emotional design

A Guide To Emotional Graphic Design or Emotional Design

One day you come across an animal welfare poster in your neighborhood displaying a picture of stranded cats and dogs. The image strikes a chord with you, leaving you feeling saddened, and as you make your way home, you find yourself still pondering it. This personal experience underscores the omnipresence of emotional design in our surroundings. Often, we overlook the deliberate intent behind a particular poster, which aims to influence, connect, and inform us.

However, the question remains: why do certain designs resonate with people while others fall flat? This is where the concept of emotional graphic design comes into play.  

In this article, we will be:

  • Delving into the realm of emotional graphic designs
  • Exploring effective strategies for creating emotional designs
  • Examining the significance of behavioral design



  • Emotional design employs unique strategies to create and trigger an emotional experience for viewers through particular designs.
  • This approach serves as a marketing technique utilized by brands to foster relationships between consumers and themselves.
  • Brands use emotional design by inducing imagery, colors, design, and visuals that directly influence the decisions, thoughts, and behaviors of audiences.


For brand managers and designers, emotional design can serve as a turning point, propelling their brand to new heights. In this guide, I’ve compiled everything you need to know about emotional graphic design.

What is Emotional Design?

what is emotional design?

If you’ve always viewed graphic design as merely a simple practice or even just a hobby, it’s essential to recognize that it encompasses much more.

It transcends mere entertainment.

All designers aim to create designs that serve the purpose of informing, entertaining, and influencing viewers.

In the realm of brand awareness, establishing a brand identity that readily connects with the audience is crucial, whether through products or marketing strategies. Emotional design can be perceived as both a marketing concept and a design approach, focusing on how designs can evoke specific intended emotions in viewers. This emotional resonance can then drive viewers to take specific actions and form particular associations.

Emotional design is characterized by several key attributes:

  • Clear and understandable: The design delivers a simple message that can be easily comprehended.
  • Memorable: These designs tend to linger in the mind for extended periods and are instantly recognizable.
  • Visually appealing: In different designs, emotions play a meaningful and successful part. Visually appealing design can tap into your audience’s attention within seconds.
  • Enjoyable: Such designs are not only visually attractive but also enjoyable to revisit.
  • Personal: Emotional design also taps into sincere emotions, fostering a personal connection.

While emotional design may seem straightforward, mastering the art of influencing your target customers’ emotions requires practice. Below are some tips to help you create the perfect emotional design.

Creating Emotional Graphic Design

Don Norman's Three Levels of Design: it is reflective, behavioral and visceral.

To capture the attention of your target consumers isn’t easy; you can’t simply woo them into trusting your brand. Mastering the art of emotional design begins with understanding Don Norman’s three levels of design.

Donald Norman’s Three Level Of Design

Donald Norman, the director of the Design Lab, has conducted extensive research on emotional design, identifying three types of cognitive responses from users reacting to well-designed emotional designs.

  1. Visceral: This represents the audience’s immediate and automatic response to a design.
  2. Behavioral: This encompasses an audience’s subconscious evaluation of a design’s ability to help them achieve their goals.
  3. Reflective: This pertains to a user’s conscious judgment of a design’s usefulness and value


Emotional Marketing and Graphic Design

Now that you understand how the audience perceives emotional design, let’s focus on the features you need to emphasize to create an emotional design.

1. Understanding Your Target Audience

understand your target audience

Understanding your target audience is crucial before attempting to create an emotional connection with them through design. By delving into their emotions, you gain insight into their emotional capacity, enabling you to focus on specific emotions in your design process.

To pinpoint the right emotion, consider what you want your customers to feel when they encounter your design.

Is it

  • Admiration
  • Adoration
  • Aesthetic Appreciation
  • Amusement
  • Anxiety
  • Awe
  • Awkwardness
  • Boredom
  • Calmness
  • Confusion
  • Craving
  • Disgust
  • Empathetic pain
  • Entrancement
  • Excitement
  • Fear
  • Horror
  • Interest
  • Joy
  • Nostalgia
  • Romance
  • Sadness
  • Satisfaction
  • Sexual desire
  • Sympathy
  • Triumph

This understanding can guide you in developing logos, packaging, or other design initiatives that hone in on a single, specific emotion. For instance, incorporating a curious element into a logo design unrelated to your brand can create a moment of intrigue for your audience, making it memorable.

2. Color and Shape

Emotional design's colors and shapes

Color is often strongly associated with emotions. For instance, blue is commonly linked with reliability, trust, and confidence, while bright yellow signifies fun, warmth, and satisfaction. To convey an emotional message effectively, it’s crucial to select color harmonies and shapes that reflect the desired emotion.

The idea of color psychology is that color can make us feel more emotional than any other aspect of design. To convey emotions, choose a color that the audience feels has a significant role in their life. Make sure the color doesn’t carry any negative emotion, and the design should also conduct user research.

