Joyful Design 10

Jeff Koons
An excursion into the art world

Round shapes, colors, nostalgia, beauty in skilled performances—all those terms are indicators for joyful design—and when looking at Jeff Koons art we cannot deny that all those elements synergize in his works of art—making Jeff Koons a perfect example of how to consciously use all those “ingredients” to create joyful experiences.

Jeff Koons finds beauty in the ordinary and overlooked things of our life and is considered the most bankable contemporary artist alive—his stainless steel Rabbit (1986), sold for $91.1 million in 2019, is the most expensive artwork by a living artist to ever be sold at auction. The concept of the readymade—displaying an ordinary object in a new context as a work of art, is the foundation for most of Jeff ’s work. He says the idea that he “could acquire things and let them just display themselves” was a revelation. Knickknacks, comic books, ceramic figurines, and domestic appliances act as a springboard for his imagination. His works are clearly inspired by pop culture, consumer desire, sexual freedom, childhood wonder and self-acceptance. While other artists only stay relevant for a short time, nobody else has stayed so relevant for so long.

His pieces provoke smiles, gasps, cringes, laughs, and, above all else, the individual’s investigation of those reactions. He doesn’t shy away from candy-colored excess. His signature motif, the high-polish surface, reflects our experience of his art back onto us.

“It’s really the quality of his work, interlocking with economic and social trends, that makes him the signal artist of today’s world.”—New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl.

Inflatable Flower and Bunny (Tall White, Pink Bunny), 1979

Nostalgia, Colors, Round Shapes
Inflatable Flower and Bunny was the first piece of art that brought toys and mirrors into Jeff’s artistic vocabulary. He picked the bunny because it reminded Jeff of the Easter decorations in his hometown. Several motifs, namely the cartoon iconography and use of reflective surfaces, are still central to Jeff’s work today.

Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank, 1985

Skilled Performance, Round Shapes, Nostalgia
“I wanted to keep it a very womb-like situation with water,” Jeff Koons commented in a 1992 Taschen monograph. But this vision proved to be incredibly challenging. To bring his idea to life, Jeff consulted Richard P. Feynman, a Nobel Prize–winning physicist, to devise a method of filling the balls and tank with the correct proportions of distilled water and highly refined salt so the balls would float. Temperature fluctuations and visitors’ footsteps blend the water and sodium, causing the balls to sink; the artwork has built into it an inevitable failure, requiring reinstallation every six months.

“Ideas come from sensations. You don’t have ideas without having sensations.”—Jeff Koons

Play-Doh 1994–2014

Colors, Nostalgia, Skilled Performance
Play-Doh took Jeff Koons 20 years from conception to completion. The piece of art is his memorial to innocent creativity—made up of 27 individual pieces of polychromed aluminum, it re-creates at monumental scale a colorful mound of modeling putty once given to Jeff by his son Ludwig. Play-Doh represents an inflection point of Jeff’s preoccupation with superrealistic, large-scale sculpture.

Balloon Dog (Blue), 1994-2000

Skilled Performance, Round Shapes, Shininess
Balloon Dog started as a simple idea for Jeff: create something that would imbue adults with the delight that children feel at birthday parties. The execution proved more complex. In a feat of modern fabrication, Jeff translated this concept into an 11-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture whose dimensions precisely replicate its reallife latex counterpart.

Like many of Jeff’s high-polished works, these pieces engage the spectator and celebrate the surroundings of their installation with the intent of bringing joy to audiences the world over.

Jeff Koons on Masterclass. URL:

Joyful Design 09


An important factor to create joyful experiences is empathy. Speaking of empathy in design we have to consider that there are people (as well as brands) with different archetypes to consider. Those archetypes have very different personalities and priorities. Knowing about their mindset is the key to tailored and hence empathic design which acts as a base for joyful design.

In Branding the wheel of twelve archetypes by Carl Jung is a popular tool to explore and figure out where a brand is positioned—which also helps to find a brands voice. Carl Jung developed this concept because of his conviction that archetypes are universal, archaic patterns and image that derive from our collective unconscious. He interpreted them as our psychic counterpart of instinct, which manifests in behavior on interaction with the physical world. Therefore those archetypes not only can be connected with brands but with characteristics of people in general.

People as well as brands can be classified to one specific archetype but they can also identify with a mixture of archetypes. (such as Apple) However, classifying a brand helps to shape its character and therefore enables the audience to identify with the brand and elicit the emotional response creating a sense of belonging—competing on a more instinctive, deeper level.

Those archetypes clearly show that we not only have to consider (universal) aesthetics only to create joyful experiences, but that the emotional layer which corresponds to the feeling of belonging, identification and self-actualization is an important factor to consider too. Plus, with the help and consideration of those archetypes a personal connection to the consumer can be easier established, which in turn sets the base for creating joyful experiences as well as satisfying consumers expectations of a brand.

The twelve archetypes

The creator

The Creator brand is visionary, non-conformist and authentic. Those brands want to craft something meaningful and special—they love new ideas and to make them happen and are driven by their desire do produce and create—they are afraid of everything mediocre. Most marketing, design and technology brands are creator brands.

