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Emotional Design

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Emotional Design

Why we love (or hate) everyday things

Basic Books,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Of course, human emotions about products affect consumer purchases, but how does design spur emotions that make us buy?

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Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


Understanding the emotions consumers feel about the objects you sell can help your business make the most of its product designs. Expert Donald Norman explains how being attractive, fun and enjoyable makes a product better. He explains that the emotions which affect purchase decisions are based on three aspects of design: "visceral" (appearance), "behavioral" (performance) and "reflective" (memories and experiences). He provides interesting case studies to show how objects evoke emotions. Norman’s central theme is that "attractive things work better." And, the book works best when he hews to that theme; the last section, where he veers into a discussion of robots, doesn’t seem as pertinent or as strong. getAbstract recommends this book to anyone who wants to understand how design affects emotions, and how emotions affect purchasing decisions.


Little Teapots

Author Donald Norman loves his three nearly unusable teapots. Each one has an odd feature or design that draws him to it like a piece of art. He loves to show the teapots to guests and tell their stories. They are his leading examples of how objects evoke emotions and become more than just things to own. For instance, users must pour carefully from designer Michael’s Graves’ "Rooster" teapot to avoid getting scalded, but it makes Norman smile first thing in the morning. He compares himself to the owner of a BMW MINI Cooper. The car functions just like most other cars, but is so fun-looking that its owners feel pleased. As a result, MINI Cooper owners don’t let their little car’s flaws affect the pleasure they take in driving it.

Though logic - like deciding to buy something because it is practical - drives most decisions, emotions can send the brain messages that are not based on reason. Businesses rely heavily on logical decision making, but cognitive scientists believe emotions are more helpful than logic when people are making decisions. Emotions, consciously or subconsciously, signal the presence of danger, the assurance of comfort and the nature...

About the Author

Donald A. Norman, a cognitive scientist, has written many books including the popular The Design of Everyday Things. He is a consultant, a professor of computer science at Northwestern University and a frequent public speaker.

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