The Key to Designing Emotions

11.20.2018 no comments

 We are born to have emotions, like anger, pain, surprise, and gratitude. Everything that we go through makes us feel in a certain way and we learn to communicate those feelings through different expressions. Our emotions are integral in helping us understanding and interpret things around us, and play a significant role in our decision-making.

People make emotional connections on three levels; visceral, behavioral, and reflective. Visceral designs are concerned with appearances and foster intuition. For example, an antique jewelry is likely to appear valuable to a consumer for its history-rich look and feel.

‘With personality as the foundation of your designs, you can layer more emotional engagement on top’ – Aarron Walter, Author of Designing for Emotion

Behavioral designs focus on effectiveness and usability. For example, an advertisement that highlights long battery hours and the durability of the phone taps users’ rationale.

Reflective designs focus on intellectualization of a product. It is the highest level of design where users wonder if a product resonates with their self-image and pride. For example, a fitness tracker gives the feel of technological innovation, luxury fashion, and healthy life.

Graphic designs must focus on all three emotional aspects to influence the right cognition.

This article explores the art of designing emotions with respect to various behavioral and psychological aspects.

Create an Experience for Users

It is important for users to connect with your designs, for them to connect with your products. Creating the first-hand experience and the first-person perspective helps users live the story, instead of looking at it as someone else’s. It makes people feel as if they are going through the situation and feel the same emotions as displayed in the design.

User experience

Let us have a look at this picture. The hand is perfectly cropped as if it is your hand while you are holding the phone. You instantly connect with the photo and pay attention to the content displayed on the screen.

Similarly, the picture below takes you underwater. It makes you feel as if you are looking for help or struggling to float. The first-user experience immediately captures your attention and makes you look for more.


On the contrary, most designs reflect someone else’s perspective and experiences. For example, the picture below shows a man enjoying his pizza. Unfortunately, it’s not your pizza.

Unlock Cultural Cues

Events, symbols, and features have different meanings in different cultures and communities. Every culture has its own beliefs and traditions that people can easily connect with. Keep in mind the cultural codes when designing for your target segment, especially focusing on individualism, avoidance of uncertainty, long-term orientation, and masculinity.

For example, some countries, like Denmark, excessively use their nicknames. It is important to remind them of using their real names that match their identity cards when booking tickets.


Similarly, some countries, like India, value dance and music. Others have specific dining and greeting etiquettes, like Japan. Another way of paying cultural respect is to pay tribute to the country’s national heroes and personalities they aspire, such as athletes and artists.

Exploit the Baby-Face Bias

Utilizing the right design components that are culture-specific will engage visitors and develop a positive attitude towards your brand and products.

The American evolutionary biologist and historian of science, Stephen Jay Gould, shed light on the baby-face bias in his article A Biological Homage to Mickey Mouse. People love baby-like things such as cartoons, for their cuteness, innocence, trustworthiness, and lovability. Therefore, Mickey Mouse paved its way to everyone’s hearts for his large head, small body, and adorable enlarged eyes.

Designers can utilize the baby-face bias to foster positivity and creates a connection with the audience. Some of the websites exploiting the bias include MailChimp, HTMLPanda, Root Studio, Ryan Quincy, and Ice and Sky.



Keep the Design Simple and Clear

To begin with, you must know the goal of your website. Start by knowing the emotions that you want to develop through your website.

For example, a charity website would want people to feel empathetic towards the less-privileged and donate for the cause.


On the contrary, a travel planner would want people to feel ambitious and excited to plan a trip.


The analysis of your objective will determine the color scheme, designs, and other functional aspects.

Effectively Utilize Connotation

The connotation is a feeling or idea that invokes after reading a word or notion. Words may evoke positive, neutral, or negative emotions. Therefore, carefully choose the content of your website.

Negative connotations are common in social advertising to discourage certain behaviors. For example, asking people to not smoke or drive fast.

Positive connotations encourage behaviors. For example, you can show a mobile phone and talk about its features, encourage purchases.

Don’t Trick Users

Website visitors are intelligent and can easily identify your gimmicks. Some websites have large checkout buttons or excessively recommend more products to add in the cart. Some websites have difficult navigation which frustrates the visitors. Others use different tactics to get the desired actions from the visitors.

Know that people have visited thousands of websites and can easily know your tactics. Be careful and do not angry the user.

Designing emotions is not a new or a different strategy, instead, it is present in every designing process. It is the pathway that guides graphic designers to develop effective visuals and functionalities. It is the key to designing professional websites and applications and reflects your understanding of your users.

Are you ready to design emotions like never before?!


About Author:

Rameez Ramzan is a Senior Digital Marketing Executive at Logo Design Genius, one of the most popular logo design companies in Washington, DC. He has extensive and diverse experience in designing and marketing. He loves to know and dwell various aspects related to business, tech, design innovation, and branding.

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