Goal: To realise a vision 
Strategy: To Develop artistic control and skill
Greatest Fear: Mediocre vision or execution
Personalities: Artisan, Innovator, Inventor
Key Attributes: Innovative, Imaginative, Creative, Artistic, Experimental, Willing to take risks, Ambitious, Desire to turn ideas into Reality, Inventor, Musician, Writer, or Dreamer.

Successful brands will develop a very loyal fan base, for example, Apple and have great chances to become so called “love brands”.

Creator brands promise Authenticity.

“Creator brands often position themselves as the key to unlocking a creator’s creativity. Their main focus is self-expression. The worst thing that could happen to a Creator archetype would be to be seen as inauthentic or a ‘sell-out’.”—Vision One market research

Examples: Apple, Adobe, Lego, Nintendo

The Jester
The Joker, The Fun, The Comedian

Jesters live in the moment and fear boredom. They life on the wild site and often use outrageous imagery. They are high on energy, vibrant colors, are playful and entertaining.

Goal: To enjoy the journey and to stand out
Strategy: To live in the moment and not be too serious
Greatest Fear: To come across boring
Personalities: Comedian, Practical Joker, The Fool
Key Attributes: Joker, Playful, Carefree, Joyful, Original, Teaser and Foolish

Examples: M&Ms, Doritos, Skittles

The Sage
The Teacher, The Investigator, The Mentor

Sage brands strive for truth and want to find the good and the wisdom in all situations. They will promise learning, teaching, knowledge and an open mind. They find fulfillment in finding answers to the most challenging questions and therefore demonstrate intelligence, knowledge and keen problem-solving skills. Charateristics: positivity, wisdom, truth, knowledge, provides intelligence, solutions.

Goal: To use intelligence and wisdom to understand the world 
Strategy: Seek out information and knowledge 
Greatest Fear: Being misled or ignored 
Personalities: Expert/Guru, Investigator, Mentor
Key Attributes: Expert, Thinker, Philosopher, Reflective, Advisor, Teacher, Confident, In-control, Wisdom, Intelligence, Planner

Examples: Google, TED, BBC

The Innocent
The Honest, The Optimistic, The Pure

Innocent brand have the desire to be free and happy and to keep things simple—they communicate a positive worldview. Because of the optimistic character they are often successful because of moving through barriers, that would stop others. Another characteristic is that those brands aim to motivate others. Brand in health, cleanliness and natural products work with this archetype.

Goal: To be happy
Strategy: To do things right
Greatest Fear: To come across unhappiness
Characteristics: Wholesome, Pure, Forgiving, Trusting, Honest,Happy, Optimistic, Simple.

Innocent brands will promise Simplicity. 

“They will offer a somewhat simple solution to any problem associated with goodness, morality, simplicity, nostalgia, and childhood. Innocent brands will strive to do what is right and positive. Most of the time, their simplistic view of the world can be perceived as a weakness. They fear to do something immoral and to see the world being influenced by something negative or unnatural.”—Vision One market research

Examples: Dove, Ford, Coca Cola, Disney

“Dove aims to make women feel confident by using beauty products. Their recent #ShowUs campaign celebrates women in media and advertising. The result is a gallery of women who shatter stereotypes and redefine the meaning of beauty.”—Faith Lisondra [3]

The Lover
The Idealist, The Sensualist, The Seducer

Lover brands are all about creating relationships and creating emotions. They want to make people feel special to celebrate the physical joys of being human, fostering intimacy and bliss. Those brands are aesthetically pleasing are passionate and represent anything that pleasures the senses.

Goal: To be in a relationship with the people, work and surroundings.
Strategy: To become more and more physically and emotionally attractive
Key Attributes: Seek true love, intimacy, Sensuality, Passionate, Sexy, Seductive, Erotic, Seek Pleasure, To Indulge, Follow Emotions. 
Greatest Fear: Being alone or feeling unwanted
Personalities: Harmoniser, Connector, Partner

“The Lover Archetype are customers who value the aesthetic appearance of goods and services. They are likely to be drawn to premium brands that will make them seem more attractive to others.”—Vision One market research

Lover brands will promise Passion

Examples: Lindt, Chanel, Victoria’s Secret

Perfume and Cosmetic Brands core desires are evoking emotions through their cosmetic products and fragrances—as example Chanels branding itself focuses glamour and experiencing the best things in life and therefore representing a Lover brand archetype perfectly.

Through the combination of perfect storytelling and the power of scent—since smell is one of our senses which is deeply connected with emotions, memories and imagination—perfume brands can be considered to be the most powerful brands evoking feelings of joy.

The Hero
The Warrior, Champion Or Superhero

Hero brands are successful brands at producing consistent results. They are competent and courageous—they are winner and achievers that get things done effectively, in their mission to improve the world and foremost to leave a mark on the world.

