PsychNology Journal, Volume 10, Number 2, 141 – 162

Constructing the Cool Wall: A Tool to Explore Teen Meanings of Cool

Dan Fitton, Janet C Read, Matthew Horton
Child-Computer Interact. Group, University of Central Lancashire, UK

Linda Little, Nicola Toth
Department of Psychology, Northumbria University, UK

Yukang Guo
Dept. of Computer Science, Swansea University, UK


This paper describes the development and exploration of a tool designed to assist in investigating ‘cool’ as it applies to the design of interactive products for teenagers. The method involved the derivation of theoretical understandings of cool from literature that resulted in identification of seven core categories for cool, which were mapped to a hierarchy. The hierarchy includes having of cool things, the doing of cool activities and the being of cool. This paper focuses on a tool, the Cool Wall, developed to explore one specific facet of the hierarchy; exploring shared understanding of having cool things. The paper describes the development and construction of the tool, using a heavily participatory approach, and the results and analysis of three studies. The first study was carried out over 2 days in a school in the UK. The results of the study both provide clear insights into cool things and enable a refined understanding of cool in this context. Two additional studies are then used to identify potential shortcomings in the Cool Wall methodology. In the second study participants were able to populate a paper cool wall with anything they chose, this revealed two potential new categories of images and that the current set of images covered the majority of key themes. In the third study teenagers interpretations of the meaning of the images included in the Cool Wall were explored, this showed that the majority of meanings were as expected and a small number of unexpected interpretations provided some valuable insights.

KEYWORDS: Teenagers, cool, interaction design

Fitton D., Read J. C., Horton M., Little L., Toth N., Guo Y.(2012). Constructing the Cool Wall: A Tool to Explore Teen Meanings of Cool. PsychNology Journal, 10(2), 141 - 162. Retrieved [month] [day], [year], from

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PsychNology Journal Volume 10, Number 2