What is Emotional Design and why should you care?

Emotional Design marks the upper class of modern design to a certain extent. And although the term is not new, there are not many in the competition that you could learn from.

Even if the termUser experienceis not only as such, but also as a focus in the design implementation enforce, is still therenot the premier classreaching the top end of the flagpole. But, let’s start over. Then you understand what I’m after.

The little multiplication table: functionality, reliability, usability

If we look at what a low-level design, at least, has to do, then we’ll all agree that cue is here“Functionality”reads. When you deliver a design, it must at least have the features you want. At first, it does not matter what the design looks like. It only countsthat it does what it should.

One step further, it is important that there is this functionalityReliableoffers andnot only under certain conditions(such as a specific browser). If the developers of native apps for iOS and Android were to devote more attention to this point, I would have a reduced risk of heart attack when using many apps on smartphones. Unreliability is a knock-out criterion.


If your design is functional and reliable, it must be at the next level as wellusablehis. Usability is still going on these dayscapitalizedand is always represented by the buzzword UX (User Experience) when it comes to high-quality design. A design that is not usable becomes regular despite given functionality and reliabilityfailas our cartoon below illustrates:

Cartoon: Disruptive Design

Even though there are now many designers, the keyword UX not onlythe sheer usabilitybut also think about the usability of emotionally enhancing elements, so is Emotional Design overall yetrather underrepresented.

Emotional Design: When the fun factor comes along …

Emotional Design is a term coined in the eighties by Don Norman, co-founder of the well-known Nielsen Norman Group. His standard works “The Design of Everyday Things” and “Emotional Design” are still up-to-date, not least thanks to regular adaptations.

“Designing for Emotion” by design veteran Aarron Walter is a bit fresher, but relies on the same theses. Walter, however, comes up with the original ideathe Maslow need pyramidto apply to design. In this way, functionality, reliability and usability are built on each other from the elements already mentionedLayers of a pyramid.

That looks like Walter like this:

from Aaron Walter, Desigining for Emotion, A Book Apart

After that, the top of the pyramid is missing from most designs of our time. As with Maslow it is necessarythe complete implementation of the lower layersto reach the top. Unlike Maslow’sthe pursuit to the topno natural inevitability, but with Emotional Design it needs the concrete will of the designer, theextra stepto go.

So if your design is functional, reliable and usable, that does not mean it’s emotional. Emotional is of course always meant in a positive connotation. Only when your design is aboutIs funnyusers are happy to use it, then in a positive sense it is an emotional design. This does not just includethe proverbial beautyof the design, but above allthe creation of perfect interactionsto fill the design with life and make it tangible.

The catch is that your designalways cause emotionswhether you want it or not. It’s similar to the old wisdom that you can not communicate. So it is better to become the instrument of emotionalizationdeliberatelyto operate as accidentally subliminal thewrong feelingsto trigger.

The special charm of the Emotional Design becomes clear when you consider it in the context of my contribution to the topic “brain-friendly design”. There you will learn why experiences are important and how to generate them the fastest. The fastest way to trigger experiences thenpermanently in long-term memoryperpetuate, is it – well? – exactly,emotionsto create. Bit by bit, this creates the “gut feeling,” which in the end is responsible for most of our decisions.

Methods of Emotional Design

So, if you’re wondering how to make your design emotional, all you need is onesmall piece outside the boxwatch. In doing so, I assume that you already have the aesthetic aspect under control anyway. Here, a consensus is established relatively quickly, which is called Flat Design these days. Do you follow him?ever slower changing trendsAre you on the safe side with regard to the aspect of naked beauty, at least in the evaluation by the mass.

So here we focus on other aspects of Emotional Design:


Of course, a post like this can not be without referenceDieter Ramsget along. Every designer knows Rams. His design principles are still considered modern, although his design masterpieces date to the German company Braun during his creative period from the second half of the last century. We still find reminiscences of Rams today, for example in the products from Apple. Rams is now 85 years old.

Good design is as little design as possible, is one of the principles of Ram. Coupled with the principle that good design should make a product understandable, it becomes clear what I want to go beyond. If you can make it, that your design is quasiself-explanatoryAnd in the spirit of a Steve Krug that does not force people to think, it creates positive emotions in the users of the design.Everyone hates complicated productsfor which you have to do your doctorate first.