Goal: Expert mastery in a way that improves the world
Strategy: To be as strong and competent as possible
Greatest Fear: Vulnerability and weakness
Personalities: Competitor, Achiever, Coach

Key Attributes: Warrior, Competitive, Aggressive, Winner, Principled, Idealist, Challenge, Courageous and Proud

Hero brands will promise Quality

“Hero customers value the quality and trust in their products. They like to think that their consumer choices will put them ahead of everyone else, making them less likely to be drawn in by funny or cute adverts.”—Vision One market research

Examples: BMW, Amazon, Adidas

The Rebel
The Revolutionary, The Powerful, The Liberated

Many Rebel brands are seen as revolutionary. They bring fresh perspectives, new outlooks and inspirational changes—they are anything but mainstream and make an efforts to stand out. Successful Rebel brands have a cult like following of people attracted by their energy.

Goal: To overturn what isn’t working
Strategy: Disrupt, Destroy or Shock
Greatest Fear: To be powerless
Personalities: The Troubleshooter, Game Changer, The Challenger

Key Attributes: Rebellious, Shocking, Outrageous, Disruptive,  Feared, Powerful, Counter-cultural, Liberated, Radical Freedom

The Rebel brand archetype really reflects those who were born to be wild. Rebel customers appreciate the unconventional and forcefully reject the status quo. They are likely to value shocking content or advertisements that are unique with no obvious ‘selling point’.

“The worst thing that could happen to the rebel brand would be to be bought out or for the brand to become too popular. If something isn’t working, the Rebel will destroy it. If they want revenge, they will take it. If they want to start a revolution, they will just do it. […] They won’t stick to industry conventions, they introduce a new attitude and let their customers know that it’s acceptable not to be a sheep in society.”—Vision One market research

Rebel brands will promise Revolution

Examples: Vans, Harley Davidson, Snickers, Jack Daniel’s

The Regular
The Realist, The Everyman, The Friend

Regular brands are empathic, humble and put honesty first. Many people feel a belonging towards those brands.

Goal: To belong 
Strategy: Be down-to-earth and develop solid virtues 
Greatest Fear: To be left out or stand out from the crowd 
Personalities: Realist, Democrat, Comrade

Key Attributes: Everyday functionality , Honesty, Dependable, not pretentious, straight shooter, people-oriented

Regular Guy brands will promise Belonging

“The most effective products or services that a brand can channel the Regular guy archetype are those that give people a sense of belonging with a high degree of practicality, functionality, and low to mid-degree of complexity. The Regular Guy archetype helps customers be OK just as they are.”—Vision One market research

Examples: VW, GAP, Levis

The Magician
The Healer, The Wizard, The Visionary

Magician Brands have a deep impact on the customer and give imagination a reason to go wild. They tend to think out of the box and unexpected. They promise transformative experiences and focus on individuals and motivates people to trust their instincts.

Goal: To make dreams come true
Strategy: Develop a vision and live by it
Greatest Fear: Negative consequences
Personalities: The Envisioner, Healer, Catalyst

Key Attributes: The visionary, Inventor, Spiritual, Values magical moments, Charismatic Leader, Holistic

Example: Redbull, xBox, Tui

“Audi have promoted themselves through this commercial as the magician brand archetype by firstly, the choice of the soundtrack ‘Pure Imagination’ By Willy Wonka, a magical film of mystique and enchantment. The advertisement takes you through the technological processes of building the new A5, but with the idea that it has been created and innovated along the lines of your imagination and therefore magical, making dreams come true.”—Vision One market research

The Explorer
The Explorer, Trailblazer, Pioneer or Adventurer

Explorer brands are restless, independent and self-motivated—they define freedom and are ambitious. Most of us love to travel and discover new things and people. When a brand does that as a person, people love to look forward to what they bring next. Explorer brands create products that promote individuality, excitement, and a way to experience new things.

Goal: To experience a more authentic and fulfilling life
Strategy: To journey, seek and experience new things
Greatest Fear: To be trapped and conform
Personalities: Individualist, seeker, Trailblazer

Key Attributes: Adventurous, Wanderer, Restless, Independent, Self-Directed, Self-sufficient and Values freedom

“The Explorer aims to make people feel free and nonconformist and also helps people express their individuality. Explorer brands are innovative and ambitious. They seek out the new, pushing boundaries and delighting in unexpected discoveries, whilst embracing a “no limit” philosophy.”—Vision One market research

The Explorer brand archetype promise Freedom.

Examples: RedBull, Northface, Jeep, GoPro

“As soon as you press play on this advertisement by GOpro, you can already sense through the soundtrack that it is all about discovery and freedom. GOpro brand themselves through nature, outdoor hobbies and exploration and they advertise their products to be an essential of this world in the most extreme environments. They aim to inspire travel in people, to go and find themselves and of course to capture every moment with their products.”—Vision One market research

The Ruler
The Leader, The Powerful, The Role Model

Ruler brands are leaders in their field—they show authority, create order out of the mess and care a legacy.

