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Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things
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Design has always been a balance of usability and the emotional connection we create through our products.
I find most designers go through two phases, starting out they are very free form and fancy-graphics-for-the-sake-of-graphics approach, mostly because they can, which is where all newbies start. Then they learn about usability/functional design after reading something like "Design of Everyday Things"  which does a great job of selling why the functional nature of the product matters first-and-foremost as much or more as the way it looks. This is the first step in being a good and useful designer.
But people don't realize that same author Don Norman released an equally important book called "Emotional Design"  which digs deeper into why something like an Apple product is not only easy-to-use but is designed in such that it melds into our life cleanly, it goes beyond just being a useful tool to where it becomes part of our identity and we treat it like a piece of art.
The mature designers learn that good design goes beyond merely simplifying a 5 click process down to 2 (for example), towards crafting something that creates an emotional connection with the people buying it. For example: sometimes adding an extra 3rd step which communicates information or eases anxiety in the user is more important than the lowest amount of clicks/time to action is completed.
Yet most usability-obsessed designs would dismiss this as unnecessary distraction when the immediate 'conversion' should be 100% the goal, instead of realizing the wider emotional experience that exists in these same processes. It's easy to get someone to click a red button over a black one for psychological reasons, but it takes good design to have it naturally flow as part of the goal in the users mind at the time, which helps create a solid long-term connection with the customer.
The type of relationship where people recommend your product to others, not just solving their problem quickly and forgetting it.
This is the more abstract and intuitive part of design that reaches beyond what the more scientific approach to usability and functional design can achieve by itself. That's were things like aesthetics, colour, copywriting, and the whole experience buying the product and interacting with the company comes in. The stuff that seems like excess in a totally functional perspective. This is what turns a product from merely more useful than the rest of the market into something that is coveted and sought-out by customers when they see the brand name or designer behind it. It's the attention to the details and experience of the humans using your product, not just robots greased to the credit card page the quickest.
Most software/hardware sucks at even getting the functional parts down, which is why it gets hyped up and valued so much - which is fine, that's where the lowest hanging fruit will remain. But that doesn't mean it stops there.
⬐ dehrmann> I find most designers go through two phases, first they are very free form and fancy-graphics-for-the-sake-of-graphics approach, mostly because they can, which is where all newbies start. Then they learn...why the functional nature of the product matters as much as the way it looks
I think design norms new media are the same. Why <blink>? Because we can.⬐ cdriniAbsolutely wonderful description. (This comment was more interesting than the blog post). I've been trying to figure out how to justify to PMs/etc that we should spend time to make delightful software, and "emotional design" seems like just the thing. I really enjoyed The Design of Everyday Things; I'll have to give Emotional Design a read!
Not all product design is about functionality.
Emotional Design by Don Norman is my favourite book on the subject:
> Listen man the best UI and UX comes from not having the stuff get in your way.
You should spend some time reading Emotional Design .
Only amateurs to design think it is all about usability and minimizing complexity.
The real ROI from a talented designer is a product that creates an emotional connection with the user. Just look at Apple products: people attach their identity to the products - that's how powerful the design of the product can be.
The design (which includes the technical capabilities) can extend beyond just a simple tool providing utility to something which is a memorable pleasant experience - which you want to keep using.
Companies you can achieve the above are the ones who are incredibly successful i n the tech industry. Design is not always obvious - so people easily miss the cause/effect. And achieving it is not all about a flashy gradient or trendy flat design. It's a complex extremely well thought-out user experience. Take a phone's UX for example, from opening the package, to how it's used daily, to the times you need to plug it in while half-asleep next to your bed.
None of that can be summarized as just "getting out of your way", it's about providing the best experience as a result of optimizing the hundreds of small interactions involved in using the product.
Reminds me of 'Emotional Design' book by Don Norman
A typical designer will view functionality/usability as the ultimate goal, which often fails in practice because they ignored the other 50% - the emotional, sometimes irrational, side of value perception in products.
This is critically important in industrial design.
For example two emotional things stand out in your story:
a) the metal version seems tougher than plastic, appearing to be stronger aesthetically, even if it doesn't do a better job for the use-case
b) a local person made it, creating a local emotional connection to the products
Right, many software devs have read The Design of Everyday Things  and understand the value of usability. But they didn't read Don Norman's follow up book Emotional Design  which explains that usability is only 50% of the answer - emotion is the other 50%. And emotion often means pretty, or at the minimum a positive UX.
⬐ taericI wouldn't be surprised to find that emotion is actually higher than 50%. Though, I like to gripe about how overblown the study of doors is in that work.
The book "Emotional Design" (http://www.amazon.com/o/asin/0465051367 ) has lots of studies about how people complete tasks better and have better experiences with functionally equivalent products that are well designed. The beginning has a well-cited example of how customers could use Japanese ATMs better when they were made "pretty". Suspecting it was an artifact of the Japanese cultural love of beauty and craftsmanship, they tried it in Israel, which was more culturally hard-nosed and pragmatic. The improvement in usability was even more pronounced.
⬐ UandIblogThank you for taking the time to help me.. Spectacular looking books, I've got my work cut out for me.