does emotional intelligence make you a better designer?

November 14, 2013

by william choukeir

customers buy on emotion and then justify with logic.
—F.C. Buck Rogers

when you see the image above, what do you feel? those of us who can identify with what the woman is feeling are on the right track.

emotional intelligence does make us better designers. a substantial body of research supports this. better designers understand the relationship between their designs and the resulting emotional experience 1. that’s because the emotional connection to a design is what engages us in the first place 2. then we attempt to rationalize those emotions.

the iPod was not the 1st mp3 player, but it was the 1st to be delightful. —Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO

so what is emotional intelligence really? in short, at the center of emotional intelligence is empathy 3. and empathy allows us to understand another’s feelings, and be able to re-experience them 3. empathy allows us to understand another’s point of view 4.

design thinkers can imagine the world from multiple perspectives—those of end users and customers (current and prospective.) they can imagine solutions that are ‘desirable’. —Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO

unfortunately, some are better than others at using emotions to solve design problems 3. this doesn’t mean that those with lower emotional intelligence are doomed at design. there’s good news for them. it seems, emotional intelligence is a skill that can be learned 3.

there are now proven steps to improve this skill 5. the very first step is knowing what the 8 core emotions are. all remaining emotions are a mix of those core emotions 6. each emotion is a button. the more we can identify the nuances between emotions we’re feeling, the better we can trigger them through our designs.

knowing which button to press might not make our job easier. but it sure helps us identify what’s important from all the noise.

you might look at the image of the woman above and feel something negative. or you might notice a more specific emotion, like sadness. if you’re more emotionally aware, you might identify more subtle emotions like disappointmentshameangerremorse and, just maybe, hope. if you identified those more subtle emotions, then you’re on the right track.

this post is from ‘edition 05’ of our ‘inspirations newsletter’. subscribe below to receive these regular editions by email. every edition also includes ACAD 3D models of chairs, stools, tables, and sofas, exclusive to our subscribers. subscribe below:

1• Chitturi, R. Raghunathan, R. & Mahajan, V. (2008). Delight by design: The role of hedonic versus utilitarian benefits. Journal of Marketing, 72-73,
2• Brown, T. (2008). Harvard Business Review: Design thinking, 84.
3• Salovey, P. Yale University. Mayer D., J. University of New Hampshire. (1990) Emotional intelligence. Baywood Publishing Co. Inc.
4• Hogan, R. (1969). Development of an empathy scale. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology. 33.
5• Emotional competence framework, Consortium for research on emotional intelligence in organizations. (1998).
6•  Plutnik, R. (1980). A general psychoevolutionary theory of emotion, in emotion: theory, research, and experience, Volume 1. Academic press, NY. 3-33.

2 Responses to “does emotional intelligence make you a better designer?”

  1. […] Better designers understand the relationship between their designs and the resulting emotional experience 1. […]

  2. […] psychology, this is called ‘affect’: when something has an emotional impact on you [2]—not to be confused with ‘effect’. affect influences thinking, which in […]

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