You might not be familiar with the word hygge but you’ve almost certainly experienced the emotional state it describes. It’s slipping into a hot bath after a long day of work. It’s cozying up next to a fire on a cold winter evening in a cabin deep in the mountains. It’s sharing time with loved ones; a conversation with a close friend; a garden walk in spring — a sense of comfort, warmth, belonging and connectedness.
Pronounced “hoo-ga,” hygge is Danish in origin and is typically used as an interior design concept, but Stellar uses hygge as the operating philosophy for its agency. All of the products it creates and all of its client interactions aim to create the same sense of comfort hygge describes.
“In my home as a child, my mother expressed hygge by always lighting candles at mealtime,” says Stellar Agency founder and CEO Martin Pedersen. “When I started Stellar, I wanted to introduce hygge into our relationships with our clients. We ended up calling that ‘digital hygge.’”
Hygge first entered the American lexicon several years ago, when interior designers adopted the concept to create spaces that evoke a sense of ease and relaxation. For Danes such as Pedersen, however, hygge is part of their cultural identity. “Some Danes say hygge is to the Danish what freedom is to Americans,” Pedersen says. (Must be the long winters.)
Cultivating hygge is about more than just adding a few throw pillows, though. Creating a sense of hygge is more ineffable than that. For a home, it would mean feeling, I want to live here, the moment you walk through the door.
Evoking hygge in a digital space is an even bigger challenge. Most digital experiences are sterile and lifeless. When they are emotional, they typically evoke feelings of angst. Creating digital hygge requires tapping into the most essential emotional tool humans have: empathy.
“For UX/CX to truly be effective, designers need to incorporate empathy into the experience so they can better understand what the end users’ needs are, why they’re there, and how to actually help them,” Pedersen says. “A user experience that leaves the user feeling more stressed than when they first sought help is a failure.”
The challenge becomes even harder when working with enterprise software, which isn’t known for leaving users feeling warm and cuddly. Enterprise clients account for 70 percent of Stellar’s business, and many of these clients work off of systems that are clunky and hard to navigate on the front-end, and lacking connectivity on the back-end. Stellar incorporates hygge concepts into the color palette, typography and all of the visual imagery on the sight, and ensures the infrastructure is stable, integrated and allows for seamless delivery and reporting. The result is a digital enterprise digital experience — such as a sales portal for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, a multi-billion dollar B2B software firm, and the human resources platform or The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — that feels as cozy as re-reading your favorite book.
Hygge doesn’t just apply to the product design at Stellar, it imbues the entire organization. Part of being a hygge agency means giving clients complete peace of mind. Whenever Stellar embarks on a project, it starts by consulting with all of the various stakeholders about their unique functions, needs and functions. Stellar then works to build consensus across these different groups, synthesizing the feedback into an actionable plan and using it to inform both design and execution. The result is a product that works for every individual member and team within the organization, and increases communication, connectivity and efficiency between them.
“Every client has different problems they need to solve,” Pedersen says. “Our specialty is listening to our clients, developing a deep understanding of their problems, and then executing the project with skill and superior customer service. The trust we earn and the lengths we go to make our clients feel comfortable, delighted.”
Hygge philosophy even extends to Stellar’s internal culture. Stellar tries to foster a sense of belonging at the agency by only taking on valued clients and bringing a sense of fun and joy to work. “It’s about everyone on our team wanting to do great work, loving the work we do, remaining curious and innovating,” Pedersen says, “so we can help our clients connect with their customers in a meaningful way.”