The value of Emotional Design


How to create a lasting emotional bond through Emotional Design between a product and its consumer?

In this article, we will offer a brief description of what emotional design is, and which advantages it brings when it is integrated in product design.

We all have an object that we cherish. It can be a gift, an object we have inherited, something we worked hard in order to be able to get, a product that accompanied us during a trip, an artifact that has a memorable story, a family heirloom, and everything in between. To be put in simple terms, these types of objects can be characterized by the fact that their owners feel very attached to them.

Product-attachment is a type of very powerful and impactful consumer behavior that doesn't happen by chance. In fact, it can be premeditated and anticipated. The research has shown that the earlier it is thought out in the design phase, the stronger the impact will be.

How do we understand and  master the potential of product attachment early on in the design ideation phase?

This article aims to explain what attachment is by examining its uses and consequences. Our goal is to help designers better understand the importance of product-attachment for brands and companies, both from an economic as well as environmental standpoint. 

Emotional design is a design approach that aims to create products, interfaces, or experiences that elicit positive responses, resulting in emotional attachment from its users. It is about considering the emotions of users as an essential and impactful component which should be taken into account when designing a product. Understanding the end-user’s emotional response to an artifact helps designers to empathize with their users, to anticipate their emotional reactions, and to integrate elements which promote positive emotions consciously into their design.

What are the benefits of emotional design for brands and their consumers?

  • Creating memorable experiences by arousing positive emotions in users and strengthening attachment to a brand or product. This can also help make a product more timeless by staying relevant and in-fashion for multiple decades.
  • Improving user satisfaction so that they feel more happy and content while using a product or service.
  • Strengthening customer loyalty and the emotional attachment they have to a brand or product, thereby increasing their likelihood to repurchase or recommend.
  • Differentiating a product from its competitors. A well-crafted emotional design can help a product stand out from its competitors by having its own identity or personality and recognizable flair.

Promoting the adoption of sustainable behaviors among consumers by highlighting the environmental and social benefits of products and by generating positive feelings (e.g. pride) associated with these benefits.

Doodle about the benefits of emotional design

How can emotional design strengthen the product-consumer relationship?

Emotional design can strengthen consumers' attachment to a product by creating an aesthetically-pleasing and satisfyingly-functional design that reflects brand values and responds to consumer needs in innovative ways.For example, by offering durable and sustainable materials, or by displaying colors and shapes that evoke positive emotions, the design can thus feature a number of favorable elements so that the user is more inclined to become attached.

In addition, emotional design can promote consumer engagement by offering complimentary services, such as tips and tricks to use the product optimally, or loyalty programs or online communities to exchange with other users. These services allow consumers to appropriate the product in a unique way, thereby helping to strengthen their emotional attachment.

Additionally, emotional design can promote brand transparency and authenticity by clearly communicating the product's environmental attributes and highlighting the brand's efforts to reduce its environmental impact. By clearly explaining the benefits for consumers, emotional design can foster a relationship of trust and loyalty.

Finally, emotional design can offer product personalization, allowing consumers to choose options that match their lifestyle and preferences. This personalization allows consumers to feel in control and confident, helping to reinforce their attachment.

A graphic to describe the emotional design and product consumer relationship

However, how can the elements and features mentioned above be concretely integrated into products?

Let's take a look at some examples of products that have successfully incorporated emotional design elements and by consequence, have impacted our behavior and attachment to them.

For example, we can mention reusable water bottles made of stainless steel: these bottles often have attractive and colorful designs that make them pleasant to use. The attachment to these objects comes from their variety of personalization and the fact that they follow us everywhere. Their durability is highlighted by their ability to be reused many times, thus reducing the amount of waste produced. The consumer feels that the product has honestly and transparently communicated its value (more expensive but much more durable), and is therefore satisfied and happy with the deal.

We can also mention furniture made of noble or durable materials. The ability of some pieces of furniture to last for many years reduces the need for frequent replacement and can create attachment through transmission. For example, an object or accessory that has been in the family for several generations gives it a special status: the artifact is considered robust, meaningful, or valuable. In that sense, the consumer is compelled to want to repair and conserve instead of throwing away and replacing.

But then, how can designers imagine and anticipate the users’ reaction towards a product within the early phases of the ideation process?

The principles and tools of emotional design

To create a connection which can sustain the passage of time with a product, one of the most effective techniques is to use storytelling and history to bring them to life.

By integrating a story into the design of a product, one can create a deeper and more meaningful user experience. Stories help give meaning and significance to the product, and elicit an emotional response from users. Telling the story of the manufacturing process or the source of the materials used, for example, can instill a sense of pride and connection with the product.

Stories can also help build community around the product, bringing users together around a common story. By creating a shared story, we can strengthen the emotional attachment of users to the product and encourage more sustainable behavior over time.

Narrative and story are key elements of emotional design. By using these techniques, we can create durable products that are just a simple object, but have meaning and value for users.

A graphic about the tools to promote emotional design

To create an emotional connection, it is necessary to utilize one of the most exhaustive tools in this field: EDD9 or "Emotional Durability Design Nine". 

It is a design tool that was developed to help designers create emotionally lasting products. The tool consists of nine strategies that aim to strengthen users' attachment to products, anticipating and meeting their long-term emotional needs.

The nine strategies are:

  1. Reducing environmental impact
  2. The use of durable and quality materials
  3. The integration of personalization elements
  4. Promoting social interaction
  5. The creation of a strong visual identity
  6. The design of attractive and reusable packaging
  7. The creation of memorable memories
  8. The association of the product with positive values
  9. The creation of a story or narrative around the product.

