Emotional Design

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Emotional Design
Emotional Design.jpg
AuthorDonald Norman
CountryUnited States
Publication date

Emotional Design is both the title of a book by Donald Norman and of the concept it represents.


The main topic covered is how emotions have a crucial role in the human ability to understand the world, and how they learn new things. In fact, studies show that emotion influences people's information processing and decision-making [1] For example: aesthetically pleasing objects appear to the user to be more effective, by virtue of their sensual appeal. This is due to the affinity the user feels for an object that appeals to them, due to the formation of an emotional connection with the object.

Norman's approach is based on classical ABC model of attitudes. However, he changed the concept to be suitable for application in design. The three dimensions have new names (visceral, behavioral and reflective level) and partially new content. In the book, Norman shows that design of most objects are perceived on all three levels (dimensions). Therefore, a good design should address all three levels. Norman also mentions in his book that "technology should bring more to our lives than the improved performance of tasks: it should be richness and enjoyment." (pg 101) He stresses the importance of creating fun and pleasurable products instead of dull and dreary ones. By mixing all three design levels and the four pleasures by Patrick W. Jordan, the product should evoke an emotion when the user is interacting with the product.

Emotional design is an important element when generating ideas for human-centred opportunities. People can more easily relate to a product, a service, a system, or an experience when they are able to connect with it at a personal level. Rather than thinking that there is one solution for all, both Norman's three design levels and Jordan's four pleasures of design can help us design for each individual's needs. Both concepts can be used as tools to better connect with the end user that it is being design for.

The visceral level concerns itself with the aesthetic or attractiveness of an object. The behavioural level considers the function and usability of the product. The reflective level takes into account prestige and value; this is often influenced by the branding of a product.[2]


The front cover of Emotional Design showcases Philippe Starck's Juicy Salif, an icon of industrial design that Norman heralds as an "item of seduction" and the manifestation of his thesis.[3]


Emotional design is also influenced by the four pleasures, identified in Designing Pleasurable Products[4] by Patrick W. Jordan. In this book Patrick W. Jordan builds on the work of Lionel Tiger to identify the four kinds of pleasures. Jordan describes these as “modes of motivation that enhance a product or a service. Life is unenjoyable without appreciating what we do, and it is human intuition to seek pleasure.” The idea of incorporating pleasure into products is to provide the buyer with an added experience. Patrick W. Jordan points out in his book that a product should be more than something functional and/or aesthetically pleasing and it should evoke an emotion through the use of pleasures. Although it is hard to achieve all four pleasures into one product, by simply focusing on one, it might be what can bring a product from being chosen over another. The four pleasures that could be implemented into products or a service are:

Physio-pleasure deals with the body and pleasure derived from the sensory organs. This includes taste, touch, and smell, as well as sexual and sensual pleasure. In the context of products, these pleasures can be associated with tactile properties (the way interaction with the product feels) or olfactory properties (the leather smell in a new car, for example).

Socio-pleasure is the enjoyment derived from the company of others. Products can facilitate social interaction in a number of ways, either through providing a service that brings people together (a coffee-maker enabling a host to provide their guests with fresh coffee) or by being a talking point in and of itself.

Psycho-pleasure is defined as pleasure which is gained from the accomplishment of a task. In a product context, psycho-pleasure relates to the extent in which a product can help in task completion and make the accomplishment a satisfying experience. This pleasure may also take into account the efficiency with which a task can be completed (a word processor with built-in formatting decreasing the amount of time spent on creating a document, for example).

Ideo-pleasure refers to pleasure derived from theoretical entities such as books, music, and art. It may relate to the aesthetics of a product and the values it embodies. A product made of bio-degradable material, for example, can be seen as holding value in the environment which, in turn, may appeal to someone who wishes to be environmentally responsible.[5]

The Use of Emotional Design[edit]

In Film[edit]

People mostly know film as an entertainment but film can do more than that. Gianluca Sergi and Alan Lovell cite a study in their essays[6] on cinema entertainment that the film users (the viewers) see films as an escape from reality and a source of amusement, relaxation and knowledge, meaning films also function as an educational tool and a method of stress relief. Specifically, comparing to emotional design, film fulfills the requirements it needs. Firstly, movies have an attractive appearance. Whether movies start with a black and white concept like in Oz the Great and Powerful or an oddly colorful, but serious theme as in Suicide Squad, they usually capture the audiences’ attention, who then want to continue watching the whole show. The “wow” reaction that viewers have is the visceral reaction, according to how Don Norman explains the three levels of design in his book Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things,[7] “[w]hen we perceive something as “pretty,” that judgment comes directly from the visceral level.”(65-66) Secondly, the behavioral level: in a literal sense, the only function of movies is to be watched. With the advancement of technology, movies now have high resolution, as well as various lighting dynamics and camera angles. Lastly, applying Don Norman’s statement[8] on how products can add positively to the self-image of the users and how good the users feel after owning the products, film does influence its viewers greatly and affect the way they act. Trice and Greer indicate that “we identify with characters on the screen who are like us in terms of age, sex and other characteristics; we also identify with people we would like to be like.[...] We tend to imitate “good” characters” (135).[9] That being said, movies do not label any of their characters good or bad in a straightforward manner; the viewers only learn about the characters through the narrative, which production design is a part of.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Amic G. Ho; Kin Wai Michael G. Situ (2012). "Emotion Design, Emotional Design, Emotionalize Design: A Review on Their Relationships from a New Perspective". The Design Journal. 15 (1): 9–32. doi:10.2752/175630612X13192035508462. S2CID 145665443.
  2. ^ "Emotional Design: People and Things". www.jnd.org. Retrieved 2017-04-03.
  3. ^ Norman, Donald Arthur (2005). Emotional Design. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-05136-7.
  4. ^ Jordan, Patrick (2010). Designing pleasurable products: an intro to the new human factors. London: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0415298872.
  5. ^ Jordan, Patrick (2004). Pleasure With Products: Beyond Usability. London: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780203302279.
  6. ^ Sergi, Gianluca; Lovell, Alan (2009). Cinema Entertainment: Essays on Audiences, Films and Film Makers. ProQuest Ebook Central: McGraw-Hill Education.
  7. ^ Norman, Don (2007). Emotional Design : Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. ProQuest Ebook Central: Basic Books. pp. 65–66.
  8. ^ Norman, Don (2007). Emotional Design : Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. ProQuest Ebook Central: Basic Books.
  9. ^ Trice, Ashton D.; Greer, Hunter W. (2019). The Psychology of Moviegoing: Choosing, Viewing and Being Influenced by Films. ProQuest Ebook Central: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers. p. 135.