What is Emotion Design?

Summary: What is Emotion Design? It is an approach to discovering and designing for emotional value. It seeks to add delight, joy of use, pleasurability, and emotional interaction to a product or service interaction. The point is differentiation at a deep level of engagement with users.

Emotion Design goes beyond mere functionality, aiming to infuse products and services with emotions such as delight, pleasure, and joy. This approach acknowledges that emotional user experiences are as crucial as functional usability, and it has become increasingly significant due to advancements in neuroscience and the realization that emotions shape decision-making processes.

The approach involves user research to identify emotional data, followed by emotion design prototyping and testing with users. Finally, emotion measurement helps quantify statistically if the design achieves the goal of emotional resonance.

This post explores how it can be of value to a Designer, Marketer, Developer, or Senior Leader.

Designer’s perspective of emotion in the design process

For designers, Emotion Design involves harnessing the satisfaction and delight users get from interacting with a design. This process is not about imposing personal preferences but representing user needs (emotions) with design decisions. By spending time in the user’s ‘problem space,’ designers can identify the right problem to solve. Emotional interactions, triggers, and things that cause delight are observed. New ideas for adding fun and emotional value are identified. User testing and emotion measurement help guide the design process.

See a case study how we used mood to enhance search of nearby events

Marketer’s approach: getting emotional value alignment

For marketers, the goal is to align a product’s value proposition with its experiential differentiation. Since emotions are central to consumer decisions, there is a key role in designing emotion. Marketers and advertisers have long understood the significance of eliciting emotional responses to drive product appeal. Focus groups have been used since the 1950s to elicit and understand product appeal.

Check out What’s wrong with Focus Groups and how to fix them

Developers: Bridging the gap between UI’s and architecture

For developers, when a UI meets user expectations and their code functions to support it, they see delight. Thinking about delivering emotional value (or a smile to a user’s face) reminds developers that the user experience transcends coding efficiency. For example, Slack’s magical password reset shows how emotion can add comfort to an often tedious experience.

slack magical link

Senior Leaders: pushing the value toward innovation

From an executive’s perspective, it’s about recognizing that business value translates to emotional value in product or service interactions. Executives and leaders who understand the potential of Emotion Design empower their teams to create user experiences that resonate emotionally. This understanding is particularly crucial in creating disruptive innovations that require altering ingrained behavior patterns.

When Mint.com disrupted the banking sector, it was because of their emotional design approach:

“We created trust with emotionally intelligent design”-Jason Putorti, Original Mint.com lead Designer

The Significance of Emotion in “User Experience”

The term “user experience” was coined to broaden the scope of usability beyond mere functionality. Dr. Don Norman, who coined the term at Apple in the early 90s, intended UX to cover a wider interaction than just the UI. A decade later, he discovered that Emotion Design was central to differentiating a user experience.

 “I could not make the connection between usability and aesthetics… Now, however, I have figured out the relationship” -Donald Norman, grandfather of Human Centered Design, author Emotional Design


Emotion Design is a catalyst for forging profound connections between users and products-service systems. Designers, marketers, developers, and senior leaders can all benefit. Emotion Design goes beyond superficial “ease of use”, bringing “joy of use” into focus. Emotion Design will continue differentiating UX as technology evolves, leading us toward more meaningful, delightful, and emotionally compelling user interactions.

Learn more? See What emotion means for UX strategy

Take our training on Emotion Design

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.



Recent Posts

Scroll to top

Get a quote or discuss your project

Tell us about your project

Arrange a 30 min call

Project in mind?


Fight for the rights of your users. We'll show you how.

Read more articles like this for exclusive insights into the best ways to approach UX and Service Design challenges. Find out when events occur first. Privacy protected, no exceptions.

Subscribing indicates your consent to our Privacy Policy

Should we add you to our email list?

Privacy protected-You can unsubscribe at any time.

Download the Better UX kit