Design and emotion

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Introduction and definitions

Design and emotion is also known as design for emotion or emotional design or emotional aspects of design or affective engineering.

Design for emotion “comprises studying the emotional experiences of users with products, as well as the emotional meanings assigned by users in relation to experience and interaction with products, assessing how emotions vary with different user characteristics and integrating users’ emotional expectations into the product development. It acknowledges the fact that the emotion is not a feature of the design, but a subjective experience of the user, owner or observer of the product.” ([Engage, 2005])

“Advances in our understanding of emotion and affect have implications for the science of design. Affect changes the operating parameters of cognition: positive affect enhances creative, breadth-first thinking whereas negative affect focuses cognition, enhancing depth-first processing and minimizing distractions. Therefore, it is essential that products designed for use under stress follow good human-centered design, for stress makes people less able to cope with difficulties and less flexible in their approach to problem solving. Positive affect makes people more tolerant of minor difficulties and more flexible and creative in finding solutions. Products designed for more relaxed, pleasant occasions can enhance their usability through pleasant, aesthetic design. Aesthetics matter: attractive things work better.” (D. A. Norman, 2002

“Product design that provides aesthetic appeal, pleasure and satisfaction can greatly influence the success of a product. Traditional cognitive approaches to product usability have tended to underestimate or fragment emotion from an understanding of the user experience. Affect, which is inexplicable linked to attitudes, expectations and motivations, plays a significant role in the cognition of product interaction, and therefore can be usefully treated as a design aid. Emotion influences and mediates specific aspects of interaction before, during and after the use of a product. These affective states regularly impact how a user manipulates and explores a user interface in order to support a desired cognitive state.” (Frank Spillers, 2007, retrieved 20:44, 26 April 2011 (CEST)).

According to Rafaeli and Vilnai-Yavetz (2004) summarized by Spillers (2007), sense-making of the artifact involves emotion in three ways:

  1. Instrumentality: Tasks the artifact helps accomplish.
  2. Aesthetics: Sensory reaction to the artifact.
  3. Symbolism: Association the artifact elicits.

See also:

Testing for emotions


The Fluid project summarizes De Lera and Garreta-Domingo (2007) ten emotion heuristics as follows:

This observational technique does not replace the current and most common methods used during a UCD process, but complements the objective and subjective data gathered (...) facial expressions are central in the area of emotional research (...) using facial expressions as a tool to evaluate the emotional dimension is a cross-cultural tool. (...) We correlated the emotional cues identified with an emotional state and ensuring that these could be easily identified and measured during a user evaluation. A total of 10 emotional cues were selected. Better than any body parts, our faces reveal emotions, opinions, and moods (...) [the ten emotion heuristics proposed by the paper are:]

  1. Frowning (...) can be a sign of a necessity to concentrate, displeasure or of perceived lack of clarity.
  2. Brow Raising (...) should also be considered a negative expressive reaction (...) is a sign of uncertainty, disbelief, surprise and exasperation
  3. Gazing Away (...) from the screen may be perceived as a sign of deception.
  4. Smiling (...) is a sign of satisfaction. The user may have encountered an element of joy during the evaluation process.
  5. Compressing the Lip (...) should be perceived as a sign of frustration and confusion (...) reflects anxious feelings, nervousness, and emotional concerns.
  6. Moving the Mouth (...) is associated with a sign of being lost and of uncertainty.
  7. Expressing Vocally (...) as well as the volume of the expression, the tone or quality of the expression may be signs of frustration or deception.
  8. Hand Touching the Face (...) is a sign of confusion and uncertainty, generally a sign of the user being lost or tired.
  9. Drawing Back on the Chair (...) negative or refusing emotions. By drawing back the chair, he / she [the user] may be showing a desire to get away from the present situation.
  10. (...) Leaning forward and showing a sunken chest may be a sign of depression and frustration with the task at hand (...) the user might be encountering difficulties but instead of showing refusal, leaning forward is a sign of attentiveness, of "getting closer".
retrieved 20:44, 26 April 2011 (CEST) from Designing and testing for emotion.

Emotion questionnaires

See Usability_and_user_experience_surveys

Designing for emotions

Taking emotions into design can be seen as part of various modern design approaches, e.g. user-centered design or Quality Function Deployment (QFD). Traditional approaches maximize functionality and minimize negative aspects. Modern design approaches try to include the customer in the whole design process and that includes his unspoken needs which are often related to the affective domain.

Kansei engineering

A popular design approach are the "Kansei methods" (Nagamachi, 1989). “The term kansei is a Japanese word and implies psychological feeling and needs in mind. Before purchase of for example a passenger car one has images in mind of may be “a powerful engine”, “easy operation”, “beautiful and premium exterior, “cool and relaxed interior” and so on. These words express the kansei, and the consumers really want to have such kind of a vehicle if the manufacturer succeeds in realizing a vehicle fitting to their imaginations.” (Nagamachi, 2008).

The traditional Kansei engineering method includes the following steps (Nagamachi, 2008):

  1. Decision of product strategy (design domain + customer type)
  2. Collection of kansei expressions that relate to the domain. Usually about 30-40 words are collected
  3. A semantic differential scale is constructed
  4. Samples that represent the domain are collected
  5. Items/categories of the samples are identified, i.e. its "objective" features are described
  6. Subjects then evaluate each sample item with the constructed scale
  7. Results are analyzed with standard multi-variate methods like factor analysis, multiple regression or cluster analysis, or quantification theory (a non-parametric method developed by Komazawa and Hayashi)
  8. Results, i.e. ratings of sampled items as well as kansei structures are then interpreted, explained and mapped to the designer's sketches.

