Creating an emotional design : Pixels to Human

“ I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel ” – Maya Angelou


We live in a world where devices are becoming the extensions of ourselves (maybe it’s already the case for most of us). Whether it’s your computer, your phone, your smart watches, it has become almost impossible or unimaginable to live a day without using at least one of them. They have taken such place in our lives and almost dictate how we feel on a day to day basis. If something doesn’t load in less than 30 seconds, we get furious and we immediately close or switch the page ; so saying that, devices are sort of like our jar of emotions. Aaron Walter once said : “Our creations need to be more Human”. As webdesigners, how can we translate emotions through pixels ? How do we set a tone of voice to make sure that the message that we want to get across is understood right ?


Digital and emotions


Digital and emotions … When we think about it, it’s quite strange to put these two words together. It’s almost paradoxical, how can digital have feelings ? It’s not a Human being and it can’t feel or make us feel things.
Well of course it doesn’t show emotions on its own but that is when Designers play their role : our goal is to impact the user, the person behind the screen looking for information. A site that doesn’t stimulate the user will be forgotten. As WebDesigners, we want to make memorable experiences and maybe they will come back or even share it. Therefore when we design we need to take human emotions into account.


Creative emotions fears anxiety


We sometimes get caught up in the fast pass of our job environment : We have this request from the client, we read the brief and execute it. We try to finish as fast as possible as the deadline is approaching. And I think that’s a huge mistake for a designer, it is really important to learn how and when to take a step back, to ask the right questions and making sure that everyone on the project is on the same page. Creating emotion design is a team work, where you take in consideration everyone’s opinion in order to deliver the right product/website to the client but also to the users.

Is it going to be a simple layout ? Is there going to be illustrations ? Are we going to use videos ? And don’t forget to take in consideration the UI of your website : the color choices, fonts, logo. By asking the good questions we can create a website that not only matches the client needs but also give the user a unique experience.



How do I create this unique experience ?


The message​ : First of all you start by thinking about the message you want to convey. If you do this part correctly than everything else will eventually work its way out (kind of). What I mean is that if you set the tone of your product/website, the visual aspect will enhance the message. It’s all about setting a solid foundation to work on. What are the values of the product, How do you want other to perceive you … And then you can start thinking about the appearance of the product/website.


The target​ : You have to know the people you are designing for. How do you want them to use it ? People want to feel like they belong somewhere, it’s human nature. Make sure to know your audience in order to create a strong community. You want to know your clients, when they come visit your website, how they use your product. By knowing them, you will be able to deliver a smooth and original experience (depending on the message you want to convey).


Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” helps us understand individuals and what actually motivates people to behave the way they do and how we relate to computer interfaces. A website is functional, reliable and usable but the one missing piece is the top layer (Figure2), the pleasure that we can get through the experience. We should take the user experience a bit further, if something works that’s great but it’s important to make things a bit more enjoyable and appealing.


For example, if I like a certain person, will it be because he’s a human like me ? The answer is no, I will enjoy hanging with him/her because that person is pleasant to be around, because he has great things to talk about, his personality is unique and that’s what makes me like that person even more. It goes the same when designing a website or a product. You have to show personality through your design, something that the user can relate to.


Personality​ : You should be able to evoke emotions and the experience should be positive so that the users will come back.
Spotify and Netflix are great examples in achieving emotional design. I remember when I first used Spotify, I felt so happy. I had any songs I wanted to listen to a click away. I remember I used to download songs and that was a nightmare. But now I am only using this app to listen to music. Moreover it creates a playlist according to what I listen to and it allows me to find new new artists every week ; a dream for a music lover. I had a great experience and convinced all my friends to use it.



Usability​ : It’s a good thing for your website to have an unique personality but for instance imagine the friend I was talking about earlier is taking a long time to answer my questions or if she just talks on and on but never really gives me the response I am looking for, I will find it very annoying and will stop asking her questions. I feel the same way about website usability. The navigation must be simple and user-friendly, we shouldn’t feel lost at any time. Informations should be a few clicks away from the users. Making it quick and efficient.

Netflix is doing it right where we can watch a movie with just two clicks away or again spotify with just one tap.
Snapchat is also a good example when it comes to usability. The app is fun and very easy to use, teenagers love it because they feel like they can personalize the app with the choice of various filters. Teenagers are not the only one using it, adults use it too. They find it playful and the filters make everyone laugh so you want all your surroundings to try it. Snapchat succeeds in creating an emotional design, a strong community and a very easy-to-use app.




Design has a power to gather people and adding an emotional design for your brand allows users to connect with you and thus to create a community. Not all website have the same emotions but they all want few things in common ; they want to look appealing, be pleasant, effective, memorable and user-friendly.Personally I think a playful website wins a lot of people’s heart. It’s an effective way to connect with them. It’s easier to make friends in a playful, humorous way ; it makes us feel comfortable and it works the same way with web design.


Jigme Muccini – Étudiante en 4ème année – Mastère Web Design  – Suite à la conférence de Marine Aubert – 10 bonnes questions à se poser sur le design émotionnel.