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The Reason Behind Your Delightful Experiences-Emotional Design


What is Emotional Design?

There is no debate about humans being emotional by nature! We face and reflect a range of emotions every day! And yes, those feelings are challenging to understand, as it presents an element of the unknown. The emotional design was introduced by Don Norman, as he believed that emotions play an essential role in humanity’s understanding and learning.

Pixar-webisite example of emotional design

UX Designers use emotional design to make creative interfaces to trigger a positive emotional response in the user, evoking curiosity and likability and influencing the design of the product or service for a delightful user experience.

Why is it important to create a feeling or emotion as part of your design project?

Charles Darwin believed that different emotions help in humanity’s survival. Keeping the users’ emotions in mind whilst working on the product or service can provide positive results. It plays a vital role that many organizations recognize due to the fierce competition in the market today. And as technology advances, significant steps are taken towards recognizing said human emotions, with assistive technologies like facial and voice recognition thanks to ux accessibility certification.

Even a conglomerate like Google recognizes emotional intelligence, which can be defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions. This definition also includes the ability to manage interpersonal connections with wisdom and empathy. Technology today incorporates emotional recognition into various products and services. If you don’t believe me one of the most common emotional design examples I can provide is a chatbot. I choose to hope that there is a time when Artificial Intelligence (AI) that can express emotions will start shaping the user experience of the future.

In short, when an emotional design is utilized honestly and correctly –

  • It can create a strong connection between the product or service and its consumers.
  • It makes people feel delighted as if they belong.

Emotional design by Don Norman

Don Norman examines three different levels of design, surmising how people react to experiences emotionally in his book Emotional Design. These experiences reflect how we, as a species, connect to a product or service emotionally. These three levels of emotional design by Don Norman are –


The first level of emotional design – visceral design targets to appeal an instinctive reaction or a gut feeling if you prefer a simpler term. It appeals to the subconscious mind, making the response involuntary and immediate.

Let us go back a few years. Do you remember a time when the sales of Apple were plummeting? In the late 90s, Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy. Then the design team came up with the Apple iMac G3. It just did not only save the jobs of employees at Apple but also became an all-time iconic product. At the time, desktops were known for their functionality, completely ignoring aesthetics. Apple changed the game by introducing a colorful, egg-shaped desktop without floppy drives; Instantly, everybody wanted it. Apple set a standard making it one of the most lucrative brands in the world. I am using this as one of many emotional design examples as Apple’s design team changed the aesthetics, thus harnessing visceral design. In doing so, Apple changed the iMac’s ease of use, appeal, credibility, and trustworthiness maximizing sales.


The next level of emotional design is behavioral design. It allows users to consider tangibility over the perception of a product or service.

Let us take another page from the history books. This time we look at touchscreen displays. Many remember the first-generation iPhone to be the first smartphone with a touchscreen display. The first-generation iPhone is one of many good emotional design examples. However, capacitive touch screens have existed since 1992. IBM Simon can be deemed as one of many bad emotional design examples. It is in line with many PDAs of the past – a mere trinket of fascination but barely usable. For any emerging technology, intrigue and joy influence the user to buy it. But when the product doesn’t function as expected, it soon turns into regret, anger, and frustration. Behavioral design is the most foolproof way to test and validate the products, by letting them know that they’re in control, with metrics like task completion, error rates, accessibility guidelines, etc.


The last level of emotional design – reflective design encompasses how a product or service relates to the user personally and how it reflects upon the user to own and use it. The basic idea here is to build associations and familiarity. A subtle but essential part of the design, the reflective design is a subtle yet imperative element that etches a product or service into a user’s mind.

Reflective-Emotional design by don norman

OnePlus stands as one of many emotional design examples. Every device the brand has reflects an innovative design and superior functionality. It is a clear reflection of the brand’s philosophy to not settle for bad user experience, which is emphasized in its tagline Never Settle. I remember the first two devices released by Oneplus were obtainable only through an invite. Carving a niche in a market that was already fierce with its minimalism, pricing, and high performance.

Emotional elements of design

A functional product or service can lead to a delightful experience with emotional design. To deeply impress users, one should evoke positive emotions like:

  • Enjoyment
  • Happiness
  • Surprise (something unexpected)
  • Attention (a helpful suggestion)
  • Expectation (setting a standard)
  • Exclusivity (Provide something unique to the users)
  • Anticipation, coupled with a powerful identity.

These are significant factors of the emotional elements of design. Just remember to choose an appropriate design depending on the product or service and its target audience.

Emotional design app

An emotional design app that comes to mind is a kanban app named Trello – to keep track of tasks, simplifying communication and increasing work efficiency. This collaborative app is very user-friendly. Trello also has a feature to share its board with outside collaborators.


I chose this app because it is one of many emotional design examples that evoke certain emotions. The feeling of having achieved something doesn’t have to come from a completed project, per se. It can also come by providing attention to tasks at hand, an expectation of completing those tasks before the deadline and the happiness of moving tasks from Doing to Done. All of these have a positive effect on motivating an individual or the team in tandem with simultaneous work.

Keeping emotional design in mind, digital products like Trello help users achieve complicated tasks easily evoking positive emotions.

Emotional design principles

By now, we have established that emotional design tries to make the user feel a certain way about a product or service. So, I found the following emotional design principles quite enlightening to offer a better user experience:

Stimulate the emotions of the user

One should use various elements appropriately to create different emotional experiences, enhancing the UX such as: 

  • Using bright colors to evoke delightful emotions.
  • Using spontaneous and precise layouts, makes users feel convenient.

Make elegant interaction design

One should offer more delightful experiences to users and improve the functions of a product or service through interaction design. It plays an essential role in creating an enjoyable experience as:

  • Effective interaction design helps users to understand the tasks clearly.
  • It would also enable them to complete the tasks smoothly.

Employ quirky theme and style

Come up with a quirky design style and theme to make the design –

  • Look outstanding.
  • Offer a great first impression to the users.
  • Keeping it distinct yet straightforward to make it appealing to the user.
  • Amusing the user to increase engagement.

Content has to be flawless

Create a great design to emotionally connect to the user and give them a delightful experience by –

  • Using appropriate words to help users to express their emotions.
  • Using engaging content and emotive words for messages, notifications, feedback, and other texts to convince them.

Use creativity to personalize

The emotional design should resonate with a creative design idea. It is personalizing the designs with inspirational and exclusive creative ideas to increase the conversion ratio.

Provide details

Details aid the users during their browsing sessions, thereby offering a better user experience. Analyze every detail to create an emotional design, making it exceptional.


One must understand how emotional design encircles the user experience in its entirety – from hearing about the product or service and using it, to after it has been used. The emotional response has to be enduring, shareable, and perpetual. In the end, it comes down to allowing the user to interact with the product or service on an emotional level – keeping the interaction fresh and empathetic involving emotional design.

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