We also believe that in order to understand how people perceive a domain, one also maybe start the analysis by using a more bottom up approach using the repertory grid technique. From the (very) little I have seen in the literature reviews, there are trans-cultural problems with the Kansei method...

Cross-cultural issues

Emotions also raise cross-cultural issues ...


Introductions testing and analysis
Introductions designing
Web sites and index pages
  • the Design & Emotion Society aises issues and facilitates dialogue among practitioners, researchers, and industry, in order to integrate salient themes of emotional experience into the design profession. This website includes interesting tools and methods.


  • Futon Suri, J. (2004). Design Expression and Human Experience: Evolving Design Practice. in McDonagh, E. et al. (Eds) (p. 13-17) Design and Emotion. Taylor and Francis.
  • Gaver, William (2009). Designing for emotion (among other things), Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2009 December 12; 364(1535): 3597–3604, doi:10.1098/rstb.2009.0153.
  • Hoonhout, Henriette C.M. & Marcelle Stienstra (2003), In D. de Waard, K.A. Brookhuis, S.M. Sommer, and W.B. Verwey (2003), Human Factors in the Age of Virtual Reality (pp. 341 - 355). Maastricht, the Netherlands: Shaker Publishing.
  • Kim Jinwoo; Jooeun Lee, Dongseong Choi, Designing emotionally evocative homepages: an empirical study of the quantitative relations between design factors and emotional dimensions, International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, Volume 59, Issue 6, December 2003, Pages 899-940, ISSN 1071-5819, DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhcs.2003.06.002.
  • Lokman, Anitawati Mohd; Nor Laila, M. N.; Nagamachi, M. (2008). Kansei structure and visualization of clothing websites cluster, ITSim 2008, DOI 10.1109/ITSIM.2008.4631547
  • Lokman, Anitawati Mohd;, Afdallyna Fathiyah Harun, Nor Laila Md. Noor and Mitsuo Nagamachi, (2009). Website Affective Evaluation: Analysis of Differences in Evaluations Result by Data Population, in Kurosu, Masaaki (ed) Human Centered Design, Springer. Doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-02806-9_75
  • Malone, T. W., & Lepper, M. R. (1987). Making learning fun: A taxonomy of intrinsic motivation for learning. In R. E. Snow and M. J. Farr (Eds.). Aptitude, learning and instruction. Volume 3: Conative and affective process analysis. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Mazur, Glenn H. (2005). Lifestyle QFD: Incorporating Emotional Appeal in Product Development, 17th Symposium on Quality Function Deployment, PDF
  • Norman, Donald. 2002. “Emotion and design: Attractive things work better”. Interactions Magazine, ix (4), 36-42. HTML reprint
  • Nagamachi, M., Kansei Engineering. 1989, Tokyo: Kaibundo Publishing Co. Ltd.
  • Nagamachi, Mitsuo (2008). Perspectives and the new trend of Kansei/affective engineering, The TQM Journal, 20 (4). DOI: 10.1108/17542730810881285
  • Norman, Donald. 2005. Emotional Design: Why We Love (Or Hate) Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books.
  • Oh, Wilson and Poh Wah Khong. 2003.“Competitive advantage through pleasurable products”. Pittsburgh: Proceedings of the DPPI ’03
  • Rafaeli, Anat and Iris Vilnai-Yavetz. 2004. Emotion as a Connection of Physical Artifacts and Organizations. Organization Science 15 (6). (Jstor PDF).
  • Schütte, Simon & Jörgen Eklund (2001). An Approach to Kansei Engineering-Methods and a Case Study on Design Identity, Asean Academic Press, London, 2001 PDF
  • Schütte, S., et al., Concepts, methods and tools in Kansei Engineering. Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science, 2004. 5: p. 214-232
  • Schütte, Simon (2005). Engineering Emotional Values in Product Design: Kansei Engineering in Development. PhD thesis, Linköping University, The Institute of Technology. Abstract/PDF
  • Shiizuka, Hisao (2007). Overview of Kansei system and related problems. In Proceedings of the 2nd international conference on Rough sets and knowledge technology (RSKT'07), JingTao Yao, Pawan Lingras, Wei-Zhi Wu, Marcin Szczuka, and Nick J. Cercone (Eds.). Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, 203-210.
  • Spillers, F.: (2007). Emotion as a Cognitive Artifact and the Design Implications for Products That are Perceived As Pleasurable. PDF, retrieved 20:44, 26 April 2011 (CEST).
  • Stienstra M, Hoonhout J (2002) TOONS Toys. Interaction toys as a means to create a fun experience. In: Proceedings of the interaction design and children conference 2002, Eindhoven, Shaker Publishing BV, Maastricht, pp 199–210.
  • K G D Tharangie, C M A Irfan, C A Marasinghe, Koichi Yamada, Kansei Engineering Assessing System to enhance the usability in E-learning web Interfaces: Colour basis, 16th International Conference on Computers in Education, workshop. PDF
  • Tractinsky, N, Katz, A.S. and Ikar, D. 2000. What is Beautiful is Usable. Interacting with Computers, 13: . 127-145.
  • Vongpatanasin, Theera; & Mazur, Glenn H. (2009). Why we drink beer. 21th Symposium on Quality Function Deployment, PDF


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