There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul — Arnold Bennet

We often think of design as being about “things”, products, artifacts, technology, and so forth.  But as we are learning, design can often involve experiences or processes that we encounter in our lives (the process of getting ready for school, the processes of arranging a travel experience, or a particular work flow that you may engage with in your job).  In this assignment, you will turn the focus inwards, to consider how design has an impact on your own affect, emotions, and experience of a process.  To do this, you will be creating an “emotional map” of your own experience of a process.

Designers often create visual maps of “customer” or “user” experiences.  Experience maps can include different aspects of experience, though they often focus on the more rational and emotional aspects of designed processes or products.  Increasingly though, design has begun to recognize the necessity of paying attention to the more elusive but essential facet of “emotional experience”, or the ways in which designed artifacts and processes influence mental affect, and emotional states.

So, emotional mapping is a design process that uncovers feelings and attitudes towards processes and products of design.  Such maps can be done for groups of people (looking at their aggregated experience of a thing), or for just one individual’s experience. Emotion mapping gathers information on the internalized reasons why people like, dislike, love or hate something. It identifies key attributes, tangible and intangible, overt and subtle, conscious and subconscious, that help connect products and people. This insight can focus a designer’s creativity, give rich information to the creative process, and result in more innovative, radical and successful ideas.

You will be doing an emotional map of just one person – you.  The process that you choose to map can be any one of your choosing (from a particular process or experience in your work life, to a process that you undergo in your daily or personal life).  To give you a better sense, and a good example, of how this works examine the related emotional experience map, from designer Eric Berkman.  He mapped a fairly ordinary daily experience of going to Starbucks, and came up with the following detailed visualization of the emotional experience.

Experience Starbucks (download PDF)

In his March 2010 blog post, “Improving the Starbucks Experience, (now not available) Berkman described in detail the process he used to analyze the experience of coffee drinking and identify the touch points that could be improved. Per Berkman, “each touch point has measurable qualities: emotional states, physical tasks, sensations and perceptions, and social interactions.” In his posting he detailed some steps that he took in constructing this expression of experience, including:

  • Latent opportunities are ubiquitous: Pick an environment
  • Who or what to study
  • Establish a goal
  • Establishing modes and identifying touch-points
  • Observe, interact, record
  • Representing the information with an experience map

While we are leaving the choice of experience/process up to you, we would like for your to mirror Berkman’s steps in your approach to constructing your own emotional experience map.  This is an opportunity to begin to see the designed world around us, in the processes that we encounter in our lives and how they impact our feelings and affect.  Developing this type of sensibility is a key part of understanding the power of experience for ourselves, and becoming savvy designers of experiences for others (as well as researchers).

Emotional Maps:




Mapping an Emotional Experience