Using Emotion to Gain Fanatical Followers

img-01_responsiveIn a marketplace cluttered with content, it has become increasingly difficult to truly connect with your audience and clients. We all want our work, products, and ideas to be remarkable, memorable, and unique, while still being relatable and deeply engaging to users. Many companies and organizations have been looking toward “emotional design” as a way of differentiating their products/services in order to gain the holy grail: fanatical, proselytizing, and loyal followers who not only love your product/service but are 100% behind your mission and are willing to shout it from the rooftops! (In 140 characters or less, of course!)

“Emotional design” is an approach to designing an interactive, online experience that goes far beyond creating websites and applications that are useful and functional. It also seeks to make them delightful, relatable, and even moving. As we spend more and more of our time on computers and devices, we have begun to crave more authentic human interactions with each other and with our technology. This yearning toward preserving the human touch in our websites and applications is the cornerstone of this approach, aiming for users to feel like there is a person, not a machine, on the other side of a website or application.

Emotional design uses psychology and craftsmanship to allow your brand to make a human connection to your users and clients. The goal of this approach is to craft these experiences to elicit positive emotions and be distinctly human, individual, real and honest, all while keeping your business goals in mind. This approach can manifest itself in the visual design aesthetic, in copy messaging, and in the interaction itself (using elements of anticipation, surprise, and gameplay).

So, what are some of our favorite examples of emotional design in practice?

1. Grubhub – – This website to order food online has emotional design baked right into the interface. It makes the experience of ordering food fun. Playful typefaces, bright colors, informal writing tone, and cartoon-like graphics all work together to project a personality that a user can feel comfortable with. There is even a little game you can play every so often to win free food. The end result is a fun, delightful experience that goes beyond the simple task of ordering food. By creating a lasting impression, the experience makes you want to come back again and again. Grubhub brags to having more than 1.6 million loyal users, one of them being me. (I may or may not have ordered food, just to play Yummy Rummy.)

2. Mailchimp – – Mailchimp brings personality to its email marketing service provider by actually creating a persona. This persona, Freddie von Chimpenheimer IV, is a hat-wearing and bag-toting monkey who offers occasional, surprising, witty, and playful jokes without being distracting or getting in the way of the site’s functional purposes. The randomness of receiving these little bits of delight from Freddie uses the elements of anticipation and surprise to endear its users to Freddie and the service.

3. Housing Works – – Housing Works is an inspiring non-profit dedicated to ending AIDS and homelessness. The organization knew that their mission was centered around the people they serve, and that the design of their website should reflect that. The site features smiling faces and personal stories, echoing the warmth and caring nature of the work that Housing Works does. The tightly-cropped photos of the faces give a relatable, human connection and makes users sympathetic to Housing Work’s cause.

4. Mint – – Mint is a cloud-based web service that helps people understand how they are spending their money by aggregating data from their bank accounts and other financial institutions. When Mint launched in 2006, it had many skeptics who doubted that users would trust a free online service and share personal financial data. The designer, Jason Putori, knew design would be crucial to its success. “Trust is a gut feeling more than a rational process, and visual design affects emotions in a very powerful way, perhaps more than any other stimuli.” The result was a very tactile, soft, and welcoming visual site design, which at the time was very new. used rich lighting, shadows, and a refined color palette to make it stand out while endearing trust and gaining an incredibly large user-base. In 2009, Mint was acquired by industry-heavyweight Quicken and proved the skeptics wrong.


  1. Create a brand personality profile for your company that is well matched to the profile of your audience. Is it Sassy? Nurturing? Trustworthy? Goofy? Sarcastic?
  2. Make sure the personality is different from your competitors.
  3. Write content that is well written and relevant to your audience’s needs and interests.
  4. Confirm that the emotional design methods do not interfere with the basic functions of the site/application. It should still be reliable and usable.


To get more ideas or learn more about Emotional Design, please read Designing For Emotion, by Aaron Walter. Share your thoughts with us; we’d love to hear from you!

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