Minimalism in itself is therefore already an instrument of emotional design, but becomes commonnot specifically interpreted in this directionand used. There is still room for improvement.


Game design is paramountInteraction design, It’s all about getting the player into the game as deeply as possible. This requires a major attack onthe human neurons.

The goal of game design is alwaysthe reward system, If the human being expects a reward, he pours dopamine in the near apron, in the vernacular ashappiness hormonedenotes, off. Dopamine boosts drive and motivation and ensures that the gamerstays with it.

Emotional Design is fun.

We also wish that our visitors or users stay with us as designers. Why should not we adopt approaches to game design? Slack, the team communications revolution, for example, is focused on oneplayful handlingwith its features. This not only applies to the design, but also to the functionality itself.

All networks,who work with likes, put quite transparent on the dopamine mechanism. The little kick that comes when a person gets a like on his tweet, his post or his picture makes him tweet, post, upload.The Like becomes a reward.

As well as small rewards can alsolittle surprisestrigger positive emotions. Windows, for example, brings you a chic background every time you log in, which you can explore more closely. It has happened more than once that I actually wanted to know where the corresponding picture was taken. The login screen is an element that I am really looking forward to, because I’m curious to see which landscape will present itself to me this time. Similar effects could be achieved through citations or tips.

Immersive design

Immersive design aims to be as possibleall sensesof the user. Due to the rapid progress of smartphone technology and the invention ofGesture controlas a completely new way to create digital experiences, we are already able to design downrightpalpableto do, even if for quite a while just not all the senses.

Subtle animationsgive the impression that your design lives. Special attention should be paid to theMicro interactionlay. Micro-interactions define the actual man-machine interface. If you turn off your alarm clock or lock up or shut down your car with a remote control, press the toilet flush, or turn the light on or off – all of these are micro-interactions.

Fluid Switch | Leo Zakour

Based on the examples, you can already see that they are onlyshort actions that are done quickly, but these are very essential for the respective user experience. So it’s not an exaggeration to call micro-interactions the most important elements in the design of products.

It is the micro-interactions with which you as a designer are your productset apart from otherscan. Basically, the user interacts with your product only through micro-interactions. The more convincing you make it, the smoother the usage feels and the better the user will use your product.

It is the interaction itself that triggers emotion. Because of the possibility of interaction, the pure design of the thing becomes something with which we become onerelationshipcan enter. Design reacts, moves, becomes more human and develops a personality.

The extra mile

Emotional design stretchesbeyond the pure design, If you run an online store, for example, you could continue the principle even after the purchase. You could send a very friendly email explaining why you are so excited about the new customer, what your philosophy is and more. You could take one instead of the 0815 packaging that you like to open. Customers may even post unboxing videos because they are so impressed with your overhead. You could attach a gift. You could do so much that sets you apart from the competition. The customer will rememberbecause he does not expect it.

Conclusion: Emotional Design sets you apart from the competition

You do not need to look far to find out that Emotional Designnot the rulerepresents. The more attractive it is for you to start now, because the competitive advantage can be immense.

In fact, emotional design today can not yet unleash the potential that would theoretically be possible. For this, our interface would have to be backRecognize emotionscan. Are you stressed and in a hurry or in a good mood and relaxed? If designs over modern interfaces also suchFeelings as inputaccept, it starts right. We just call it Emotional Design 2.0.

In the meantime you could listen to Aaron Walter, who says in “Designing for Emotion”:

If we stop, interfaces asmere control centersto shape and use them insteadthe personWith which our target user wants to communicate, we can create more convincing experiences thatlasting impressionleave.

In this sense: Where do you see room for improvement?

Want to read more about “Emotional Design”?

  • Humans are Emotional – why is our Design Thinking not? | Signe Roswall (Prototype)
  • The necessary rise of emotional design | Jordan Harper (freeCodeCamp)
  • What I think about Emotional Design from a UX Perspective | Sophie Riwaters (Prototype)
  • The most overlooked growth hack: designing for emotions | Lisa Zeitlhuber (uxdesign.cc)
  • 6 Ways to Design for Anger | Ezequiel Bruni (Web Designer Depot)
  • Design for Emotion | Daniel Ruston (Google Design)
  • Design for Emotion to Increase User Engagement | Miklos Philips (Top Valley)
  • Exploring the Impact of Emotion in Web Design | Anna Dzhulii (Specky Boy)