Goal: To create a prosperous, successful community 
Strategy: To exercise power 
Greatest Fear: Chaos and being overthrown 
Personalities: Peacemaker, Powerbroker, Conductor 

Key Attributes: Manager, Organiser, Productive, Confidence, Responsible, Role Model, The boss, The leader.

Examples: Starbucks, Rolex, Apple

The Caregiver
The Caregiver, Nurturer, Parent, Angel

Caregiver Brands are driven by their need to protect and care for others. Their values are empathy, protection, safety and support.

Goal: To help and care for others
Strategy: Protecting and doing things for others
Greatest Fear: Selfishness and Ingratitude
Personalities: Supporter, Advocate, Nurturer

Key Attributes: Altruistic, Selfless, Nurturing, Compassionate, Empathetic, Supportive and Generous

Examples: Innocent, Nivea


[1] Medium. 12 Brand Archetypes You Can Use to Effectively Position Your Brand. URL:

[2] Sitebeat. 12 Archetypes Behind the World’s Biggest Brands. URL:

[3] Vision One. Brand Archetypes. URL:

Joyful Design 07


By injecting meaning and context to experiences, we trigger an emotional response that can either be happiness, compassion, surprise or amazement. Those emotional responses can in turn trigger a joyful experience. In the following we will explore design considering compassion/empathy to trigger a joyful experience.

There are two sides to consider, when speaking about compassion in design—this blogpost will outline the first one:

1) Design that shows compassion—which leads to a joyful experience because we feel understood by the Brand/Product/Design

2) Design that evokes compassion—and in a further (optional step) enables us to support a good cause, which can lead to an even more joyful experience.

Nowadays customers exactly want to be informed about brands values and goals—they want brands to feel their challenges, to feel friendly and trustworthy. And foremost, they want to feel a connection—being on a same wavelength, having the same mindest and ethical values—almost like a friendship.

Show Compassion

From a consumer point of view brands should be genuine and transparent. Transparency is a way to connect with the consumer on an emotional level and lead the consumer to believe that the brand understands their struggles, maybe even shares them—this creates compassion and connection, presenting a brand as “just like you.” [1]

By considering empathy in design strategy, a well-grounded base for creating joyful design experience can be established. Smartly used, empathy can create a strong connection to the customer, which turns brands into so called “love brands” and furthermore enables a joyful (brand) experience.

Brands, at their best, tap into who we are. We stick with a brand because we feel it fits us or fits our lifestyle

“If you think about your favorite ads or piece of content you couldn’t wait to share, a big part why it’s a favorite is, because there is some insight in there, some nuance that is so true, so funny or so relevant to who you are and where you are in that moment of time.”—Dana Neujahr.

Compassion in marketing is a crucial component in the creation of consumer personas and in establishing a deep connection to people on an emotional level.

Example: Pinterest [2]

Online searches for anxiety quotes on Pinterest increased 8x year-over-year and searches for how to support someone with depression have doubled. In consideration of those statistics Pinterest made some effort to ensure the well-being of users by developing in-app coping exercises with support from emotional health experts at Brainstorm at the Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation, Vibrant Emotional Health, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 

The exercises provide interactive ideas for improving wellbeing with the help of tools that help to relax and exercise. As an example, a search for “stress relief” may populate options ranging from journaling, drawing or painting nature scenes, or making a playlist.” Fast-forward to today, 10 new exercises have been added targeted specifically towards people at risk of self-harm or injury.

“Everything we do is in service of helping people feel more inspired ….These experts continue to help us better understand different emotional states, including the unique needs of people who search for self-harm. If we can help even one person feel more optimistic, we know that’s time well spent,”—Co-Founder and Chief Creative and Design Officer Evan Sharp

Example: Hallmark “Just Because” Mini Greetings [3]

Showing appreciation and practicing empathy should not only be considered for major subjectives but also for little things in life—a message which has been considered by Hallmarks Mini Greetings Series “Just Because”. The Concept is the simple belief that every day we as humans encounter moments that are equally deserving celebration and recognition. A tiny, but smart gesture that sparks a moment of joy.

“We did some insightful work that let us understand that in today’s society, especially with all the divisive, challenging things around us, people are craving things that are positive and good…While the line is about putting more good in the world, it does not shy away from the dark times,”— Hallmark Cards CMO Lindsey Roy.

The backstory of this particular initiative hits home for Roy who was involved in a tragic boating accident that left her with an amputated left leg in addition to other severe injuries. The results were overwhelmingly positive, incentivizing current loyal customers to buy more cards, attracting new customers and spurring social media conversations.

“With so many ways to stay in touch, it’s amazing to see what a card can do to go above and beyond to show someone how you feel or to tell them you’re thinking of them.”—Hallmark Cards CMO Lindsey Roy

Hallmark ran a 20-week ‘Free Card Friday’ promotion allowing people to get a ‘Just Because’ card for free. This empathetic business cycle is an important one. “By tapping into a deep understanding of what matters to consumers, Hallmark found heightened success and business profitability, in turn, allowing the company to build more opportunities to serve their purpose of helping people find ways to care for their loved ones.”—Erica Perry.

