Emotion in Products

May 4, 2021
3 min read

We've all experienced products that seem to just "get us," products that resonate with us not just functionally, but emotionally. That kind of emotional resonance is not achieved by accident. It is the outcome of meticulous, emotion-driven design.

Emotion-Driven Design (coined by Don Norman) is rooted in the understanding that emotions play an integral role in shaping our behavior, decisions, and overall experience. As a leader in the field of user experience, I firmly believe that in order to create products that people want to use - and continue using - it is critical to design for emotional impact. But how does this connect to business objectives like user adoption and return on investment?

Consider your own usage habits. You're more likely to continue using a product if it delights you, makes you feel competent, or connects with you on an emotional level. You're also more likely to recommend it to others. These user actions directly influence user retention rates, product adoption curves, and ultimately, the product’s revenue impact.

To design with emotion in mind, we must appreciate the three fundamental layers of emotional design, and understand their relevance:

  1. Visceral: This pertains to the users’ initial impressions of your design. An uncluttered interface, for instance, might evoke feelings of simplicity and ease.
  2. Behavioral: This concerns the subconscious evaluation users make about how well your design enables them to achieve their goals. A successful behavioral design is one where users feel in control, with minimal effort required.
  3. Reflective: This involves the conscious judgments users make after interacting with your design. They will consider the performance, benefits, and value for money. If they feel satisfied, they are more likely to form emotional bonds with your product and recommend it to others.

To actualize emotion-driven design in your products, consider these practical steps:

  1. Develop a Signature Personality: Create an identifiable product persona that aligns with your brand ethos.
  2. Personalize the Experience: Make your product's interactions feel personal and attentive, similar to a helpful friend who knows the user's preferences and needs.
  3. Utilize Color and Contrast Intentionally: Use colors that elicit desired emotional responses.
  4. Craft Engaging Copy: Use the power of words to evoke emotions and mirror the user's sentiments.
  5. Employ Audio-Visual Elements: Incorporate video and sound elements that deliver messages 'in character,' thereby reinforcing the emotional bond with the user.
  6. Surprise and Delight Users: Infuse unexpected rewards or surprises in the user experience.
  7. Use Storytelling: Weave a narrative around your product or service that makes the user a part of your brand story.
  8. Pay Attention to Details: Even the smallest details, like error messages, can impact a user's emotional state.

Emotion-Driven Design is more than just a design principle. It is a profound understanding and acknowledgement of human emotions and the pivotal role they play in shaping our interactions with technology.

By designing products that evoke positive emotions, we not only enrich the user experience but also solidify user loyalty. As product creators, our ultimate goal is to merge function and emotion seamlessly, creating products that not only solve a problem, but also resonate with users on an emotional level.

When our products can inspire, delight, and engage, we've achieved a level of design that goes beyond utility. We've created something with the power to form lasting emotional connections. And that, in the realm of product design, is the key to lasting success.

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©Bora Nikolic 2023

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