What is emotional design?

You walk into a store and start looking at the products on the shelf. There are several options, but out of all of them, you pick one and take it home.

What do you consider to have been fundamental for your choice? The brand, the price, the functionality, the appearance? There are many factors that can induce someone to buy a certain item, and understanding the psychology behind these decisions is super important for the designer. This is how he manages to develop products that attract consumers and users.

In this context, emotional design was born, created with the intention of trying to explain what makes people choose to use (and keep using) some product. Come with us, then, to analyze its concept and the impact it has on the relationship between product and consumer.

What is emotional design?

The idea was elaborated by cognitive scientist Donald Norman, who wrote the book Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. According to him, emotional design is about using design to arouse specific emotions in end users and consumers, creating a connection between them and the product.

When developing a product, it is common to pay attention to details such as the material chosen, method, cost, manufacturing, marketing, among other technical factors, but Norman teaches us that the emotional aspect is an extremely relevant point.

It is necessary to understand human feelings and what attracts each person, in order to create a product that is both beautiful and functional. People’s desires, instincts, and emotions must be taken into consideration, to get into their subconscious and ensure a positive and pleasant experience that will keep them coming back again and again.

In order to better visualize human responses and perceptions and how emotional design interferes in the product-consumer relationship, Norman has divided the emotional levels into three:

Visceral Level

This level represents the first contact with the product. It is related to the subconscious, which manifests itself as an instinct, a natural impulse: you can love or hate immediately. It is our sensory side acting, and therefore it is not dependent on reason and there is no way to control it.

Have you ever stumbled upon an item and felt like buying it on the spot? Without having to have more details, just for some visual feature that attracted you. Or the opposite: did you decide in the same moment that you didn’t want to have it? It is at the visceral level that this decision occurs.

According to Norman, many times, because we find something beautiful, we believe that it works better than others, and so we even overcome usability problems – that is, aesthetics ends up over functionality. Are you going to tell me that you have never bought something that you knew you didn’t have much use for just because you thought it was beautiful?

One way to get the user moving on this level is to make use of colors, shapes, and styles of a certain era. You can also use pictures of animals, children, cartoon characters, if you want to give a youthful appearance. Visceral design has the purpose of getting inside users’ heads to understand how to improve their experience or how to make them buy.

Behavioral level

We are still in the subconscious, but now at an intermediate level. At this point the user is already in control, and he is concerned about the usability of the product and how enjoyable it will be to use.

Everyone likes to feel that they are getting a task done, as simply and practically as possible. Users will then analyze how the design is contributing to this.

Behavior designers study and combine concepts from psychology, design, technology, and creative methods to discover why and how people act in order to get them to change their behavior.

Reflective Level

It is the superego. Here, we are aware of our emotions, noticing and reflecting on what is happening around us. And it is from this that we connect with the product.

There are many ways to create a connection with the product and, even more, how it can represent us. Have you ever stopped to think how certain things help you build your personality and your lifestyle? Not only to form an image for others, but the vision you want to have of yourself.

In addition, the feeling we get when using a certain product triggers affective memories and familiarity with it. So this level basically represents what we value or don’t valueit’s how proud you feel to be wearing something and how you can be represented by it.

The goal is to achieve all three levels. This way you will ensure that users will approve and choose your product. But how to put the concept into practice?

1. Tell your story

Sharing your story with the user is essential so that they can identify with your product. In our post about branding, we have already explained how important it is to create bonds with consumers.

When we can understand everything behind the product, including its origin, it is much easier to become a loyal user. It has to do with the reflective level, since by connecting we can develop affection and feel represented.

2. Think about the user/consumer experience

User and consumer experience is a hot topic in the design world. More and more, consumers demand that the product be functional and practical, providing a pleasant and satisfying experience.

We have seen that this applies at the behavioral level, where it is expected to have a design that enables pleasure and ease in the use of a product. Ensuring this is one of the main goals when developing a product!

3. Choose the elements carefully

The attention to all the elements that make up the design is indispensable for the elaboration of a product that arouses emotions in consumers. Evaluate what emotion you intend to cause, and work on it.

The packaging is an important point: it needs to be attractive, after all it is where the product will be displayed or stored.

The use of colors and contrasts can also contribute to induce a certain feeling and make the design more instigating.

You can still use language that matches the feeling you want to convey, with phrases, terms, fonts, and styles that convey your message.

Creating a mascot is a nice option to strengthen the connection with the user. It will bring familiarity, closeness, and identification.

4. Give the product a personality

Many products and brands have the power to dictate who we are. In fact, this is why many people buy a certain article: to show their personality. We commented on this when we talked about the reflective level.

You must define how you want your product to be seen and what lifestyle it will represent. Apple is a good example of this. Having an iPhone is more than just having a smartphone – people don’t just buy it for its technical specifications, but much more for the design, elegance, and status that the brand carries.

5. Personalize the experience

Each user is unique, and that is how they should feel. What other way would be better to generate emotions and delight consumers? They need to see themselves in the product. To do this, it is important to find out their tastes and interests, as well as basic data about the target audience, such as age, gender, financial condition, and motivation.

By analyzing the users’ profile and trying to find ways for them to customize the experience according to their personal characteristics, you will make them identify with the product much more!

Did you enjoy learning about the influence of design on human emotions? It’s quite interesting to know how we can be impacted by design, isn’t it?! Now you can use our tips to, when developing a product, arouse in users specific sensations and feelings pertinent to the experience you want to create!

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