Emotional design — design with character

Camilla Dahle
https://www.flickr.com/photos/lorenjavier/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/

In these Trump times the world needs more love .. And so do digital products!

What I am going to scratch the surface of is the “X” in UX — the other aspect of UX designing: EXPERIENCE/EMOTIONAL design.

Why does that matter, you are thinking? I’d like to share some thoughts and observations with you.. Here is a little game I would like you to test — have a look at these five screenshots from some large retail brands. Observe how each site makes you feel, before you look at the title to see what brand it is. Was it the experience you expected?

This is H&M’s website
This is the Dolce & Gabbana website
This is Levis’ website
This is Body Shop’s website
This is Nike’s website
This is Coca-Cola’s website

Put your observations on hold for now and let’s have a look at …

Real-life vs digital life

So what’s the difference between the digital & physical of the brands you have just seen..? Again notice how it makes you feel. Are there discrepancies or alignment across the touch points?

H&M’s physical store vs their web site
Dolce & Gabbana’s physical store vs digital store
Levis’ physical store vs their website
Body Shop’s physical store vs their website
Nike’s physical store vs their website
Coca-cola’s physical ‘store’ (the machine) vs their website

When we start looking across several touch points and not just digital — it seems suddenly very obvious that ..

Users see only brand

The examples I just showed are not necessarily BAD — but they illustrate the emotional connection (or lack of) between the different touch points.

Users see the brand’s touch points — as THE BRAND. They don’t distinguish between digital or physical, and as every business is becoming a digital business — it is becoming increasingly more and more important to think of all touch points of a brand as a coherent experience.

Demographics or design patterns is not enough. We need to dive into emotions, attitudes, beliefs, moods, values, and situations. We need to see more digital design with emotion!

Then why are we not doing that? What happened? Why do so many digital touch points look the same? Why are we showing very different things the SAME or similar way?

Design principles

I believe it can be tracked to how we work with design principles and patterns…And when doing that, principles such as “Intuitive, simple, useful
….” often comes up when working. And what’s not to like?

The problem is that those principles are really just ONE aspect of the design, they are the general foundation for designing that we know from e.g. Dieter Rams 10 principles . What I would like to point out is that there are two types of design principles and we are forgetting the latter in benefit of the former— it is about universal vs specific design principles:

Universal : principles for creating well designed products. Should ALWAYS be used.
Specific : principles for creating specific user experiences for specific brands

This is really important, since user experience designing is really about building meaningful connections through a powerful design: between users and the service, between touch points in the whole service and between users and the brand. Just think of it as if it was a person. One way of working with specific design principles — is to think of the product as a person with a set of traits.. such as ‘playful’. This should be seen throughout the ENTIRE experience, not just visually! The fact is that we as humans are hardwired to recognise ‘faces’ and empathise with almost anything as if it was human…even digital services … and sockets!

It is really all about empathy. Empathy connects you instantly to the emotions. Emotions are instant deep human communication. It is how we decide between what we love — and what we don’t care about.

And emotions are everywhere! No matter how we design things — we as humans will respond to them emotionally.

The question is : shouldn’t we design FOR emotion?

:::: This post is based on a talk I gave at ustwo for The Conference 2016

Camilla Dahle

Written by

Opinionated design strategist with a deep conviction of the good which design can do. Attempting to use my skills for good.

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