Everything You Must Know About Emotional Design

January 10, 2021

Emotional design

Emotions play a critical role in our lives. No matter how logical we claim to be, emotions often have a great impact on our decisions. When it comes to designing, designers should consider how users feel during their interaction with a product. Since design is a combination of art and science. In fact, it’s not always enough to create a beautiful product which meets the technical requirements. We must also consider the emotional aspect of our design. In this blog post, you’ll learn more about emotional design and its great impact on your user experience.


What Is Emotional Design?

Donald Arthur Norman, co-founder of Nielsen Norman Group, came up with the idea of emotional design. This concept is about designing a product in a way that users enjoy interacting with it. The visual design of a product is just as important as its technical aspect. Whenever something looks beautiful, people are more likely to build a strong connection with it. As a designer, you should work on the personality of your application. In fact, it should make users believe that they’re interacting with a real person, rather than just a simple application.


Three Levels of Emotional Design

Regarding the different types of emotional reactions, Norman introduces three levels of emotional design which are strongly interconnected. Visceral design is related to the appearance of your product. Behavioral design refers to the product functionality and reflective design concerns the long-term effect of your product. Designers must consider all these levels so as to create a better user experience. So, let’s dive right into it.


Visceral Emotional Design

First impressions are vital. It takes only a few seconds for people to form an overall opinion about your product. Every design aims to make a great first impression but it’s not so easy. Visceral design is about using special elements to convey a positive feeling to the user. Vibrant colors, smiling people and warm places can make users feel good. In other words, visceral design focuses on instinctive responses. Since people almost share the same instinctive reactions, it shouldn’t be hard to deliver a positive feeling through your design. But bear in mind that users still have their own personal preferences. So, you must focus on your target audience.


Behavioral Emotional Design

Behavioral emotional design refers to the usability of your product. As a designer, you should pay attention to what users need and try to enhance the performance of your product. Moreover, make sure your product is totally user-friendly, otherwise you’ll deliver a negative experience to your users. Good behavioral design can keep users happy and encourage them to use your product again.


Reflective Emotional Design

Reflective emotional design is about how users feel after using your product. For instance, Facebook offers various emotions through which you can express your feeling after seeing a particular post. Good reflective design encourages users to use your product again and also share their experiences with others. It lets people think about the impact of your product. But keep in mind that these emotions vary according to the culture, education and experience.


How Can Emotional Design Cross the Line?

Emotional design is pretty powerful. When used in the wrong way, it can have a negative impact on your users and make them frustrated. So, be careful not to cross the line. Here are some cases where emotional design prevents you from creating a positive experience for your users.



FOMO stands for the “fear of missing out”. It’s about inducing the user to perform a particular action. When you put a lot of pressure on users to make a purchase, this will create a negative experience for them. Because people don’t usually make good decisions when they’re under stress. Hence, they’ll regret buying your product. Emotional designers should convey the sense of urgency or limitation in the right way. Try to use gentle reminders so as not to put stress on your audience.


Analysis Paralysis

Generally, whenever users are faced with too many options, they can’t decide which one to choose. This situation is known as analysis paralysis. Since overwhelming users with too many choices makes them paralyzed. This prevents them from making a purchase on your website. As a designer, you should display only a limited number of choices so that your audience can easily figure out what they want.


Trendy Nostalgia

Nostalgia is about recalling positive memories and happy experiences. Designers use nostalgia in order to connect with their audience and to create a positive feeling for the user. Nostalgia brings back sweet memories and makes the user feel good. But you must know where to apply it. Not all designs need to be nostalgic. Hence, emotional designers should completely understand who their audience is and what they are looking for.


Final Thoughts on Emotional Design

As mentioned earlier, every design produces an emotion. Emotional design is more than just a simple context. Good emotional design can enhance the quality of your product and make users happy. To deliver a nice feeling to your audience, you should consider all the above-mentioned levels of emotional design. Moreover, you must use what you’ve learned so as not to manipulate your users’ emotions.




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