Book Review: Designing for Emotion


What is emotional design? And what does good emotional design look like?

In “Designing for Emotion”, Aaron Walter uses a breadth of case studies that span branding, interface design and interaction design to answer these questions. The book has been very influential for my own work and was an inspiration for my article on Rewarding Interactions that was published on UX Mag.

A little background on Aaron: Aaron is the UX Director at MailChimp. I’ve had a UX-crush on MailChimp since I started my product design journey more than 6 years ago. Their product’s experience provides a clear and fun path to email development, deployment and tracking.

In Designing for Emotion, Aarron opens by introducing the hierarchy of software needs (a charming iteration of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).

Aaron’s Hierarchy of Software Needs

Aaron's Hierarchy of Software Needs. Pleasurable is a must-have for any successful software product.
In order to be successful, software must be pleasurable to use


At it’s core, software must be functional, reliable and usable. Users subconsciously assume this to be the case for any piece of software they use. If even one time, I bump into an error when trying to save a blog post on WordPress, I’d immediately add research alternative blog engine to my to-do. And frankly, I wouldn’t have a hard time finding a solution that allows me to save posts reliably.

The key differentiator for any software product is whether it provides a pleasurable experience. I really enjoy using WordPress. It’s documentation-rich and has a wonderful community, making it super easy to find a plugin for any need. This positive association keeps me hooked to the platform.

Why pleasurable experiences? Pleasurable experiences elicit emotion, and emotionally charged experiences are memorable (Emotion and Memory Storage). When I think about why I love certain brands over others, it’s because the brands I’m loyal to made me feel something.

[well]”We’re not designing pages. We’re designing human experiences. Like the visionaries of the Arts and Crafts movement, we know that preserving the human touch and showing ourselves in our work isn’t optional: it’s essential.” -Aarron Walter, Designing for Emotion[/well]

With these facts on the ground, Aarron takes us through case studies that elicit pleasure, surprise, anticipation and excitement in their users.


A Small Look at Case Studies in Designing for Emotion



Mint’s interface uses a color palette that helps it stand out from it’s competitors and empower trust in users



Dropbox rewards users during it's on-boarding process helping to build positive brand perception
Dropbox rewards users during it’s on-boarding process helping to build positive brand perception


Aarron’s book is a charming and insightful read. It includes more than 20 case studies, each hand-selected for it’s quality and category. By digging deep into each example, Aaron equips readers with emotional design strategies spanning the entire UX, from branding to micro-interactions.

I’ve gifted Designing for Emotion to friends/colleagues in design, development and product management, and they’ve all loved it. I highly recommend you check it out.


Designing for Emotion, available on Amazon

Designing for Emotion Paperback
Designing for Emotion Paperback


Author: Husam

Husam Machlovi has pitched to, and developed relationships with, top Fortune 100 companies. He's designed digital experiences that have generated millions in revenue. At his company, With Pulp, he leads Product Strategy & Design where he crafts product stories and interfaces that people love.

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