Evoking emotions


Emotions – they be quite complicated :-/

We are delighted by so many new mobile as well as web applications nowadays, which have been evoke the right emotions from their users. Most of them have been able to do this by getting the micro-interactions right with their users. E.g. the Path app (probably) first started with the small icon at the bottom left which on clicking would expand to provide new options for creating / capturing a new piece of content. This was then adopted by more apps such as Quora and Noom, and I can easily see it becoming a good design pattern. Or more commonly, how the new Facebook app displays the friend requests, messages and notifications in a “popup”, but anchored to the icon which opened it, makes the interaction that much more meaningful.

When designing any application, or even a simple website, we pay a lot of attention to the emotions that every single interaction evokes in the end user. We look at the colors that are being used, at the serifs and the kernings of the fonts, at how the copy reads, and at a hundred other things that determine how the interaction feels. Good design after all is the result of deliberate small choices that improve our lives one interaction at a time.

But maybe because of neglect, or maybe because of social conditioning, I don’t think we pay that much attention to our interactions with other people. We switch to our own default state of evoking a particular emotion in most people. That emotion is usually a function of both our personality as well as our mood at the time. It is much less deliberate and much more accidental.

At least, that was the case for me. More often than not, I would not really pay attention to the emotions evoked in the other person. I think I used to try to understand the context from which he was coming from in a much more clinical way, something that would satisfy my simple mind. But trying to understand someone’s context without paying attention to his / her emotions is a fool’s errand. Not only is it impossible, but it will also lead to false models and wrong assumptions about the relationship, which might lead to catastrophic results.

So this new year, my resolution is going to be to retrain myself. I am going to be paying a lot more attention to the emotions I am invoking in my family, my friends, my colleagues and even absolute strangers that I am going to meet everyday. I will be deliberate in the emotions I invoke in people, and for every time that I fail, I will analyze which of my actions lead to the wrong emotion being evoked.

And rinse and repeat.