By putting empathy first, Pinterest and Hallmark perfectly illustrate how to build a connection to people and how to use empathy as an approach to establish memorable, joyful experiences on a personal level.


[1] Forbes. 4 Things You Need To Know About Empathy To Build A Successful Brand. (Sep 23, 2018,04:09pm EDT) URL:

[2] Perry, Erica: Socialmediaweek. 4 Brands and Platforms Applying the Economics of Empathy. (January 17th, 2020) URL:

[3] ebda.

Joyful Design 06


The choice of color is a powerful practice, if we want to evoke specific emotions. Colors are rich in symbolic and cultural meanings and the expectations and emotions created by colors highly affect consumers experiences and therefore choices.

In addition to cultural specific meanings, color can also trigger responses that deeply come from our human psyche—color creates a sensory impression that reflects mood and emotion. Such as the experience of color climates can differ from clean and bright to muted and dark. The experience of color can be described as a combination of cultural context, narrative context and psychological effects. [1]

Psychological Effect Example: Wine Tasting
In a wine tasting study, participants used to describe the aromas of white wine by referring to pale or yellowish objects—lemon, grapefruit, melon, butter, pear… But, if the exactly same wine was colored red, participants described it mostly with terms referring to dark or red objects—hickory, cherry, tobacco, musk… [2] This example perfectly states, how color can directly manipulate our perception.

Cultural Context Example: Red [3]
Western Fairy Tales: Love, Sexual, Maturity; Greek Mythology: Mars, God of War; China and Japan: Love, Luck, Happiness; Shinto Religion: Life; Revolutionary Russia: Socialist State; United States: Republican Party; China, India, Nepal: Bridal Wear; National Flags: Blood; Germany, Poland, Russia: Fear, Jealousy; Korea: Love, Adventure, Good Taste; Worldwide Connotations: Fire, Coca Cola, Stop—do not enter (ISO Standards)

Colors can affect us regardless of their cultural connotations—however, if we want to design cultural universal we have to keep in mind that different colors can evoke different connotations/emotions and cultural background is one factor to consider.

The color of Joy

Due to this graphic, the color of joy, could be described as yellow [4]

The color of Happiness

However, the connotation of the feeling of happiness in regard to colors slightly differs between different cultural backgrounds. Western/American: Yellow; Hindu: Green; Asian/Chinese: Red; Native American: White

Even if color has different cultural meaning, scientific research suggests that in the absence of other cues, many responses are universal or widely shared amongst people.

As example: Orange, yellow and red make us feel alive and alert. Blue calms us down—this reactions may be rooted in our species quest for survive (this knowledge in turn connects to our joyful experience of rural landscapes—landscapes that where livable and therefore crucial environments for our survival). Also, we instinctively experience yellow as a happy or joyful color, because it is the color of sunshine and waking life. Whereas blue is connected with peacefulness and rest. [5]

Color Palettes

In a study where music, color and emotions where linked, researches provided different color palettes for the participants. The participants had to link whole palletes of color hues to different emotions and passages of music. The findings: Participants tended to link happy music and upbeat emotions with lighter, brighter, warmer colors, while linking sadder music and lower emotions with duller, darker, cooler tones. [6]


[1] Lupton, Ellen: Design is Storytelling. New York: Cooper Hewitt 2017, p. 104

[2] Lupton, Ellen: Design is Storytelling. New York: Cooper Hewitt 2017, p. 151

[3] Finlay, Victoria: Color: A Natural History of the Palette. New York: Random House 2002

[4] Colors in Culture. URL:

[5] Lupton, Ellen: Design is Storytelling. New York: Cooper Hewitt 2017, p. 108

[6] Lupton, Ellen: Design is Storytelling. New York: Cooper Hewitt 2017, p. 108p. 109

Joyful Design 05

In my last blogpost I mentioned that by injecting meaning and context to experiences, we trigger an emotional response that can either be happiness, compassion, surprise or amazement. Those emotional responses can trigger a joyful experience. In the following you will find typical examples for joyful design considering and working with happiness as an emotional response to trigger a joyful experience.


When working with “happiness” as a trigger for a joyful experience we can especially refer to a wide selection of visual cues. Visual cues that evoke a feeling of happiness, leading to a joyful experience can be the use of bright colors, multi-colored color palettes, round shapes, symmetrical shapes, abundance and multiplicity.

Colors, sprinkles, rainbows, bubbles and confetti–as embodiments of happiness–are perceived by a majority of people as joyful. [1]


A perfect example of design, working with all the visual cues arousing happiness is M&Ms (as well as Smarties, Skittles and Sixlets, to mention a few). The multi-colored (even if they all have the same taste), round-shaped, “chocolate beans” are amongst the most popular candies and their “happy” design for sure is a factor of success.

