Designing Emotions:
In the age of technology more important than ever

Brooklyn, January 2024

The Future is Feeling. As a designer who builds spaces in the physical and virtual interiors I provide experiences. Whereas experience design was often about what it does and portrays in the past decades, it now will be heavily focused on how it makes us feel. With accelerated, new technology and a weakened processing system and shorter attention spans, it becomes pivotal that the physical spaces make us feel human. Maybe vulnerable. Maybe “feeling everything”I explore the rise of emotional intelligence and how we designers and brand strategists are currently responding to it.

Technology companies are at the forefront of creating innovative products capable of deciphering emotions through facial expressions, speech patterns, and bio-responses. The integration of emotional insights is becoming more prevalent in various applications.

Microsoft's Emotion API, for instance, excels in detecting facial expressions, tailoring device responses to individual users. Apple's iPhone X takes a unique approach by mapping 50 facial muscles to generate personalized Animojis. Affectiva, a leader in facial emotion recognition, has recently unveiled a new speech sentiment analysis API. IBM has developed the Cognitive Photo Booth, leveraging its AI, Watson, to evaluate personality traits through a brief quiz. This analysis considers both the user's responses and the tone of their voice, creating a customized persona portrait based on the gathered information. Even eBay is venturing into emotion analysis. Through its Subconscious Shopping pop-up, eBay employs brainwave-reading headsets and gaze tracking to discern shoppers' subconscious preferences. The results are then shared with the users, providing insights into what might attract them. Concluding, companies like Microsoft, Apple, Affectiva, IBM, and eBay are pioneering the incorporation of emotional intelligence into their products, showcasing the diverse applications of emotion recognition technology.


The intersection of technology and consumer electronics is ushering in a new era of emotional awareness and empathic responses. In the realm of innovative gadgets, Uniform's radio, Solo, goes beyond traditional functionality by reading the approaching person's facial expression. It then cleverly matches the perceived emotion to songs from Spotify while adapting its own facial expression to resonate with the user.

In Nick Verstand's immersive installation, Aura, beams of projected light dynamically shift in color and shape based on the user's emotions. This captivating experience utilizes live data from a brainwave-reading headset and a skin sensor, creating a unique fusion of technology and emotional expression.

Advancements in smart homes introduce emotional responses from robots and cameras. Hubble's intelligent camera, Hugo, goes beyond standard monitoring as it reads the facial expressions of individuals, particularly focusing on monitoring babies. In response to crying, Hugo plays soothing music. With integrated Alexa capabilities, it has the potential to communicate its emotion analysis across various home devices. Happybots' Felix, on the other hand, employs deliberate design choices, featuring large eyes and a rounded shape, aimed at enhancing the happiness of its user through its visual appeal.


In the realm of interiors, emotion is being explored through a tangible, sensory approach. Influences that shape mood, such as color psychology, aroma, and light therapy, are all gaining significance.

Alice Dobbie's project Tintology, focused on color therapy, elucidates the connection between color and emotion. Therapists specializing in paint prescribe a tailored 'paint recommendation' for clients, aligning interior paint colors with their unique emotional requirements.

Mirage, a spatial divider crafted by Nicolas Verschaeve and Juliette Le Goff, allows users to alter its color gradient based on the desired mood. Rolling each blind transforms the partition into a pale or saturated, warm or cool color palette.

The intelligent scent diffuser Moodo empowers users to establish various scent "moods" that resonate throughout the day and within the home. Four aroma pods can be blended and adjusted in strength either automatically or manually, utilizing the app or through voice control.


Among the myriad emotional states we encounter, the desire for peace stands out as one of the most compelling. Consumers actively seek products that bring calmness, soothing, and stress relief, contributing to a thriving market.

Calmbox, characterized as "a zen retreat in a box," is a subscription service catering to this need. It delivers a monthly assortment of mood-enhancing and mindful lifestyle products, encompassing music, books, and candles. The digital brand Calm extends its reach into physical products with a calming spray. Harnessing the properties of lavender, frankincense, clary sage, and chamomile essential oils, the spray offers a gentle refreshment. In the realm of positive commuting experiences, Peacebeam introduces an audio series with five-minute activations, designed to set the tone for a peaceful day. Wearable technology is evolving beyond wellness tracking to wellness provision. The Sensate strap, positioned around the waist, detects biometric signals of stress. Through sound and brainwave activation, it stimulates the vagus nerve, providing instant relaxation.


In a world marked by political, social, and ecological uncertainties, brands offering comfort provide a reassuring balm. The growing demand for comfort is evident in design and interiors, as seen in the Comfort Zone theme at Maison & Objet in September 2017. The current emphasis on hygge in interiors underscores the promotion of coziness and tactility.

In lifestyle, activities like speed napping and adult swaddling classes provide comfort outside the home, with some opting to pay for professional cuddling services. Simultaneously, the discomfort of stepping out of one's comfort zone is identified as another crucial emotion to monitor.

In the realm of experience design, unsettling events like Melbourne's audio horror, Séance, gain acclaim and draw curious crowds. VR experiences emerge as a compelling medium for exploring discomfort, as exemplified by works like Alejandro Inarritu's Carne y Arena, suggesting a future of cinema where discomfort becomes immersive and emotions are intensely felt for those daring enough to experience it.


Will your spatial story cater to all the emotions – encouraging full emotive range– or zoom in on one feeling (calm, for example) and make that its own?

As we all become more mood-aware, emotional intelligence will be an increasingly valuable skill. How can your  space / organization / brand prioritise it?

With devices now able to assess customers' emotions, it will be a fine line between being intuitive and
being invasive. Brands will needs to use this new tool thoughtfully and responsibly, to add genuine value to
customer experiences.

Emotional design doesn't have to mean soothing. You can also encourage your customers to
explore provocative, unusual or even frightening experiences.

*all Images are produced by Annabelle using Pinterest and Collage techniques.