How To Create An Impact In Marketing Through Emotional Design

How To Create An Impact In Marketing Through Emotional Design

You might also have encountered that question that trended around the world from Marie Kondo’s Netflix show, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, “Does it spark joy?” and when it comes to minimalism, it isn’t just an ordinary question that’s lifted in order to make people’s houses more organised — it has affected people’s life decisions by a ton.

Do you often find yourself wondering why people are more hooked to iPhones than Android, how people like a certain brand because it reminds them of something from their childhood, or how people are more attracted to something that’s colourful than monotonous ones? Have you discovered commercials that made people laugh or cry or seen famous designs that made you feel confused? This is where emotional design comes in.

Perhaps you’ve heard about it, perhaps not. Everywhere around us is design, but often so it goes unnoticed among people that their behaviour is caused by design. Emotional design is a design theory and a book by Don Norman, a renowned researcher, author, and best known in the industry for his books on design.

Emotional design is commonly used in the advertising industry and does not limit itself in UX, virtual and augmented reality (AR/VR), architecture, product design, industrial design, and visual art. He explained that emotional design has three levels of emotional processing: visceral, behavioural, and reflective. Let’s explain them one by one.

The Three Levels of Emotional Processing

During the 1950s, scientists have already discovered that there are three levels during the emotional processing of the human stimuli. Dr. Albert Ellis, a psychologist best known as the creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, developed the ABC model to describe the three levels:

  1. Affect/Antecedent – the situation that triggers a response
  2. Behaviour/Beliefs – our personal interpretation of an event or situation
  3. Cognition/Consequences – the way we feel, act, and behave

On the other hand, Don Norman’s, whose expertise is cognitive science and usability engineering conducted his own extensive research to the three levels of emotional processing we know of today. 

  1. Visceral
  2. Behavioural
  3. Reflective


The visceral emotion is the most basic emotion of the three levels which is primarily our first reaction when we encounter something that’s new to us A.K.A. first impressions. Visceral emotion allows us to observe and make quick judgements based on how we perceive the physical aspect of a visual (e.g. vibrant colours, colour contrast, design elements, facial expressions, shades and tones, etc.)


Unlike visceral emotion that displays the complete subconsciousness of the human mind, behavioural emotion is rather subconscious on a different level by being influenced by the human mind through a slow reflective process. Basically, behavioural emotional processing is the way you feel when you see something. In design, we interpret this as how we feel when we see a visual that appeals to us or when we interact with an artwork or a website.


The deepest of the three levels is reflective emotional processing, wherein the human mind is fully conscious and reasons with logic and rationality, having been influenced by previous experiences and extensive knowledge. In art and culture, it’s the way we appreciate the beauty and concept of every masterpiece or how a country has unique traditions and sceneries.

In design and marketing, it’s all about the image that reflects the human existence. This occurs when a person identifies himself with the ideals with a product or service or if he/she can relate their current situation with an ad they saw recently.

What Does Emotion Have To Do With Design?

Design is everything when it comes to triggering the human mind. Look everywhere around you.

What makes people decide when buying a product? Good design. What do people generally follow? Trends — fashion, graphic design… you name it. Who do people follow and listen to on social media? People with influence. What gets the most likes, comments, and shares? Visually appealing posts. How do people entertain themselves? Films, series, anime, and cartoons. How do you get people to pay attention to your ad? Target their emotions.

Design plays an influential factor in how humans live. But in today’s living where trends are coming in and going out at a faster pace and people are only focusing on the visual aspect, it’s becoming more of a challenge to stimulate the human mind in three levels.

We are easily swayed by the beautiful photos on Instagram, the latest videos from our favourite vloggers, the hottest fashion trends that will hit the market, or even the newest gadgets being released one after the other.

The visceral and behavioural emotional process is the core level of the modern consumers’ minds today, but it takes beyond to reach the reflective level because looking beyond the physical level doesn’t seem more convenient for most of these consumers.

This is the challenge for businesses and brands who will continuously compete against each other and climb to surpass the drastic shift of consumer needs, unbeknownst to them that it’s the deeper understanding of human behaviour’s evolution is what needs to be met here in order to create effective design that appeals, resonates, and repurposes the consumers’ thinking about the way of life when they experience a product or a service.

How Can Brands Focus On Emotional Design?

Design plays an important role in brands because everything is becoming user-centric nowadays. It’s not enough to make a promise to people that your brand is going to combine beauty and function. This is the triad of emotional design: effectivity, simplicity, and sustainability and to be able to achieve that, here’s our 3 most recommended advice for anyone who wants to create beyond emotional design. 

Focus on the user, not just the function and design itself.

The design’s effectivity will rule on the success of a product, service, or even an ad. We are in the age of function and sustainability, people are becoming wiser when choosing what they want and don’t want.

Consumers have seen millions of products and services and billions of ads that tried to appeal to their personal preferences. It was a success for many, a failure for most, and an ongoing challenge for everyone. Some consumers nowadays are looking for depth each time they encounter a new product. Anything that seems foreign to us triggers a sense of fear, excitement, or anticipation. Strive beyond these.

Create a meaningful user experience.

Aside from aesthetics, what’s more important for most people today is the seamlessness, simplicity, and finding meaning after each interaction with a product, service, website, or ad. What they need should be accessible whenever they need it. If you manage to reduce the time it takes to find a specific thing, consumers can concentrate on their current goal and improve their productivity as a result.

Stop designing what exists, offer something new. Stand out.

If there’s one unsolicited advice from someone who doesn’t talk about business, it would be this one. People have already seen countless multiple versions of the same products and services only being offered at different price ranges, but it’s a rare commodity for people to see a product or a service that’s extremely unique that it can’t be easily replicated by anyone.

Stop trying to look like what your neighbouring competitors look like. Pop-out, create, and launch something that creates speculation, triggers curiosity and critical thinking, and one that inspires.