Over the years, marketing has helped build and expand the M&M’s brand. Computer-animated graphics, personification of the candies as characters with cartoon-like storytelling, and various merchandising techniques including the introduction of new flavors, colors and customizable merchandise have helped to increase the brand’s recognition as a (happy) candy icon. [2]

The perfect mix of happiness: multi-colored, round shaped and furthermore the use of mascots, humour and storytelling

As in the case of M&Ms, happiness and in consequence joyful experiences can be triggered by working with “visual cues of happiness” which are in most cases simply colorful, playful design approaches. But we can also arouse happiness by working with nostalgia or humor.

Happiness—Colorful, Playful Design

“HIKI is a fun, fresh brand for every body and everybody. The wonton color scheme is playful, and without direct logic. This allows the tall, chunky, san-serif typeface of the logo to be the hero of the design. This is a brand that doesn’t present itself as too masculine or feminine, meaning it is for every consumer at every age. HIKI is a masterclass in how a brand can have a blast without skewing too youthful. This is a deodorant brand that is sure to charm it’s way into the homes and hearts of consumers everywhere.”— Shawn Binder. [3]

The Brand Design of Hiki is a great example of how color can be used to create a fun, fresh and open minded brand (appealing) to everyone–just by working with simple visual cues that arouse happiness.

Happiness—Nostalgic Design

Many of the visual cues creating happiness remind us of lighthearted, past times and can evoke feelings of nostalgia. Those cues can remind us of our childhood, teenage days or let our minds travel to distant times or/and cultures. The feeling of nostalgia gets willingly triggered to create joyful experiences. [4]

Designers can use nostalgia to appeal to their audience on a feel-good level. By tapping into people’s desire to feel a sense of belonging, meaning, and security, designers can endow their creations with emotion and sentimentality that connects with their audience and elicits a pleasurable feeling. [5]

Happiness—Fun, Humorous Design

Humor has been recognized as being important in promoting people’s wellbeing and happiness. By thinking out of the box we can use this knowledge to create a joyful experience using fun and humour as a central element of design.

The illustrations of “Beak Picks” packaging got a fun twist by covering the birds head with the individual fruit/ingredient. This simple but clever and suprising twist brings not only a smile on the consumers face but can also create a spark of joy. [6]


[1] TED. Fetell Lee, Ingrid: Where joy hides and where to find it. URL: (last retrieved November 08, 2020)

[2] Wikipedia. M&Ms. URL: (last retrieved on 06.01.2020)

[3] The Dieline. Playful But Not Childish Hiki Sweat Products Know How To Have Fun. URL: (last retrieved on 06.01.2020)

[4] The Dieline. VT Beauty & Health Lifestyle Brand. URL: retrieved on 06.01.2020)

[5] Canva. URL: (last retrieved on 06.01.2020)

[6] The Dieline. Vibrant Playful Illustrations Bring The Packaging For “Beak Pick !” To Life. URL:–to-life? (last retrieved on 06.01.2020)

Joyful Design 04

Context creates Joy

In his Ted Talk about “How beauty feels” Richard Seymour affirms the importance of creating context to achieve a joyful or “beautiful” experience. As an example he mentions lights in cars slowly turning off. “I’ve never found anybody that doesn’t like the light that goes out slowly. I thought, well what the hell’s that about?“ – Richard Seymour. [1]

Lights slowly turning off in cars are a perfect example of a subtle but joyful experience. In general, people describe this experience as natural, or just nice. But there is much more behind this experience design than just a nice “gimmick”. Lights slowly turning off – light to dark in six seconds – in fact, this experience perfectly imitates the experience of going to cinema or theater, which triggers a sense of relaxation tempered with anticipation. When the lights turn slowly dark within six seconds when being in cinema or the theater, that is exactly the moment of experiencing great anticipation – this characteristic gets automatically stored in our unconscious mind and therefore in further consequence connoted with a positive feeling. This theory even gets strengthened through the fact, that the experience of the lights turning slowly off in 6 seconds was experienced much more positive by people who are used to go to cinema or the theater. [2]

Hence, to create something joyful we have to trigger an emotional response – often aroused through poignancy, which can too trigger a sad emotional response. „It isn’t just about nice. And this is the dilemma, this is the paradox of beauty.“ as Seymour states. Joy can be aroused through triggering good, bad (pathos), exciting (triumph) or even frightening emotions. [3] Those emotions arise in our unconscious mind, even before we can manipulate them – smart design takes that knowledge in consideration to guide the experience.

A story, a work of art, a face, a designed object — how do we tell that something is beautiful? And why does it matter so much to us? Designer Richard Seymour explores our response to beauty and the surprising power of objects that exhibit it.

It is hard to find universal characteristics of joy or beauty. As mentioned in the previous post, there for sure is something like an universal experience of beauty, which is deeply related to our evolution. Related to evolution is humans fascination for:

Pastoral landscapes
(= safe, propitious and liveable environment)

Skilled performances
(= increase status, desirable personal qualities: intelligence, conscientiousness, access to rare materials)

Rare materials, Symmetry
(= wealth)

However, there is much more to consider in addition to this “predefined fascination” – particularly the details lie in our individual experiences, knowledge and preferences, that we develop over time. By injecting meaning and context to experiences, we trigger an emotional response:

Happiness, Compassion, Surprise, Amazement

Which can lead to a joyful experience. The creation of meaning and context can be achieved by considering elements that refer to our universal values, collective knowledge and/or individual preferences.

