What is Emotional Design ?

Emotional design is a design approach to create products that deliver positive experiences for users. UI /UX designers use this design approach to design creative interfaces in order to trigger a positive emotional response from the users. The emotions that a product generates can have a great impact on users’ perception of the product.

Emotions play a significant role in the human potential of understanding and learning the world. Positive experiences arouse curiosity and liking, whereas negative experiences safeguard us from repeating mistakes. Emotional design has a strong influence on the designs of websites or applications for better and more delightful UX.

Levels of Emotional Design

Three Levels of Emotional Design

Don Norman explores three different levels of design that reflect people’s emotional responses to visual experiences. The three levels of emotional design are as follows:

  1. Visceral Design
  2. Behavioral Design
  3. Reflective Design

This experience reflects our emotional connection with objects.

1. Visceral Design

The visceral response is triggered by initial sensory experience. This is the first impression that sets the mood and the basis for which you will explore everything else.

Powerful and positive visceral responses have the following benefits:

  • They establish a positive context for each subsequent interaction.
  • Users are more likely to forgive future mistakes if the initial experience was overwhelmingly positive.
  • “Love at first sight” will contribute to the positive socialization of the product.

The unique ways in which products induce visceral reactions include playful and delightful learning for new users and successful states, which are usually carefully intertwined with motion design.

Visceral design includes the user’s preconsciousness, the initial attractiveness of the product, and the user’s overall experience.

2. Behavioral Design

Behavioral response is how we feel when immersed in an experience. This is how we respond to the interactions of our products and derive value from the products we use, which is also commonly known as usability.

Emotionally, when our interaction behavior is fluid, expected and familiar, we derive joy and satisfaction from the product’s usability.

Behavioral design includes usability, product functionality, performance, and efficiency.

Powerful and positive behavioral responses have the following benefits:

  • They allow users to experience an increase in their capabilities.
  • They develop trust and reliability by creating a direct link between user actions and expected value.
  • They encourage repetitive reactions, as people will want to experience this excitement again.

2. Reflective Design

A reflex response is what we feel after we are immersed in the experience. This is how we remember the experience itself and how it makes us feel. This determines whether we want to try the experience again or avoid it.

Powerful and positive reflex responses have the following benefits:

  • They encourage users to share their experiences with others.
  • They evoke a sense of pride and individuality from using a product that goes beyond the product itself.

In general, reflective emotional design reflects the value of the product, the influence of thoughts, the exchange of experiences and cultural influence.

Tips for Increasing Emotional Impact

To create delightful experiences, designers must develop appropriate and positive emotions for each level (visceral, behavioral, and reflex). Here are some tips for developing this positivity:

  • Personalization and customization: Personalize the user experience to give your users a sense of belonging. Allow users to tailor the experience as they expand and express themselves.
  • Expressive images: use photographs, illustrations and animation that your users can relate to the visuals themselves can show emotion and help your users empathize.
  • Positive surprise: evoke positive emotional reactions, surprising your users with delight.
  • A voice that evokes a sense of close connection: Use a tone and voice that speaks to your users in a more human way. Express emotion, empathy, and support through a conversational interface.
  • Humor: Laughter and joy are very strong positive emotions that soften fear and insecurity, causing a feeling of joy.
  • Storytelling: Helps people understand how this experience goes, structure their interactions and remember their experience even after using the product.
  • Microinteractions: Subtle affordances and indicators make interfaces more lively and fun, which stimulates interaction.

Wrapping Up

Emotional design has three levels :

  1. Visceral design
  2. Behavioral design
  3. Reflective design

Together, intuitive, behavioral and reflective emotional designs create a lasting and delightful product experience.

It is imperative that designers understand how emotional design encompasses the entire experience, from first discovering a product to using it and finally thinking about a product after using it.

It is not enough to cultivate the experience with “love at first sight”. This love must be eternal and enduring.

Thank you for Reading !!!



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Sandali Wijerathna

Sandali Wijerathna


Undergraduate University of Moratuwa Sri Lanka | Interesting in Web & Mobile Developments and UI/UX Designing