Designing for Emotion

It’s natural for people to have emotional reactions to the things around them, and that includes the products, services and devices that we use every day. For this reason, it’s important that designers of all stripes learn ways to leverage what we know about emotions from cognitive psychology, to create design solutions which inspire certain reactions from people. One way to better understand how individuals will react to a certain design is to engage in contextual inquiry – meeting people where they are when they are using your designs, and simply asking them about their experiences.

I recently performed this experience on myself, recording my emotional response to a product, a service, and a device which I encounter in my daily life.

Product: The December Daily Scrapbook Kit
This week was the ordering period for one of my favorite products of the year, a scrapbook kit designed to chronicle my family’s holiday season called December Daily. This kit is produced by an amazing storyteller and visual designer, Ali Edwards.


The December Daily scrapbook kit makes me FEEL CREATIVE and INSPIRED by meeting my NEED for self-expression through scrapbooking. The careful packing, attention to detail and box to keep everything together make me FEEL CALM and IN CONTROL by responding to my NEED to stay organized during this busy time of the year. The variety of supplies in the box make me FEEL EMPOWERED and EAGER by meeting my need to NEED to express myself creatively and as an individual.

SERVICE: The Wallingford Public Library
I don’t think there is a better library in the world than the Wallingford Public Library. With it’s huge collection of books, amazing staff, and state-of-the-art Collaboratory, my family can spend hours wandering the stacks and creating projects.


The Wallingford Public Library makes me FEEL PASSIONATE and EMPOWERED by meeting my NEED to expand my knowledge and skills in an endless range of areas including literature, technology, crafts, and gardening. The library staff make me FEEL GRATEFUL and TRUSTING by responding to my NEED to be INCLUDED IN A COMMUNITY and RESPECTED.

DEVICE: Garmin Vivoactive Sports Watch
Nothing has had a greater impact on my swimming than my Garmin Vivoactive waterproof fitness tracking watch. A gift from my father, the watch helps me to track my swim workouts by monitoring my time, laps and heart rate.


My Garmin watch makes me FEEL EAGER to hop in the water because it fills my NEED to MEASURE MY PROGRESS. The data it displays makes me FEEL VALIDATED by filling my NEED to STAY HEALTHY. The style of the watch makes me FEEL PROUD by meeting my NEED to APPEAR PROFESSIONAL in my attire and digital devices.


This exercise of evaluating a product, service and device was an interesting one, really opening my eyes to the emotional way in which we react to the inanimate objects around us, and makes me consider ways in which students may react emotionally to the way I set up and design my online courses and learning materials.

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