More concretely, these strategies can be used in the form of re-iterated questions, namely:

How can the product make the user reflect on how it is used?

How can the product celebrate imperfections?

How can the product react to and interact with the environment in which it is implemented?

How can the experience create surprise or generate a bit of magic?

How can we promote autonomous discoveries through the use of the product?

Or, how can one imagine a design for multiple lifetimes?


A graphic about emotional durability design nice

There are more than thirty iteration opportunities as mentioned above which are grouped under the 9 strategies of the EDD9 tool. By using these strategies, designers can create products that withstand the harsh test of time and elicit positive emotions in users over an extended duration.

There are a multitude of different products that have utilized the concept of emotional attachment in different ways. Going through metaphors, imagination, and anticipation of needs, a specific and intimate dialogue is created between the product and its user, making them increasingly responsible for their choices.


Let's start  by looking at the Alessi Bird kettle. This peculiar product has the shape of a small bird perched on a branch which ‘whistles” when the water comes to a boil.

Alessi bird kettle family to introduce emotional design
@Alessi Bird Kettle

The kettle combines obvious functionality with an aesthetic design that arouses emotion and attracts attention. The iconic spout detail alludes to the “song” of the bird when the temperature of the beverage is ready for consumption. The Alessi Bird Kettle has been a great example of a popular collector's item for years due to its unique design and functionality.


Philips Hue is a range of smart lighting systems that allows users to control and personalize the mood of their home using a mobile app.

Image of the Philips Hue Smart Lighting systems
@Philips Hue

The research phase allowed the Philips Hue design team to focus on the emotions and experiences of users rather than the technical features of the product. They studied users' reactions to light and used this information to create personalized lighting setups that meet their emotional needs.

Thanks to this approach, Philips Hue has become a product that offers more than just smart lighting, it offers an emotional experience that can be adapted according to the individual needs of each user. The user interface has been simplified to allow for easy lighting customization, and the addition of features such as dynamic lighting and synchronization with music and movies has heightened the emotional experience for users.

This research into emotional design has also helped to reinforce the brand perception of Philips Hue as a leader in smart lighting. By providing a unique and tailored user experience, Philips Hue has had a positive impact on customer loyalty and their willingness to recommend the brand to others. Ultimately, the emotional design pursuit for Philips Hue has allowed the brand to stand out in a competitive market by delivering a memorable user experience that goes beyond the product's technical features.


Another type of product example that has created a successful and powerful bond with its users is Tamagotchi.

First of all, they were one of the first examples of interactive electronic toys that children could take with them everywhere. Tamagotchis have been marketed as virtual pets, providing children with an innovative and original play experience. Children could feed, clean, and play with their Tamagotchis, learning to care for them as they grew.

Picture of a Tamagotchi in hand

Tamagotchis generated an emotional attachment within the children who owned them, making them feel responsible and invested in their well-being. This emotional aspect contributed to the popularity of these toys and their status as a cultural phenomenon of the 90s.


It is interesting to note that research is moving in the direction of integrating living organisms into designs in order to generate empathy and ultimately build a relationship with inert objects.

The scientific study "Integrating Living Organisms in Devices to Implement Care-based Interactions" proposes integrating living organisms into technological devices to improve their ability to understand and meet user needs. This approach has promising potential for improving empathy and care in technological interactions.

The object used in this study is a watch that reads the time and the heart rate.The watch in question incorporates a living organism called a "blob", a Physarum polycephalum, known for its rapid growth and its ability to find its way through a labyrinth. When the user correctly feeds the blob with water and oats, it closes an electrical circuit that activates the watch's heart rate monitoring function. If the user neglects the blob, it simply falls into a dormant state and can be reactivated when fed again, even several months later.

Bracelet with living organims inside
@Uchicago News

People who have tested this watch have testified that they grew attached to it and felt sadness when they were asked to stop caring for their blob. This experiment shows that by modifying the design of objects to incorporate living organisms, it is possible to instill feelings of empathy and responsibility for objects, thus encouraging people to care for and repair them rather than throw them away. However, this approach also raises ethical and practical questions regarding the well-being of living organisms and the safety of technological interactions.

These different cases show how the principles of emotional design can be applied to a variety of industrial design products to create lasting user experiences, yet implementing this strategy comes with some hurdles.

Among the challenges to overcome to create a lasting emotional connection with consumers, we can find:

  • Understanding user needs and motivations in order to offer them relevant and useful products and services. For this it is necessary to identify and understand their way of life, their aspirations and their preferences.
  • Adapting to changes in consumer expectations and behaviors by listening to their feedback and reinventing ourselves regularly to remain relevant.

Offering a product that brings significant added value and a memorable user experience for the consumer. In other words, you have to differentiate yourself from the competition by having a unique value proposition that meets customer expectations and reflects the brand's identity.


In conclusion, brands that manage to create a strong emotional bond with their consumers are proven to have a better chance of retaining them and establishing themselves in an increasingly competitive market.

By consequence, this also contributes to making the brands and their products more durable from  a sustainable standpoint.

Brands must therefore take into account the importance of emotion in the process of design, purchase and consumption, by offering memorable user experiences, innovative and environmentally friendly products, and authentic and transparent communication which reflects the values of the brand.

By integrating emotion into your development strategy, brands can contribute to creating a more sustainable world, while meeting consumer expectations in terms of aesthetics, functionality and meaning.