Connecting07: Brand, Design, and the Brain

Held in the Tonga Room at the Fairmont (!)

Greg Davis

Corporations have a difficulty accepting design decisions that have to do with aesthetics. Emotional connection was missing from the quantitative data.

Four Stages of Emotions: Mirrored Friendships

People interact with friends the same way they interact with products.

Gut Reactions (between people): basic instinctual reaction. The same for products: Seemingly Illogical Choices.

The Emotional Code (patterns in retrospect).

Emotional Mirror of personal relationships.

There are regions of the brain that are emotionally-driven. Primal instincts. What’s not in the brain: brand evaluation, design aesthetics, button layouts, software interaction. There is now science that shows where in the brain these things are reacting.

Four Stages (Chronological)

First Impression: emotional reaction based on…something.

Interaction: Engagement

Reliance: Trusting, long-term

Extended Trust: Friendship extends to friends of friends

We see the same steps when people engage with products. If you miss the first impression, you might not get to the next step with the product. Extended trust is where brand comes in.

New Findings; Brain and Emotions


Showed up in November 2006. Showed MRI scans of brands. First time scientific data showed connection between brain activity and brand.

The emotional decision-making part of our brains can short-circuit our logical part. All happening in the same parts of the brain.

Minor things can alter perception–a hot cup of coffee changed a handshake.

Pre-frontal cortex makes the final decision.

Why Does It Matter for Design?

Metrics and Methodologies

All of us have understood this intuitively: there is something emotional about design. But we haven’t been able to measure it. Metrics were missing. Business confidence is hurt. Avoid debates on opinion. Emotions are worth a lot of income.

Higher emotion = Higher returns

Rational things can convert to emotional ones, but it’s much easier to just emphasize emotions to start.

If you can take something like a water heater (very rational) and make it more emotional, you will increase sales.

How Can We Use It for Design?

Better design, happier customers, more success, more profit.

Have to build methodologies and use them. Educate others and incorporate into our processes.

Recipe for Emotional Success

Understand the users’ emotional DNA. People have emotional biases and potential.

Nail down a vision for the product and the brand–must be focused and compelling. Can’t be a rational brand promise (“easier to use” “best in class.”) Has to be enormously better in rational to become emotional.

Detail the emotional DNA and drivers. What are the hot targets (characteristics)? (more in a second) It is helpful to polarize in some cases.

Design the product with specific alignment to each characteristic.

Test. Repeat.

“The Emotional Sandbox”: Bias (emotional baggage) and Potential (flexibility). Where do we think we can push them?

List the rational and irrational, good and bad. Boil those down to design criteria.

Chart emotional drivers:





One thought on “Connecting07: Brand, Design, and the Brain

  1. This is next big wave in design. All good things to help contribute to the true user experience. A lot of research needs to be conducted. There is no playbook in this area!

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