Psychology of designers

Hello everyone.

I’ve been browsing for a while now and have finally decided to join. I’m writing an essay about how emotions effect how we design and would love to hear your opinions. I have a survey on the link below for anyone willing to take it. It’s a bit random but would be a huge help. It’ll take 5mins at the most.>

Thank you.

Or, if you don’t want to do that, write down your opinions here.

How do you feel when you’ve finished a project? What motivates you? How do your emotions effect how you design?

I, for example, get more flamboyant in my designs when i’m angry or frustrated. If i’m calm they become more detailed.

I think you also need to look at the emotional relationship between the designer and his work much like an artist and their “masterpiece”. And what role this plays when the design is critiqued / modified / redefined. Some times for the better and some times for the worse, but in either case the designers emotions play a part in how the individual will proceed.

I have seen designer no matter what the change for better or worst they view it as an insult to them and THEIR design and can be come very emotional for the negative. (hostile / argumentative / defensive / introverted / ).

Now of course there are the other emotions that can rise to the surface that are more positive and conductive. but as I type to be honest weather you view the emotions as positive or negative they can all play a very important role as long as they are properly balanced and tempered. Which only comes with a certain level of maturity. Which is not directly equated to age!

I have even been told that at time my passion and excitement and sheer joy of working on a project can be a negative. I was unsure how this could be until i really watched how those around me reacted to my demeanor. Some feed of my emotions and came along for the ride while other who were more introverted and shy became wary and nervous and unsure of themselves as they were not able to keep pace. It was at this point that I started to really observe the personalities and emotional traits of my team members in order to adjust and ensure that I adapted my emotional behavior to bring the most out of the individual team members and group as a whole.


Thats an interesting angle that i hadn’t really thought about. I know i fall into the ‘it’s my design and its perfect just the way it is’ trap sometimes. It can be difficult to detach yourself and look at it objectively to see its faults and how it can be made better.

I’ve taken your comments on board and adjusted the questionnaire accordingly. It will be interesting to see how many people admit to being too attached to a design to change it when flaws are pointed out to them.


I read this and initially, I couldn’t help but think, “Who are your working with down there?” The point (or at least one of the big ones) of being a professional designer, and of going to school to be one is to be the critique process.

I can see if you are in a team with other professionals who are not used to vigorous critique from an arts or design background getting worked up. But really, is this a big issue with designers? I get more upset when people tip-toe around my work like they can’t tell me it sucks.

Friends don’t let friends get through a critique with sucky work!

If my emotions come into play with a design, I have utterly failed as a designer. I am irrelevant. The only things that matter are the customer purchasing and using the product and the company making and selling the product. They are the ones truely vested in the product, not the designer. Ego has no place in good design.

Oops, Starkie, I also meant to say that I am, however, interested in what you are researching about emotion in design. I am researching emotion on the other side of the product, namely in the purchasing and use decision. In fact, whenever I introduce myself saying I am “interested in decision making and design process” people jump to the decision making process of designers subject to emotion, which sounds like what you are doing. I should probably revise my elevator line, to note that I am interested in consumer decision making, as well as the creative process used by designers.

Carton, I think ‘designers getting worked up’ is a bit of an exaggeration, although admittedly i was describing an extreme. I agree that the best critique someone could give you is to tell you it’s crap if you can’t see it. Tough love and all that jazz.

Iab, you’re right that ego doesn’t have a place in good design, but are you honestly saying that your emotions have never effected you while designing? You’ve never been hyper and come up with some wacky/innovative ideas? Never come to work feeling really negative and found that your work is suffering or at least different as a result? Never chosen to develop one design over another just because you liked it more? Sorry to question you, but i don’t believe that anyone can be completely detached from their emotions.

I would certainly never say my emotions don’t affect my work. I have good productive days and bad days just like everyone else in the world. And while I have no evidence to back my claim, even in a bad mood I am certain I could design something that is whimsical. A good design has good design objectives, good design criteria and little subjectivity. And when determining what to present to a client, or choosing features for a product, emotions are definately out and objectivity is in.

If the product needs to be “fun” or “techy” or “clinical” or whatever emotive quality, that is always based on what is required and desired by the customer and company. Never because I “like” it. Obviously, all decisions are not made on a quantitative level. But best guesses are based on the best knowledge on hand, not on my mood.

