Designing for Emotion

One of my favorite nights out is UX Book Club Philly, where I am usually the lone librarian and one of a handful of higher ed employees. Usually our discussions get me excited about the future of library websites and findability, but the most recent book — Designing for Emotion by Aarron Walter (excerpt: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/personality-in-design/) — had me back on solid ground.

Walter writes that not only should websites be functional and usable, but they should have an impact on users. In many of his examples, the sites adopted playful tones and designs, intended to bring about smiles during even mundane tasks. Other sites, such as online banking or healthcare sites, may not benefit from such treatment, but can still be designed in a way that still affects the user’s mental state.

In our meeting, Walter said via Skype that the crux of emotional design is the answer to this question: “What’s the emotional state of my audience and how do I bring that around to a better place?”

Libraries have been doing this to an extent in our service model design — using emotional engagement to create lasting impressions with users — but how much have we considered emotion in designing physical spaces and virtual tools? How can our learning spaces help students be in the best mental state to study, research, and write?

We recently opened a new space called the Education Commons, a bookless yet library-operated area stocked with group study rooms and collaborative study space.

The design outpaces the novelty value of the nontraditional library space. The Education Commons has huge windows that pour in natural light. Light blue and white paint that soothe. A few beanbag-like cushions mixed with comfy chairs and couches, modular furniture, and booths perfect for studying with friends. (Also for library staff to dreamily state how they would be back with a laptop someday.)

But even more impressive is the comments students leave on their way out — how much the space has helped them study and how perfect it is for their needs. One space down, many more to go.

Next on my reading list: Emotional Design — Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things by Don Norman (Here’s a summary: http://uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com/2012/04/12/building-emotion-into-your-websites/) and Blending The Physical And Virtual For One Much Better Library Experience from the Designing Better Libraries blog.

Additional resources:

How Do We Want Students to Feel About the Library? by Brian Mathews: http://chronicle.com/blognetwork/theubiquitouslibrarian/2012/03/29/how-do-we-want-them-to-feel-about-the-library/

Studying Students: The Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester: http://hdl.handle.net/1802/7520

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