Watch the ultra-short video and then read on for full details.
I am a DiSC-certified facilitator. There are four primary work styles: “D” for dominance, “i” for influence, “S” for steadiness, and “C” for conscientiousness. My own work style is CD, meaning I prefer to focus on data to make a decision and I will generally take action quickly once I have the data analysis in hand.
People with “i” and “S” work styles tend to focus more on the needs of other people and will make decisions based on emotion even with little or no data. And while people with strong “C” and “D” work styles might puzzle over such behaviors, as product innovation professionals, we all know that customers make decisions based on emotion (to some degree or another).
That’s why the theory and practice of Emotional Design is important.
Emotional design is part of specifying product requirements within the product design process. You can learn more about the overall product design process in another post (click here). Designers use the emotions that customers associate with product usage to identify and prioritize product features. When customers express positive emotions about a product, they tend to demonstrate more trust and loyalty to a specific product or brand. This often results in increased revenue.
Three Types of Emotional Design Information
Emotional design is based on the level of emotion and how individuals process information. We call thee levels: visceral, behavioral, and reflective. Let’s take a quick look at what these mean to product innovation.
Visceral Emotional Design
According to Dictionary.com, visceral means “characterized by … instinct rather than intellect”. This is our “animal brain” taking charge. We process certain emotions using a low level of basic motor skills and senses. So, visceral design is associated with physical senses, like the aesthetics or color of a product.
Consider, for example, a red sports car. It appeals to our basic senses and emotions because the styling is generally pleasing and implies speed (something that humans have craved throughout all time). Red as a color, in most societies, is associated with power. Therefore, on a visceral level, a red sports car represents a strong emotional design.
Behavioral Emotional Design
At a mid-level of emotional design are customers’ responses to an innovation according to memory and learning. Thus, the behavioral level of emotional design emphasizes the functionality and usability of a product.
Let’s use the red sports car as an example again. Many sports cars use a manual transmission to increase performance and to give the driver more control. However, very few Americans know how to drive a manual transmission. In order to be satisfied with the design, they would need to learn a new behavior. Yet, a car enthusiast already knows the skill of driving a stick shift and finds the design even more appealing.
Reflective Emotional Design
Finally, the highest level of emotional design is related to self-identity. The reflective level deals with feelings and emotions that determine understanding, reasoning, and interpretation. A wealthy bachelor feels that the red sports car reflects his personality. It is an extension of his “self” by showing power, strength, and speed. On the other hand, a mom with five kids would view the sports car as frivolous and not serving her important tasks of driving to school and soccer practice.
Why is Emotional Design Important?
As indicated, customers rarely buy a product based on data sheets and specifications alone. Emotion – whether explicit or subconscious – plays a role in all of our purchases. I’m not a fan of the color brown, personally, and I prefer bright colors for clothes and home decorations. My visceral emotions drive me away from earth tones. These are deep internal perceptions that have no explanation but are in parts of my subconscious brain (or soul).
Yet, I love learning new things. For my hobbies, I will test and buy products that I think will make my life easier or tasks quicker to finish. I am seeking functionalities for to improve behaviors. I want to use products and services that are easy.
What complicates product innovation at the behavioral and reflective levels is differentiating between a desire to learn and the status quo. Oftentimes, new products that add simplicity or convenience for a customer require a level of learning or new behaviors that require too much change. Customers will only accept a new level of features when the learning curve is a low hurdle.
Lastly, products that make us feel good are those that can command a price premium. (More information on pricing strategies is found here.) Experiences and luxury items appeal to our personal sense of self and identity. Reflective emotional design builds emotions and personality into product development. While basic aesthetics and form can be tested for broad market acceptance, reflective design often focuses on narrower target customer segments who share similar values. You may want to consider a segmentation strategy when your product innovation depends on reflective emotional design.
- Check out where I’m speaking next (click here). You can book me for speaking by contacting me directly or through Innovation Women.
- Get your copy of The Innovation ANSWER Book. Available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle version.
- Reference the new PDMA Body of Knowledge, available at Amazon.
- Do you know your strategy? Is it time to narrow your focus or expand to serve more customers? Join me for the two-part Reset Your Strategy workshop on 18 and 20 August. Register here – special discounts for the unemployed.
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I am inspired by writing, teaching, and coaching. I tackle life with an infusion of rigor, zeal, and faith. It brings me joy to help you build innovation leaders. Teresa Jurgens-Kowal is an experienced innovation professional with a passion for lifelong learning with a PhD in Chemical Engineering and an MBA in Computer and Information Decision Making. My credentials include PE (State of Louisiana), NPDP, PMP®, and CPEM, and I am a DiSC® certified facilitator. Contact me at email@example.com or area code 281 + phone 787-3979 for more information on coaching for entrepreneurs and innovators.