Emotional Design in UX: what is it and when to use it?

Torresburriel Estudio
4 min readJun 28, 2023

Emotional design is a term that is increasingly being used in the UX industry and refers to the ability of a design to evoke emotions in users. But what exactly is emotional design and when should we use it?

In this article, we will explore the concept of emotional design in UX, its benefits, and how it can enhance the user experience.

Photo by Med Badr Chemmaoui on Unsplash

Today, UX Design has become a crucial aspect for any successful business. Designing attractive and user-friendly interfaces is essential to capture the attention of users and, therefore, improve conversion rates.

However, there is a dimension of design that is often overlooked: emotional design. Emotional design is the art of designing experiences that emotionally connect with users and make them feel a deep connection with the brand. While functionality and usability are fundamental to the success of UX design, the emotional connection that design creates can be equally important.

What is Emotional Design?

As the name suggests, it focuses on emotions. It involves designing experiences that evoke emotions in users and make them feel an emotional connection with the brand.

Emotional design can help differentiate a brand in a saturated market and create loyalty among customers. When users feel an emotional connection with a brand, they are more likely to become brand advocates, which can lead to increased organic reach and customer retention.

The three levels of Emotional Design by Donald Norman

Donald Norman, one of the most influential theorists in usability and user experience, identified three different levels of emotional design, which he discusses in his book “Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things”. Here are the three levels:

  • Visceral: This is the most basic level of emotional design and refers to the immediate impression that a design makes on users. This level is responsible for the user’s first impression of a design, even before they have had a chance to interact with it. The visceral level focuses on the more superficial aspects of design, such as appearance and aesthetics.
  • Behavioral: This level refers to the user’s experience when interacting with the design. At this level, the design should be easy to use and allow the user to perform tasks without difficulty. A good design at the behavioral level makes the user feel competent and efficient.
  • Reflective: The reflective level refers to the deeper emotional connection a user can feel with a design. At this level, the user contemplates how they feel about the brand and whether they identify with its values.

What does Emotional Design look like in UX?

Emotional design in UX focuses on creating experiences that go beyond functionality and usability, allowing users to establish an emotional connection with the product or service they are using.

In UX, this translates into creating interfaces that evoke positive feelings, making users feel attracted and engaged with the brand.

To achieve this, it’s important for the design to consider brand values, product personality, and the emotions that need to be conveyed. The use of specific colors, typography, and visual elements can help generate a sense of familiarity, warmth, or sophistication, depending on the design’s intention.

Another important element is the use of storytelling, which allows for the creation of a narrative through design and establishes an emotional connection with users. The story should align with the brand’s values and personality, and be communicated clearly and consistently throughout the user experience.

Additionally, emotional design in UX also focuses on creating solutions that adapt to users’ needs and expectations, allowing for a personalized and relevant experience for each individual. This can be achieved through the implementation of technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, which enable a better understanding of users and the provision of more tailored solutions.

Emotional design is a technique that generates an emotional connection with users, making them feel engaged and attracted to the brand. In UX, this translates into creating interfaces that evoke positive emotions and align with the brand’s values and personality.

Implementing emotional design in UX not only creates a more pleasant and appealing experience for users but can also have a positive impact on brand loyalty and retention, as emotions play a significant role in consumer decision-making.

Therefore, it’s important for companies and designers to pay attention to emotional design and consider it as an integral part of their design strategy. Its implementation can be a powerful tool to increase user satisfaction and brand loyalty.

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Torresburriel Estudio

User Experience & User Research agency focused on services and digital products. Proud member of @UXalliance