Warm colors, if done well, create a minimalist, familiar look; this choice can reinforce the intended message across various mediums. Similar to color, shapes can also evoke past memories and evoke emotional reactions. For instance, like color, sharp, pointy triangles may create a sense of discomfort or resemble blades, symbolizing precision. In the context of an online gift company, incorporating purple can enrich this visual strategy.

3. Imagery for Emotional Marketing

imagery for emotional design

As you all know, images are the strongest tool for communicating emotion. When you incorporate the right image that suits the overall tone and mood, it can capture the attention of your ideal customers effectively. The imagery should be of high quality to have a visual impact.

You can add photos in a visual design that carry a mini-story within themselves, which can be entertaining to the audience and user behavior.

4. Typography

Emotional typography

You might not be surprised, but the truth is that fonts evoke emotions, too. Some fonts exude cuteness and childishness, making them attractive to audiences who are kids. Others shout a modern vibe, suitable for tattoos and graffiti.

In emotional graphic design, fonts are used to set the tone and character that appeals to a specific target crowd. Subtle handwriting scripts can exhibit elegance, while bold fonts convey strength and confidence. The idea of showcasing your emotions through printed texts can be easily grasped by viewers.

5. Style of UX Design

UX Design - emotional design

For stylizing your designs, there are many avenues to explore. You can utilize icons and symbols to great effect. For instance, a heart shape can easily convey the emotion of love. In today’s digital age, people often rely on emojis to express their feelings rather than describing them.

There are millions of symbolic icons available, each with its associated meaning and certain emotions, which can efficiently convey a story.

Additionally, textures and patterns can be subtly incorporated into designs to express your intentions. These elements can help you set the scene and convey an emotional message. By carefully selecting these components, you lay the foundation for your design to connect with emotions in a much stronger manner.

Three Tips For Designers To Enhance Emotional Design

Here are the top pro tips to enhance your design according to how users feel.

1. Visual Appeal

First tip is visual appeal

Visual appeal is paramount when aiming to connect with the audience through branding emotionally. It’s essential to focus on making the design visually appealing by achieving balance and calmness in the design space. This entails minimal use of colors, typography, and white space, all of which contribute to the overall aesthetic. Cluttered designs can result in informational overload for the audience, hindering any potential connection or emotional bond. Therefore, prioritizing visual harmony is key to creating an engaging and impactful design.

2. Storytelling

Second tip is Storytelling

A compelling story has the power to evoke emotions within the audience. When building your brand persona, it’s crucial to focus on personality and tone to set yourself apart. Consider what your brand provides and how you deliver it. Connecting with your audience involves telling an emotionally captivating backstory that emphasizes your unique selling proposition (USP). This can shape your audience’s perception and make them feel as if your brand is a character and part of your brand’s story.

There are three ways to incorporate storytelling into your design:

  • Narrative-driven user journeys: You can create a narrative around the user journey, helping users understand the brand’s products or services in a meaningful way.
  • Interactive storytelling: This involves interactive elements such as videos, illustrations, animation, and character building. This immersive experience allows viewers to engage with your brand more deeply.
  • Brand storytelling: This focuses on how your brand’s story resonates with users on an emotional level by discussing your vision, aims, and objectives.

3. Personalization

Third tip is personalization

You’re familiar with how Instagram’s content is curated based on users’ personal interests, creating a personalized experience. Similarly, by crafting content that resonates with the user’s own personal experiences, you can elicit a more positive response from the audience. Utilize the aesthetics of the entire design to personalize the content, appealing directly to the user experience.

Brands Use Behavioural Design To Influence

If you’ve read this far, you now grasp the concept of psychology in design, which enables viewers to connect with a brand. This concept is also known as the behavioral design of brands, used to influence viewers and evoke emotions that lead to a deeper connection with the brand. Skilled designers play a crucial role in emotionally connecting with the audience. They can leverage various design elements such as color, form, sound, texture, and typography to enhance the viewer experience.

The emotional design proves to be an effective tool for every brand to establish its personality and increase brand retention. Stimulating positive emotional responses from viewers can enhance trust in your brand. So, what are you waiting for? Utilize this technique and start designing now to evoke the right emotions from your audience and create a positive overall experience.


1. What is emotive design?

An emotive design focuses on understanding the current emotions of your customers and shaping how you want them to feel when interacting with your brand. Most brands aim to fulfill their customers’ needs with essential products or exceptional services. The emotive design strives to create experiences that resonate deeply with customers, evoking specific emotions and fostering strong connections between the brand and its audience.

2. How do you create an emotional graphic design?

Emotional design is about making designs that make people feel something good when they use it. Designers try to connect with users on three levels: how things look, how they work, and what they make people think about. By creating visuals that really grab people’s attention and make them feel positive, designers hope to give users a great experience.

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