A water bottle by Ross Lovegrove [4] – pretty close to intrinsic beauty – an embodiment of water, something refreshing and delicious. People who are aware of how hard it is to design and produce a bottle of this shape enjoy this product even more.


[1] TED. Richard Seymour: How Beauty Feels. URL: (last retrieved December 29, 2020)

[2] ebda.

[3] ebda.

[4] Ross Lovegrove. URL: (last retrieved December 30, 2020)

Joyful Design 03

Joy and Beauty

Joy and beauty are two terms which are close to each other when it comes to our perception. Looking at art that we perceive as beautiful, watching an aesthetically pleasing movie, strolling through a beautiful landscape—all those activities evoke the feeling of (en)joy(ment).

According to Denis Dutton the most powerful theory of beauty—closely linked to joy—we yet have comes surprisingly from an expert on barnacles and worms and pigeon breeding: Charles Darwin. Many would say joy/beauty is whatever moves you personally or it is in the (culturally conditioned) eye of the beholder. There are many differences among cultures, but there are also universal, cross-cultural aesthetic pleasures and values. [1]

“We need to reverse-engineer our present artistic tastes and preferences and explain how they came to be engraved in our minds by the actions of both our prehistoric, largely pleistocene environments, where we became fully human, but also by the social situations in which we evolved.” —Denis Dutton

What do we experience as joyful/beautiful?

Answering this question is complex, because the things we experience as joyful/beautiful are so different and foremost they are omnipresent—in nature, in arts, in literature, etc. However, Denis Dutton attempts to reconstruct a Darwinian evolutionary history of our artistic and aesthetic tastes. Dutton has no doubt that the experience of beauty, with its emotional intensity and pleasure, belongs to our evolved human psychology. He explains beauty as an adaptive effect, which we extend and intensify in the creation and enjoyment of works of arts and entertainment. [2]

Two primary mechanisms of evolution:

  1. natural selection
    Natural selection is random mutation and selective retention along with our basic anatomy and physiology—such as the evolution of the eye. It explains many basic revulsions—such as the minging smell of rotting meat, the fear of snakes. But it also explains pleasures—liking for sweets, fat and protein, etc.

  2. sexual selection
    Sexual selection operates very differently. The most popular example is the peacock’s tail—it did not evolve for survival, but rather results from the mating choices made by peahens.

According to this idea, we can say that the experience of beauty is one of the ways that evolution has of arousing interest of fascination in order to encourage us toward making the most adaptable decisions for survival and reproduction. As in the last blogpost mentioned an important source of aesthetic pleasure are landscapes—pastoral scenes. Regardless from culture people like this particular kind of landscapes. People do not only like it but experiences it as joyful/beautiful. Noticeable is that this particular kind of landscape happens to be similar to the Pleistocene savannas where we evolved. [3]

“The ideal savanna landscape is one of the clearest examples where human beings everywhere find beauty in similar visual experience.” —Denis Dutton

This universal experience of beauty in nature can also be recognized in an universal experience of beauty in art. According to Dutton it is widely assumed that the earliest human artworks were stupendously skillful cave paintings.

An artistic depiction of a group of rhinoceros, was completed in the Chauvet Cave 30,000 to 32,000 years ago.

But artistic and decorative skills are actually much older than that. Realistic sculptures of women and animals, shell necklaces, as well as ochre body paint, have been found from around 100,000 years ago. And even older than this are the Acheulian hand axes. Or the oldest stone tools, which go back about two and a half million years—choppers of the Olduvai Gorge, East Africa. These tools were around for thousands of years until around 1.4 million years ago when Homo erectus started shaping Acheulian hand axes. Those were made out of thin stone blades, sometimes rounded ovals and very often in symmetrical pointed leaf or teardrop forms. Those axes were found across Asia, Europe and Africa. A sheer number of those axes were created, which indicates that they can not have been made for butchering—many of them also do not indicate any evidence of wear. Trough the use of symmetry, attractive materials and their meticulous workmanship those axes are perceived as beautiful—even nowadays.

Acheulean hand-axe from Egypt. Found on a hill top plateau, 1400 feet above sea level, 9 miles NNW of the city of Naqada, Egypt. Paleolithic. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London

According to Dutton these ancient artifacts could have been the earliest known works of art, practical tools transformed into captivating aesthetic objects—tools to function as „fitness signals“— displays that are performances like the peacock’s tail, except that, unlike hair and feathers, the hand axes are consciously cleverly crafted. Those competently made hand axes could have acted as an indicator for desirable personal qualities: intelligence, conscientiousness and in addition, access to rare materials (= wealth). Those skills were used to increase status—over tens to thousands of generations. Interesting about that is that we do not really know how this idea has been conveyed, since the Homo erectus did not have language. Stretching over a million years, the hand axe tradition is the longest artistic tradition in human and proto-human history. [4]

