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GR M10 Module 5: Should Design Express Emotions?

>>There is hardly a single designed objectfrom automobile to zigguratthat does

not have an emotional root. While emotion is considered a shaky foundation on which
to build a profession, there is really no such thing as purely objective design. <<
>>Reducing all graphic design to a single typeface or neutral color may be fine for
supermarket register receipts, but it removes the joy of experiencing the sensory
delights of design. Even the most high-minded design must give some form of plea-
sure, if only for an instant. And speaking of forms who doesnt get highly emotional
(read as frustrated, sad, or mad) when an IRS or insurance form is so unfriendly as to
make life more difficult than it need be. << Steven Heller
As we have seen so far, design can communicate messages; it can be beautiful or
ugly, realistic or abstract. However, for some people, the most important issue in de-
sign is that it brings emotional reactions in the viewers by evoking targeted emotions
through their design. In fact, it is impossible to make or appreciate graphic, product,
industrial and even architectural design without acknowledging the pleasure and
excitement or anxiety and rage found in experiences stimulated by design. This is an
(1) important feature, because emotions influence behavior: they play an essential role
in decision making, perception, learning, and more...they influence the very mecha-
nisms of rational thinking. Next, we will take a look at how designers target emotions
(2) through the use of the shapes and color.

The Importance of Color

Color has a significant role in influencing emotions. This has been exploited in adver-
tising for years, with colors used to encourage particular associations with products.
Pink, representing softness and gentleness, is used for baby and bath products while
orange, symbolizing potency, power and vigor, is frequently used in the packaging of
health products and vitamins, protein-packed snacks, energy-giving drinks, and oven
Color conveys meanings in two primary ways: natural associations and psychological
symbolism. For example, a soft shade of blue triggers associations with the sky and
a sense of calm. Also, the fact that green is the color of vegetation can be considered
a universal and timeless association. Greens associations with nature communicate
growth, fruitfulness, freshness and ecology. On the other hand, green may also be
symbolic of good luck, money and greed all of which have nothing to do with
green plants.
(3) The Colors of Calm
Cool colors tend to have a calming effect. At one end of the spectrum they are cold,
impersonal, antiseptic colors. At the other end the cool colors are comforting and
(4) nurturing. Blue, green, and the neutrals white, gray, and silver are examples of cool
In nature blue is water and green is plant life - a natural, life-sustaining duo. Combine
blues and greens for natural, watery color palettes. Heat up a too cool color palette
with a dash of warm colors such as red or orange. If you want warmth with just a blue
palette, choose deeper blues with a touch of red but not quite purple or almost black
deep navy blues.
Cool colors appear smaller than warm colors and they visually recede on the page so
red can visually overpower and stand out over blue even if used in equal amounts.(1)(2)
The Colors of Excitement
Warm colors rev us up and get us going. The warmth of red, yellow, or orange can cre-
ate excitement or even anger. Warm colors convey emotions from simple optimism to
strong violence. The neutrals of black and brown also carry warm attributes.
In nature, warm colors represent change as in the changing of the seasons or the erup-
tion of a volcano. Tone down the strong emotions of a warm palette with some soothing
cool or neutral colors or by using the lighter side of the warm palette such as pinks,
pale yellows, and peach.
(5) Warm colors appear larger than cool colors so red can visually overpower blue even if
used in equal amounts. Warm colors appear closer while their cool counterparts visually
recede on the page.(3)(4)
The Colors of Intrigue
Colors with attributes from both the warm and cool colors can calm and excite. These
are colors derived from a mix of a cool and warm color such as blue and red or blue
and yellow.
A cool blue and a warm red combine to create deep purples and pale lavenders. To a
lesser extent, shades of green, especially turquoise and teal, also have both the warm-
ing and cooling effects born of warm yellow and cool blue. Some light neutrals such
as cream, pale beige, and taupe evoke some of the same warm and cool feelings of
purples and greens. (5)
The Colors of Unity
The neutral colors of black, white, silver, gray, and brown make good backgrounds,
serve to unify diverse color palettes, and also often stand alone as the only or primary
focus of a design.
Neutral colors help to put the focus on other colors or serve to tone down colors that
might otherwise be overpowering on their own. To some extent blacks, browns, tans,
gelds, and beige colors are considered warm. While white, ivory, silver, and gray are
somewhat cooler colors. (6)
*Kuler is an online intuitive interface that enables you to quickly explore a great range
of color schemes as well as download, create and share.
( (7)

The Importance of Shapes

There is also evidence of a relationship between shape and emotion. Lundholm has
found that most of his subjects tended to represent the meaning of sadness by lines
directed downward from left to right, and of gayness by lines that were horizontal or
directed up from left to right. Anger was represented by irregular, sharp-angled and
jagged lines; graveness and idleness by gently curving or relatively straight lines. In
(7) our culture, acute angles are more tense than right angles or curves, crowded compo-
sitions are more excited than ones with a great deal of empty space. In his develop-
mental explanation, he states:
...Perhaps shapes express because they remind us of postures associated with par-
ticular moods...droopy forms look like the sagging posture associated with sadness.
We respond to the shapes emotionally. They hold for us their own expressive mean-
ing and character. Most of us read the circle of the sun as warmth and protection. The
same feelings are associated with all kinds of curvy forms. They seem calm, pacific,
assured, sensuously relaxed, and optimistic.
The square can be read as dull, straightforward, honest, lacking imagination, stable,
less natural than the circle.
The triangle is interpreted as action, agitation, conflict, tension, and aspiration. The
most famous triangles are probably the Pyramids of Egypt. The pointed, sharp, and
jagged edges suggest anguish, danger, and antagonism; by association with fire, splin-
ters, thorns, arrowheads, twisted metal.
In the same way the connection between shapes and our emotions is utilized in the
advertising industry. The use of basic shapes, and their appeal, is most obvious in
perfume ads and bottle designs. Womens ads tend to use all three shapes, thereby
portraying how, according to society, women are more emotional and subject to a
greater variety of feelings. The bottles that hold womens perfume are generally more
oriented to curvy, circular, and triangular shapes. The triangular bottle implies risk,
challenge, and excitement. (8) The curves may be reflecting the actual body, but it also
(9) implies a feeling of warmth, continuity, and security. (9) The bottles that tend to hold
cologne are generally square in shape. They are bigger and appear more solid. This
shape implies strength, honesty and reliability. They are not as alluring and enticing
as womens bottles. Today, the shapes do not portray the stereotypes that women and
men used to hold in our society. (10) (11)
How would you like your users to feel?
Of course, all these elements are important. But mounting evidence suggests that how
you make your users feel is as crucial as what you tell them. So, if you want your
users to feel positive about your message, and motivated about responding to it, youll
need to understand which elements of your design can affect the mood of your audi-
ence. Here is the checklist provided by psychologist Ann Ellis (http://www.sitepoint.
(10) com/article/foster-feel-good-factor) that could help you target specific emotions
through your design:
Pleasant: Try using blue, blue-green, green, red-purple, purple or purple-blue, with
gently curving or relatively straight lines.
Happy and positive: Be generous with the blue, green and pink; try directing their gaze
upwards from left to right, avoid sharp angles.
Stimulated: Try green-yellow (but see unpleasant below), blue-green, and green
Able to concentrate for improved learning and performance: Use blue tones;
Initially strong, ready for action in short bursts: Try lots of red!
Excited, upbeat, energetic: Use orange, strong red (not too much -- see uncomfort-
(11) able below)
Soothed, calmed, relaxed, poised for positive action: Color with baby pink, soft green
Soothed, calmed, relaxed, lulled into a stupor: Use baby blue, purple-blue, yellow-red
Caring, relaxed, with mental clarity, and vigor: Use soft blues, pinks, greens;
Hopefully, you dont want to produce negative feelings in your users. But you might
want to check your site for the following:
Sad, unhappy: Results from large chunks of black; lines directed downwards from left
to right
Angry: Produced by large expanses of black; irregular, sharp-angled and jagged lines
(12) Unpleasant: Generated by yellow and green-yellow hues
Uncomfortable: Created by strong reds

From Form Follows Function to Form Follows Emotion

Form follows function is a principle associated with Modern Architecture and Industrial
Design in the 20th Century. Design is purpose driven. Good design supports function to
the fullest extent. Its a basic rule and a principle every designer lives by.
The phrase or dictum, was made popular by American Architect, Louis Henri Sullivan.
The phrase was also effectively adopted by the designers of the Bauhaus and applied
to the production of everyday objects like chairs, bed frames and other furniture and
objects they designed. Some of those forms were refined to such an extreme that they
(13) eventually ended up unusable, but generally the Bauhaus still constructively influences
the look, feel and function of consumer goods down to the present day. Modernism at-
tempted to eliminate sentimental emotionalism from art and design and replace it with
cleanliness and clarity. In his essay/manifesto entitled Ornament and Crime written in
1908, Adolph Loos repudiated the florid style of the Vienna Secession (12), and pro-
moted the simplicity of straight lines and clear planar walls and windows (13)
Kandinskys Questionnaire
Kandinsky was particularly interested in the relationship between color and form, and
he wanted to explore it systematically to establish fundamental laws of correspondence
of basic colors and forms. In 1923 Kandinsky circulated a questionnaire at the Bauhaus
asking respondents to fill in the triangle, square and circle with the primary colors. He
hoped to discover a universal correspondence between form and color embodied in the
equation triangle-yellow, circle-blue and square-red. (14)
Kandinsky achieved remarkable consensus with his questionnaire, in part because oth-
ers at school supported his theoretical ideal. The equation inspired numerous projects
in the Bauhaus in the early 20s, but in later years Kandinskys fascination with this uto-
pian aestheticism has been dismissed. While few designers today would argue for the
universal validity of triangle-yellow, circle-blue and square-red, the attempt to identify
the grammar and elements of a perceptually based Language of Vision has informed
modernist design education since the 40s.
Form Follows Emotion
The Bauhaus got it absolutely wrong. Form does not follow function. Form follows
emotion! Luigi Colani
Examples by: Norman McLaren (15), Joshua Davis (16) and John Maeda (17)
Emotion has been substituted in the place of function in many instances by the many
designers of today. Frog Design, the creation of Hartmut Esslinger, was one of the
first design studios who took Emotional Design seriously. From Frogs earlier work for
Apple to the cutting edge consumer product designs they do for their clients today,
they maintain the value of emotion.
When I looked at Sullivans complete quote
It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical
and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, of all true manifes-
tations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that life is recognizable in its expression,
that form ever follows function. This is the law.
(15) .....I always felt that form follows function was a simplistic and misunderstood
reduction of Sullivans wider description. I also believe that function is a must,
however humans always strived for a deeper meaning just look at ancient Greek
objects or the Japanese House. Therefore I wanted to provoke a bit and coined the
slogan form follows emotion which then inspired many people in a very surprising
Hartmut Esslinger in his interview for Design & Emotion (

In her book The Substance of Style Virginia Postrel notes that Starbucks is to the
age of aesthetics what McDonalds was to the age of convenience or Ford was to the
age of mass production. What prompted millions of people to spend $3.3 billion on a
cup of Starbucks coffee last year? Postrels answer is that companies like Starbucks
have used aesthetics to give their customers a unique sensory experience, and their
customers cant get enough of it. Everyone from retailers to homebuilders, restau-
rants, hotels, and nearly every facet of our daily lives are now echoing that same
focus on aesthetics by product designers. He shows a few examples to illustrate how
aesthetics is the way we communicate through the senses. After all, human beings
are visual, tactile, and emotional creatures and we are drawn towards people, places,
and things that give us sensory pleasure. Postrel points out that form follows emo-
tion has supplanted form follows function. How else do you explain the success of
the iMac, Volkswagen Beetle, and the Michael Graves Toaster at Target?

Is there a clash between intellect and emotion?

Good design is an objective artits not magic or mystical; designers make real
things that actually do things. We solve problems, design stuff for clients, or make our
own things to sell to other people. In order to make these things for people, of course,
we need a reliable foundationa shared perception of reality.
The business trend of focusing on user needs in order to create emotional connec-
tions sounds like a good idea because emotions are powerful and irrationalpeople
want stuff they like! Transformation of brands from product-based propositions to
emotionally driven ones is happening at lightning speed, says Nick Graham from
Joe Boxer. But advertisers and marketers rely on easy emotions to take advantage of
consumers. The emotional desire for a Coke means that people world-wide will want
to buy one whether they are thirsty or not. Finding those touch-points, and exploiting
them, is what business pays designers to do these days. But, good design doesnt
just seduce people into buying stuff; it creates a better world. Tucker Viemeister
In our world, brands, politicians, television and religions are all experience provid-
ers, as Bernd Schmitt call it them in Experiential Marketing: How to Get Customers
to SENSE, FEEL, THINK, ACT, RELATE to Your Company and Brands When we appeal
to the lowest emotions, we lose out on involving the higher intellectual capacities
those facilities are harder to control and satisfy. Emotions are arbitrary and self-
(18) centered, and not all emotions are good.
Glorifying emotions doesnt encourage intellectual progress, and it may very well
confuse things. Happy, but perhaps less-than-clear-thinking, consumers might buy
more stuff, but the Good Business=dumb consumers equation is a short-term folly.
Exalting emotional connections with customers doesnt build a population of fulfilled
citizens, and when we encourage thinking, it helps us manage ourselves. Whats
wrong with smart consumers=better world? Tucker Viemeister (18)(19)

In this exercise, you will explore your own ideas about the role of the emotions in
graphic design.

View the following eight images in the:
1. Vasily Kandinsky - Improvisation 31 (Sea Battle), 1913
2. Paul Klee - Southern (Tunisian) Gardens, 1919
3. Franc Marc - Fighting Forms, 1914
4. Henri Matisse - The Joy of Life, 1905-06
5. Piet Mondrian - Pier and Ocean, 1915
6. Piet Mondrian - Composition in Red, Yellow, and Blue, 1930
7. Edvard Munch - The Scream, 1893
8. Jackson Pollock - Blue (Moby Dick), 1943
For each artwork, discuss the feelings or emotions you think the artist has expressed.
Look at the colors, lines, textures, and shapes.

Visit and analyze the UCLA Extension

catalog covers. Which cover seems the most expressive to you and why? Which
seems the least expressive and why? Do you think a design work must express a
feeling or emotion? Why or why not? What is more interesting to you: the shapes and
colors in an artwork or the feelings and emotions it seems to express?