How is Emotion Connected to Design?

Improving the way your customers connect with your product

Interaction with anything creates an emotional response whether it was designed with intention or not. People have a tendency to project human qualities and behaviour onto inanimate objects, so when we form relationships with ‘things’, there is a potential for negative and positive emotions.

This tends to work on 3 levels:

Visceral Level

This is a superficial reaction to things. Attractive things are perceived by people to ‘work better’.

Behavioral Level

How well something works. If something is frustrating or the data isn’t accurate then this creates negative emotions.

Reflective Level

Takes into account the users’ conscious thoughts. This is were we can establish the strongest connection. Branding has a huge role to play at this level as it is often the aspect of a product which is encountered first.

This Product Understands Me!

Emotional Design Pyramid

The Emotional Design Pyramid is used to measure how much emotional resonance your product has with your customers. The further you move up the pyramid the more emotionally invested someone becomes with the product to the point the product appears to understand the user as an individual. There are many ways in which we can move a product up the pyramid and into the ‘pleasurable zone’ and beyond.

UI Patterns and Conventions

We are used to anticipating the behavior of everything that feels familiar to us based on what we store in our long term memory. The same happens when interacting with digital products. A lot of removing negativity is creating things that work as expected and respond to the user as expected. I good starting point for this is leveraging common design and UI patterns.


Our emotions become associated with many elements in our lives, including objects and places. We can use these things to form an emotional connection. The way the UI looks, what colours we use and how colours and shapes interact all influence how people feel. For example; round edges are easier on the eye making things look softer and calmer, blue is calming, appears responsible, trustworthy, intelligent. Open spaces indicate quality and quality things are perceived to work better.

Anticipatory Design

Anticipatory design is the act of intelligently guessing what a user needs before they realise it themselves. This also includes stopping a problem before it becomes a problem.

Other examples include;

  • Suggesting actions at the point someone may need them the most
  • Using intelligent defaults to prefill forms
  • Predicting what a user wants before they need to search for it

Tone of Voice

All these things are augmented by the tone of voice used in your product. This is not what you say but how you say it. Understanding your customers deeply helps develop an appropriate tone of voice and means you can connect with them on a deeper level by ‘speaking their language’.

All these things can help push a product towards the top of the pyramid, eliminating feelings of doubt and confusion and creating a product that is not only useful but a genuine joy to use.



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