Design for Delight

A good design is usable, useful, and effective. A great design delights its users.

Human beings are emotional creatures. Contrary to what many people believe – we are not rational beings who sometimes make emotional decisions.

We are emotional beings who make decisions based on how they feel and rationalize those decisions later on.

Brands with cult like following

These companies have hundreds, if not thousands of competitors.

  • Why then people line up outside their stores to be the first to buy their products?
  • Why do people call themselves their fans, not their customers?
  • Why do people tatoo these logos, these company logos, on their body?

Because people buy the story they tell, not just their product.

You’ll never see someone with a Suzuki tattoo or a Dell tattoo or Amul tattoo. Why? Because they make average products for the masses.

That means if you want people to love your product, you have to design your product in a way that delights them.

Now, how do you do that?

Science of Delight

Don Norman is a researcher, professor, and author of several books on the design of everyday things and how humans interact with them. During his research, what he found was, there are three levels of design that influences how we feel about a product.

They are Visceral Level, Behavioral Level, and Reflective Level — when your product touches all three levels, it turns into a delightful experience.

Delightful experience

So let’s dive deeper into each of them:


The first level is Visceral. The primal level. This is the first impression you have of a product. When we perceive something as “pretty or hot or sexy or beautiful” that judgment comes directly from the visceral level. It deals with how the product looks or sounds.

The user interface of an app, user onboarding process, the design of a presentation deck, the corporate brand identity of a company, the first impression a visitor has of a website, or your office, all of these influence the visceral level of the human brain.

So why is this important? We humans have a cognitive bias for things that look pretty. We tend to overlook small flaws and annoyances if the first impression of a product is good. Also, if you have a love at first sight moment with the product, you are more likely to associate it and the future interactions you have, with positive emotion in your brain.


The next comes the behavioral level. A behavioral reaction is how we feel as we are immersed in the product experience. How do you interact with the product? What value do you get from it?

The four components that matter here are - function, understandability, usability, and physical feel.

To be delightful, it’s not enough for a product to just be desirable, to just look pretty. It needs to function well too. Users need to understand how to use it and not get lost. When a user is trying to do something, their flow should be smooth, without any hindrance or usability annoyances.

From an emotional perspective, when our interaction behaviors are fluid, expected, and familiar, then we derive joy and satisfaction from the product’s usability.

When users have a positive behavioral reaction, it gives them a sense of empowerment. It cultivates trust and reliability. And it makes them want to repeat the action and use your product more because they want to feel the delightful experience again.


I’m sure most of you have read this quote, At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.

Guess what? It applies to the products we design as well.

The final level is the Reflective level. A reflective reaction is how we feel AFTER we have been immersed in the experience of a product. It is how we remember the experience itself and how it made us feel. It determines whether we want to try that experience again or never again.

A powerful and positive reflective reaction encourages users to share their experiences with others. They evoke a sense of pride and identity from using a product.

Thank you for reading. Here are some books if you want to dig deeper.

  1. Design of Everyday Things
  2. Emotional Design
  3. The Design of Future Things

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