Designing Emotion "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs 6 April 2016 True Emotion, Emotional Design, Product Design, Product Psychology, Value Proposition, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 443 Julie Jenson Bennett - Designing Emotion Product Management 1.772

Designing Emotion


We want to make people not just want, but love our brands – in doing so, we are focussing on “designing emotion”, but the way we understand emotion tends to be very limited.

Julie Jenson Bennett dives into how our shifting understanding of emotion should be changing the way we design products, starting with the idea that emotion and decision making are critically intertwined, and referencing a great a great list of recommended reading and her favourite emotion scientists along the way.

Lesson 1 – The “Mindshare” Trap

As a designer, clients often come to her talking about an “emotional value proposition”. The challenge in this is that emotion is an experience that extends beyond our brains, and is a part of what creates our cultural – Culture and psychology and emotion are inextricably linked.

In their book “Cultural Strategy”, Hold & Cameron argue that a purely functional / emotional model of the mind (or “mindshare marketing” model) limits brands to being just phenomenon of the mind, rather than expressions of culture. They propose a model for brand innovation which can be used for product design, which Julie briefly demonstrates via an example of Bang & Olufsen understanding their brand & product from a cultural level.

Lesson 2 – The Experience Trap

There is no standardised way to describe, measure or categorise emotion. Instead, many designers use experience maps to try and represent the emotional states of customers. This carries two challenges – it tends to assume that “negative emotions” aren’t useful or constructive, and that the emotions we experience in real time are the most relevant (rather than our anticipation or remembered emotional states).

Julie astutely points out that our emotional experience is extended through time, and that (fallible!) memory is a crucial component of the experience – meaning that our map of emotional experiences should be layered, rather than static.

Lesson 3 – The Output Trap

Speaking of static emotional models – in our efforts to design compelling products, we are actually trying to design emotion, often forgetting that our users are not purely passive consumers of our products and brands. Rather they are participants, and part of a dynamic system that our products are but a tiny component of.

Emotions are an emergent experience that arise between user, product and context, and arise in reaction to meaning. We should remember that by making products, we are not trying to trigger a specific emotion – we are creating meaning.

Closing Questions

  • What models in your business are making you uncomfortable?
  • How are you designing for the “anticipating” and “remembering” self?
  • If you make something that means something, emotional will follow. What meaning are you creating?

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