Stephen Anderson – The Quest for Emotional Engagement

Sean Carmichael

March 4th, 2011


Duration: 33m | 17 MB

What makes the Digital Age great is ready access to information. But many times there is too much information, too much data, or too many options to make sense of. Users can easily become frustrated or disengage if they can’t find a connection with what is presented to them.

Stephen Anderson, designer and creator of the Mental Notes card deck, believes your users must be emotionally engaged if you want them to exhibit a certain behavior. Stephen uses simple visual representations to help people make choices and understand complex information. In this podcast, Stephen and Jared Spool discuss creating designs that engage your users’ emotions.

Here’s an excerpt from the podcast.

“…I use an example with providing a personal feedback loop on your performance. This is in the meeting tool that I’m working with a start-up on. We had talked about things like providing a score or coming back with a grade, A, B, C, or D, but we felt like there was no emotional connection there.

So instead what we came up with was this idea of a hot air balloon. And when you get back this report, you see a hot air balloon. If it’s fully inflated, you’re doing great. You’re staying in the sky. Everything is fantastic. But if you see that balloon is sort of deflated or losing air, there’s an emotional connection with that. That’s not good, right? The hot air balloon’s going to sink and crash.

So we’ve turned that score, that metric, into something that people can connect with in an emotional way. It’s something that people will look at and they don’t have to say, “Well, is this good or bad?” They know right away this is probably not good. I need to work on this. I need to get my hot air balloon full again, to use that metaphor…”

Listen to the podcast to hear Stephen address these additional points:

  • How do you construct designs to elicit the desired behavior?
  • Do we run the risk of “dumbing things down” by simplifying information?
  • What types of representations work best for different types of data?
  • When designing a visual representation, how do you connect the message so it’s not just “dressed up data”?

Recorded: February, 2011
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