What is Emotional Design?

Surely you remember the time you first opened an iPhone. The design, the smell, the colors, the packaging design that is more reminiscent of a perfume than a consumer electronics product.

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Surely you remember the time you first opened an iPhone. The design, the smell, the colours, the packaging design that is more reminiscent of a perfume than a consumer electronics product. There is no doubt that Apple makes great products, but in the end they do not stop being smartphones, tablets or computers as there are many in the market. However, for years there has been something that has differentiated the iPhone from all its competitors, no matter how hard they strive to have better cameras, faster processors or more battery, and that only now some manufacturers like Samsung or Sony are beginning to copy, and that’s the emotional design.

There are many elements that influence how we enjoy a product, and some go far beyond the product itself. Let’s imagine that we have a 16-year-old Lagavulin whiskey in three containers: a cardboard glass, a glass of ordinary glass and grinder to drink water or a glass of Glencairn glass. The last one will taste better. A Reserve Malbec wine tastes much better in a glass of those that ends in a conical shape and that allows the oxygenation of the wine and at the same time maintains all its essence. Just like these glasses, Apple’s packaging is designed so that we establish an emotional connection with the object.

Emotional design: conquest in three phases

In Emotional Design, Donald Norman explains that an attractive design makes us feel that something works or tastes better, as we have seen in the three examples of before, whiskey, wine and the iPhone. For Norman, a person goes through three phases before loving or hating something:

  • Visceral.
  • Behavioral.
  • Reflective.

A good image can awaken interest in a product and an irrational design that pushes impulse buying. That is the visceral response.

To continue with the example of the iPhone, once I took my first iPhone out of its box  and I started using it I discovered that there was much more behind that beautiful design: it was a tremendously simple smartphone to use, especially compared to other phones from that moment like the first Android or the BlackBerry. Not only was it a nice product, it was also efficient and simple and intuitive to use. This is where our opinion stops being based on what has entered through the eyes and is based on experience. It is a conductive response.

A friend of mine told me that he ordered in Amazon Prime Now, on a Saturday morning and before having lunch he had it at home, without having to go through the supermarket. That good experience makes you regularly make your purchase through this platform for the simple fact that it makes your life easier. The reflective experience is more long-term, which makes you feel loyalty to a brand or even longing to make a purchase.

Design, functionality and efficiency

If the Amazon Prime Now order had arrived three hours late, or if any of the products purchased had been missing, the customer’s experience would have been unpleasant. Once removed from the box the iPhone would have been difficult to use, the magic would have given way to the feeling that nothing differentiates the phone from its competition.

By this I mean that if we want to achieve an emotional design in our projects we must take into account each and every one of the steps of the process, if something fails in the overall experience, all the other successes will not be used for anything. Keep in mind that today’s consumers are much more demanding than before and that if you disappoint them you will not tremble the pulse to go to the competition.

In other words,

the emotional design is not about the aesthetics of the product alone, it goes much further. It is the design of the experience that your product or service generates in people.

It is necessary to reach an adequate balance between the aesthetic and the efficiency, giving added value in all the processes that we have commented before.


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