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A List Apart: Articles: Personality in Design

We are pleased to present an excerpt from Chapter 3 of Designing for Emotion by Aarron Walter (A Book Apart, 2011). —Ed.

Our lasting relationships center around the unique qualities and perspectives we all possess. We call it personality. Through our personalities, we express the entire gamut of human emotion. Personality is the mysterious force that attracts us to certain people and repels us from others. Because personality greatly influences our decision-making process, it can be a powerful tool in design.

Personality is the platform for emotion

Interface design lives in a broader category called Human-Computer Interaction, or HCI, sitting among computer science, behavioral science, and design. HCI specialists understand psychology, usability, interaction design, programming concepts, and basic visual design principles. Sound familiar? That’s an awful lot like what user experience designers wrangle every day.

I’ll let you in on a secret. I’m not a fan of the name “Human-Computer Interaction.” When I design, I work very hard to make the interface experience feel like there’s a human on the other end, not a computer. It might sound like I’m splitting hairs, but names are important. Names shape our perceptions, and cue us into the ideas that fit within a category.

Emotional design’s primary goal is to facilitate human-to-human communication. If we’re doing our job well, the computer recedes into the background, and personalities rise to the surface. To achieve this goal, we must consider how we interact with one another in real life.

I’d like you to pause for a moment, and recall a person with whom you recently made a real connection. Maybe you met them while taking a walk, while at an event, or maybe a friend introduced you, and the ensuing conversation was engaging, interesting, and maybe even fun. What was it about that person that made your conversation so exhilarating? You probably had common interests that sparked discussion, but that wasn’t what made the encounter so memorable, was it? It was their personality that drew you to them, that guided the discussion and left you feeling excited. Your personalities intersected in shared jokes, tone of voice, and the cadence of the conversation. This dropped your guard and made you trust this new person. Personalities foster friendships and serve as the platform for emotional connections.

Hold on to that memory. Revisit it when you start a new design project. That feeling is what we’re trying to craft through emotional design. We’ll create that feeling of excitement and we’ll bond with our audience by designing a personality that our interface will embody.

Let’s think of our designs not as a facade for interaction, but as people with whom our audience can have an inspired conversation. Products are people, too.

Once again, history can inform our work today. It turns out that designers have been experimenting with personality to craft a more human experience for centuries.

Continue reading this article at: A List Apart: Articles: Personality in Design.