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What is emotional design?

What is emotional design?

Emotional design is the concept of how to create designs that evoke emotions which result in positive user experiences. Designers aim to reach users on three cognitive levels—visceral, behavioral and reflective—so users develop only positive associations (sometimes including negative emotions) with products, brands, etc.


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Don Norman‘s 3 levels of design

Don Norman‘s 3 levels of design

  1. Visceral —Users’ gut reactions to or their first impressions of your design; e.g. an uncluttered user interface.
  2. Behavioral —Users subconsciously evaluate how your design helps them achieve goals, and how easily. They should feel satisfied that they’re in control.
  3. Reflective —After they encounter your design, users will consciously judge its performance and benefits, including value for money. If they’re happy, they’ll keep using it, form emotional bonds with it and tell their friends.


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10 ways to apply emotional design (1-3)

10 ways to apply emotional design (1-3)

  1. Give your work a signature personality – a face/mascot for users to identify with that suits your brand/organization/industry (e.g., MailChimp’s Monkey, Freddie).
  2. Have your design engage users as a character Include personal touches in all tasks, to reinforce the illusion of a personable helper who knows users like an old friend.
  3. Use color/contrast advantageously (e.g., blue for banking = trustworthiness)


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10 ways to apply emotional design (4-6)

10 ways to apply emotional design (4-6)

4. Craft copy with the right tone to inspire or accommodate emotions . Write appropriate terms/phrases (e.g., Slack’s “You’re here! The day just got better.” greeting). Use fonts and styles that suit the image you want to project.

5. Customize microcopy (labels, etc.) users can relate to which matches your other copy ’s voice/tone .

6. Apply video/sound to carry messages “ in character ” (like in the above).


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10 ways to apply emotional design (7-10)

10 ways to apply emotional design (7-10)

7. Personalize the experience for different users . (E.g., show users what else they might like, based on their information.)

8. Offer prizes and surprises (e.g., let users check how many likes they have and find new log-in background images). Consider including Easter eggs.

9. Use storytelling .

10. Maintain attention to detail, especially on error messages . Include polite, light-hearted/humorous messages to alleviate users’ frustration whenever problems arise (e.g., downtime).


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Digital marketing at dentsu. Invested in the symbiosis of marketing, psychology, and design. Photographer at heart.

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