empathy-photo-by-penina-finger

This post contains a few “supplemental notes” to my article about the topic on Webdesigner Depot. I’ve tried to make it work as a standalone piece, but you may want to check that out first (click here).

When I was asked to write something on the topic, I chose to steer as far as possible from the standard “120 Incredible Examples of Emotion in Design”. The result was a collection of practical approaches to tapping emotion (yours, mine and theirs) for better design. Anyone who cares about this dimension of design (and apparently there are lots of people who do—the post has been popular) responded enthusiastically.

There are, however, a couple of things I keep wishing I could add or clarify on that WDD piece.

For one thing, this is so not just about websites. As much as I understand the need to choose a title for the web design readership, I really dislike it (my editor probably knows and understands this, right WDD?). Authentic emotional engagement is a requirement for any aspect of design, beyond the web, beyond print.

That’s why some time was spent differentiating emotional engagement from manipulation, its freeloader cousin. It’s important to add that use of the tactic assumes we actually have control over other human beings. As Abe said, maybe some of them, all of the time, and all of them, some of the time. But to grow a sustainable business, the foundation needs to be solid and real.

In writing the article, I was most excited about the extraordinary role played by empathy—that time and space where you allow yourself to be moved by someone else’s feelings. As a business owner, this means suspending any cynicism you may harbor about your market. As a designer, the same goes for your clients—even the cynical ones. It can’t be overstated that beyond seeing and identifying the emotions and emotional drives of buyers and sellers, there is also letting those emotions in. Feeling them, and honoring them enough to be moved.

There are some really good books about how and where emotion relates to design. If you’re curious, you may want to start with Trevor van Gorp and Edie Adams’ Design for Emotion and Susan Weinschenk’s indispensable 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People.

Finally, here’s a little moment in someone’s life to help you practice letting your guard down. Tap into your experience to create something amazing, and hopefully have a good day, too (credit: Jukin Video):

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