It’s always very fun to see new ways of delivering a good user experience, such as with these personable plants.