Do you think it’s possible to design something completely objectively? (I’m not getting at you, i’m just thinking on paper.) And would those designs be better? They would give a client/consumer exactly what they wanted without any influence from the designers personal opinions, a logic based design. I’m not sure it’s possible, but assuming it is is an interesting thought. Would that make products more functional? Less wasteful? Better for the environment? Better for us?

Or, would this stifle creativity? If you have no emotion in what your doing, would the product your creating become boring? Purely functional? why would a customer be interested in something the creator isn’t?

Why do you think the designer is vested?

Again, the objectives of the customer and the objectives of the producer are the only things that matter. A designer’s objectives or emotions have absolutely no bearing on whether a design is successful or not.

Why would you think this stifles a designers creativity? If I gave 10 designers the objective to design a whimsical action figure, I would get hundreds of possible whimsical action figures. How exactly is that stifling, boring, purely functional or lack interest for the customer?

If one of those designers gave me concepts that weren’t whimsical, I would fire them for not giving me what I paid them to do. What’s so hard to understand about that?

I think my use of objectivity might have been a bit misplaced there, but it doesn’t matter.

What i meant was how would a lack of emotion effects the design process. From your view, it wouldn’t or at least shouldn’t change anything. Which i actually agree with. Creativity and emotion shouldn’t be connected so much that without emotion you cant design. That would be stupid. But for me, a lot of the design process is based on emotion. How i feel at the time of sitting at my desk would effect the direction i chose to pursue. I would obviously follow the brief, but if you were asked to design a reception desk for a company, there is huge scope for interpretation. My mood would dictate whether or not the designs were completely off the wall or very grounded and practical. Usually by the end of the initial design stage i’ve got a book of designs that range from one to the other. It’s this initial ideation stage that i’m most interested in. From then, filtering out bad or inappropriate ideas and the development stage is purely about what is in the brief and what i think the client wants.

Design is emotion though. Design takes from other fields and translates into something humans want. Desire, frustration, needing, love, hate are all emotions that can apply to an object, so dealing in design is dealing in emotion.

There is research about people being in a better mood being better able to participate in concept generation. I’ve had two professors mention that by giving participants a small gift, generally a piece of candy, can improve the quantity and also quality of concepts generated during a session.

Additionally, one of the professors here talks about the part of the brain used in the recombination of ideas into new ideas, i.e. concept generation, is adjacent to the one improv comedians use to create their humor. He talks about how humor is connected to quality design work.

I don’t know if that means that if you had a crap morning, you do crap design work, but maybe it suggests that being in a good mood helps you out. I’m sure it’s more complex than that.

Starkie, the process you describe sounds unproductive. It may be OK for an artist but I am not sure it that holds true for a designer.

It seems to me, if a designer is emotionally vested in a concept, their ego will then be in play. For some designers who have their own brand, if the product reflects that brand, I have no problem with that. Ego is at play. But I’m no rock star. I design a product to reflect the brand of the company who hired me and the needs of the customer who uses it.

Yes but there are allot of designers out there that have more ego then talent.


I’m of the opinion that my emotional state certainly influences my ability to generate ideas, and most of the time, in a positive way. How can you produce a study to test this? What if you were to treat a group of designers to candy, gift cards to starbucks, or whatever, and then have that group split up into individuals. Once they were split up, you would give each of them the same task (an assignment w/ design criteria, a certain premise, etc.) and “measure” their ability to come up with new and interesting ideas within the following 30 minutes. Do another study w/ a group that doesn’t get the initial treat and see how they do when they split up and are assigned the same task. And then yet another that is treated poorly (i.e., you show up 10 minutes late to administer the task). Let them go at it for 30 minutes and see how they perform. Produce an exit survey of a handful of questions to administer to each participant directly after their 30 minute session, and see what comes of it. I don’t know, that’s an idea.

I also agree with Iab in that, no matter what, I’m there, getting paid, and I have to come up with something. I think after a while, you learn to just do the work, assuming you have a good set of criteria and a good initial understanding of the task at hand. Regardless of your emotional state at this point, you know that you have to come up with something. I’ve actually had bad days where my emotional state was improved halfway through the ideation process. I think for many designers it can be therapeutic to put your mind onto something new and unexpected, like solving a particular design problem. It’s funny, but sometimes being frustrated can help you get to some really good, unexpected ideas…and then you might have a laugh afterward.