Presenter(s):  Patricia Palmer

Date-Time:  August 15, 2019 @ 1:40 PM

Key Takeaways

Emotions are powerful – they help people to connect, they can change one’s perspective, and they dominate decision making.  Creating storylines mindful of emotion and connection elevate user curiosity, engagement, and connection toward a product.  Work with the power of three – content, interactions, and visuals – to create amazing experiences.


Patricia Palmer started her presentation by recalling how she was taught as a child that emotion is a sign of weakness.  To the contrary, her experience and observations in time demonstrated the exact opposite:  emotions are not weakness, they are powerful.  Her presentation covered the “why, how, and what” to think about when creating experiences that embrace emotion, make connections, build confidence, and encourage engagement.

She underscored why emotions matter.  They affect our decision-making and even memory.  They connect people to places and things.  By tapping into what people feel about a product, you can make that product more relatable.  With greater connection to a product, people become more engaged and curious.

She played the YouTube video, “The Power of Words A girl Changed a BLIND man Day Amazing [sic].”  The video starts with an old man sitting alongside an outdoor metropolitan walkway with a hand written cardboard sign that essentially read, “I’m blind, please help.” No one noticed or left coins in his tin cup until a young woman stopped and rewrote his sign.  Suddenly, coins from passersby began pouring in.  What did she write on the new sign?  “It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it.”  Her rewrite used emotion.

Palmer challenged the audience to think about that moment they displayed all their work on a wall or a time they felt anxiety.  Her point: emotion helps us remember things.  They can change one’s perspective, and they dominate decision making.

Interestingly, the way a company buys product is through fact.  But a recent study showed how ads that leverage emotional reaction realized a substantial bump in sales.

So, how do you get emotional?

Identify the moment that matters – the point in the experience that makes someone pause and think.

Consider the emotions the user may feel in each moment.  Are they confused, curious, or skeptical? Then think about how to counter the emotion.  For example, if a user is likely to be skeptical, counter with ways to boost confidence.

Brainstorm what is needed to support the desired emotion in each moment.  Focus on the emotional shift, the emotions that matter – in other words, what does this product do for me (the user)?  Be honest.

What does emotional design look like?

Palmer answered the question by sharing the way she challenged her team with online content that used a typical product approach: factual design, description, not mindful of emotion.  The problem was that customers found the content boring.  They were confused or skeptical and skipped important parts of the storyline.   She challenged her team to incorporate emotion.  She deliberately required them to do this quickly (in minutes) to avoid labored contemplation.  After a couple rounds, her team produced a redesign that was more streamlined, easier to navigate, and mindful of emotional responses.  They significantly enhanced customer connection with the product and adherence to the intended storyline.

A couple key takeaways from the exercise were to:  invite the customer in using a storyline mindful of emotion and be clear (up front) about what you want them to do or experience.

She talked about how to work with the power of three – content, interactions, and visuals – to create amazing user experiences.

Words (content) fuel emotions.  [Recall the YouTube video]

Interactions bring comfort and delight to user experiences.  Make it comfortable to move through the storyline.  Eliminate any jarring effects in user interactions.   Keep the user oriented – here is where you are – through effective use of smooth transitions.  Find the moment in the experience when you can move the emotion along by giving the user little cues that orient and propel, keeping them happy, confident, and worry free.  Do this through the lens of emotion that makes a product relatable.

Visuals – hierarchy, content, white space, etc. – bring cohesion to the story.  For example, adding a visual (such as an image of a well-known public figure to words or phrases they’re associated with) makes content pop.  The product becomes more readable, and users engage with greater connection to the product.


One person asked about emotions in an enterprise, like Stibo.  In response, Palmer observed that Stibo did a good job with interactions on screen, as they gave the user a feeling of delight that they were on track, or in the right spot.  She emphasized if there is anything you can do to offer a customer delight, do so.  For example, use “checks” – a small but effective visual cue that signals success.

Another asked about cognitive load.  Palmer referenced her studies with Mark Mulvey.  They saw positive lift with emotional design.  People have this moment when they stop [and think].  While there are no hard numbers yet, she summarized how a website redesigned for free-flowing, minimal cognitive load yielded customer satisfaction that was through the roof.