The Beauty in Skilled Performance

Nowadays, virtuosos technique is used to create imaginary worlds in fiction and in movies, to express intense emotions with music, painting and dance. But still, one fundamental trait of the ancestral personality persists in our aesthetic cravings: the beauty we find in skilled performances. From Lascaux to the Louvre: human beings have a permanent innate taste for virtuoso displays in the art—we find beauty in something done well. Therefore, what we experience as joyful/beautiful is not necessarily a product of our subjective perception or influenced by culture. Furthermore our perception of beauty and joy has been handed down from the skills and emotional lives of our ancient ancestors—it is deep in our minds. Our perception and reaction to images, expression of emotion in arts, music, etc. has been with us ever since. [5]


[1] TED. Denis Dutton: A Darwinian theory of beauty. URL: (last retrieved December 01, 2020)

[2] ebda.

[3] ebda.

[4] ebda.

[5] ebda.

Joyful Design 02

The more you know about people the better experiences your are able to design. The knowledge about human behaviour and psychology is especially important if we want to evoke specific emotions through our designs. „100 things every designer needs to know about people“ by Susan M. Weinschenk is the perfect source to get a broad and basic understanding of how people think, decide and behave. The following are three important findings from Susan M. Weinschenk which can be associated with creating joy.

“3 facts about design and emotions” 

If people can’t feel, then they can’t decide

If you want people to make a decision and take an action, you need to show them information, images, or a video that triggers an emotion – they will be more likely to decide if they have an emotional experience. So, when designing you need to consider the emotions you’re going to generate as people interact with your product. If the experience of your product is sad – such as a sad story – people will be in a sad mood that might affect the next action they take. You especially have to be aware  of the facial expression that may change when people use your product. Researches proved that our facial expressions are directly linked to our emotions. If we smile, we feel happy—if we are not able to smile, we can not experience happiness—if our face is paralyzed we are not able to experience emotions, since we are not able to show facial expressions. For example, if people have to squish their eyes to be able to read the small font, you used on your product, that will may prevent them from feeling happy, which in turn affects an action you may want them to take. [1]

People are programmed to enjoy surprises

If you want to grab attention, design something that is novel to people. Designing something new – something unexpected – can also be pleasurable to people. Our brain scans our environment for anything that could be dangerous and therefore for anything that is novel. A research by Gregory Berns reveals that the human brain not only looks for the unexpected but craves the unexpected. [2] Researchers also measured the most activity in the nucleus accumbers, the part of the brain that is active when people experience pleasurable experiences, when something unexpected happens. [3]

Pastoral scenes make people happy

Pastoral Landscape by Alvan Fisher, 1854

Pastoral scenes are a part of our evolution, which is also the reason why we are so drawn to those scenes. Typical landscape scenes include, according to Denis Dutton, hills, water, trees, birds, animals and a path moving through the scene – an ideal landscape for humans, containing protection, water and food. Dutton notes that our species has evolved to feel a need for certain types of beauty in our lives and that this pull towards things such as theses landscapes has helped us to survive as a species. He also notes that all cultures value artwork that includes these scenes – regardless where people come from. [4]


[1] Weinschenk, Susan M.: 100 things every designer needs to know about people. 2nd edition. 2020 Peachpit, p. 171 f.

[2] Berns Gregory, S. / McClure, S. / Pagnogni, S. / Montague, P.: The Journal of Neuroscience 21(8). Predictability modulates human brain response to reward.

[3] Weinschenk, Susan M.: 100 things every designer needs to know about people. 2nd edition. 2020 Peachpit, p. 173 f.

[4] TED. Denis Dutton: A Darwinian theory of beauty. URL: (last retrieved November 14, 2020)

Joyful Design 01

  • Where does joy come from?
  • How do things make us feel joy?
  • How can we create joyful design experiences?
  • How can  joyful design change human behavior and well being?

What is joy?

Joy is much more than feeling happy – it is the intense feeling of great happiness and feeling good in the moment. [1] Joy is that emotion which makes us laugh and/or jump in the air. 

The “wheel of emotions” developed by Robert Plutchik, suggests eight primary emotions grouped on a positive or negative basis – one of them is joy.

Wheel of Emotions by Robert Plutchik

joy versus sadness; anger versus fear, trust versus disgust, surprise versus anticipation

Considering his theory, basic emotions can be paired/modified to create complex emotions. The complex emotions could arise from cultural conditions or associations combined with the basic emotions – similar to the way primary colors can be combined, primary emotions could blend to form the full spectrum of human emotional experience. [2]

Joy and Design
Influence on human behavior and well-being

Ingrid Fetell Lee dedicates her work to the studies of joy in our life – Where does joy come from? What brings joy? She wrote the book “Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness” [3] and gave a TED talk on the subject, titled “Where joy hides and how to find it.” [4] Through her studies she found out that there is a relationship between the physical world and the feeling of joy and that there are universal matters that spark joy in almost everyone – such as rainbows, fireworks and bubbles. