Emotional innovation: the power of human-centered design in product development

March 7, 2024

Have you ever had the feeling that your oven is staring at you? What emotions come up when its door swings open and it eagerly devours your freshly baked cake?

Does your Fiat 500 grin at you when you drive into the garage in the morning? Or does your sports car perhaps wear a stern look that challenges you before every drive?

This phenomenon has a name: Pareidoliaa sensory illusion in which we perceive faces in objects and patterns. This phenomenon is not accidental.

Facial expressions serve as a universal channel for emotions, and our brain has a dedicated area for facial recognition. Interestingly, this region increases with age in relation to the total volume of the brain, which underlines the importance of faces for our perception.

When designers integrate facial features into products, they trigger quick emotional responses from users, promoting trust and engagement. The integration of human-like features, even in logos, such as the distinct facial elements of the gaming platform Discord, improves the user experience and builds a relationship.

In traditional automotive design, these 'faces' have evolved to reflect consumer preferences and often appear more confident, as BMW's iconic double kidney grille shows. However, human-like features in products are primarily aimed at evoking positive emotions such as empathy and joy, which even applies to self-driving cars, which tend to have a friendlier design.

Studies show that products that display happy or surprising emotions attract the attention and interest of consumers and influence purchasing decisions.

Consumers are attracted to products that appeal to them emotionally and match their self-image or desired identity. Such effects can be achieved as follows:

  • For example, you develop a product that makes it easier for the user to be amiable - This way you can help another person find the way from your own smartphone.
  • The product itself is appealing - A warm comforter gives us the feeling of being "safe" and cozy.
  • The product symbolizes friendliness - For example, by reminding us of a friendly person through its appearance.


Integrating friendly and welcoming features into products encourages a subconscious connection and increases perceived reliability, especially for new products. However, not every product lends itself to the integration of human-like features; the key is to align such design elements with the intended purpose and user experience.

It is important to note that not every product lends itself to the incorporation of "human" features. The decisive factor is always what purpose you are pursuing with such a measure. However, if you want to create a truly captivating product experience, Pareidolia is definitely worth exploring.

For a truly compelling product experience, exploring pareidolia and incorporating human-like features can deliver innovative and engaging results.

Image credits: Dall-E

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