Inside your heart, outside the world.

Emotional Design

on March 25, 2012

Emotion influences how people feel, behave, and think when experiencing designed objects, services, and events. Currently, methods such as human centered design and participatory design are used to create emotional designs.

Emotional Design is both the concept it represents and the title of a book by Donald Norman. In the book, Norman draws on a wealth of examples and the latest scientific insights to present a bold exploration of the objects in our everyday world and articulates the profound influence of the feelings that objects evoke. Actually, new research on emotion and cognition has shown that attractive things really do work better, that is why as the designers, we should pay more attention to the emotional levels.

There are three levels at play in emotional design: visceral, behavioural, and reflective.

“Visceral design is what nature does,” says Norman, and he reckons it’s “biologically prewired”. Visceral design is about how things look, feel and sound.

“Behavioural design is all about use,” says Norman. “Appearance really doesn’t matter: performance does.” This is the area where The Design of Everyday Things was a huge success. Behavioural design is about getting products to function well, and about making that functionality easily accessible.

“Reflective design is about the meaning of things,” says Norman. “It’s about message: what does using this product say about you? It’s where your self-image is. It depends on your age, background, culture.” The reflective level is where things like brand image and marketing come into play, selling products not on their functionality but on the meaning of the things or the relationships between things and users.

In short, the visceral is what something looks like, the behavioural is how it works, and the reflective is what it means to you.

You can view this book online:


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