Meetup: Designing for Emotional Impact

Presented by Akarsh Sanghi (N26) & Moritz K. (Zalando), the overall intent of this presentation was to make the design and interactive experiences we create as close to the real world as possible, or more specifically: the same as experiences in the real world that we enjoy.

Functionality, Usability and Desirability

They opened by asking about the product you last had a good experience with – helping to solve a problem bringing joy – which whenever I get asked this question is usually the former via ING Direct, creating clear and simple interactions that make my tasks efficient.

Their own examples aimed to go beyond aesthetics to also evoke emotions, including:

  • The iPhone – excitement from the moment you start to open the box
  • Slack – a colourful, playful interface for the sign up process
  • Virgin America – stylish lights and atmosphere for their aircraft cabins (how long this joy lasts through hours of flying, especially for tall people, might be a different story)

A key point here was that beyond being functional or even usable, a product or experience also has to invoke positive emotions. This was shown in a basic pyramid, though the best example is from Stephen R Anderson’s Seductive Interaction Design in 2011:

Stephen R Anderson - Seductive Interaction Design

Motion Principles and Microinteractions

A history lesson: back in the early 1980s, Disney found that audiences were not engaging emotionally with movies, and more specifically characters, which in turn meant they didn’t want to sit through a 90 minute movie.

Veteran animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson attempted to solve this problems by formalising 12 principles of animation, for example:

  • Specific moves creating suspense, so that the audience wonders what is about to happen
  • Arcs to give animation a more natural flow
  • Exaggeration – present a wilder, more extreme version of reality

Experience designers have created the successors to these movement in current interfaces, for example the iPhone interface “shaking” if a wrong password is entered, or programs “zooming” in and out of the Dock on an iOS desktop.

A final recommendation was to focus on microinteractions as “little moments of delight” – which raises the interesting question of when this contradicts the iterative goal of creating the “Minimum Viable Product”, and how to resolve conflicts between these competing objectives.


The Q&A session at the end was long, with a couple of unintentionally entertaining questions about how interaction design might “confuse older users” – the tone suggesting that this meant anyone born before 1985. The response that we “should design for everyone” was initially generic (missing any mention of audience segmentation, personas, scenarios) although this was subsequently refined with a reference to SnapChat being designed specifically for a teenage market, hoping to avoid the horror of adoption by older generations as happened with Facebook.

Overall, part of an interesting introduction to the Berlin Product and Startup scene for me, as just one of the many competing directions that people are working on here. More to follow when I get time to write them up!

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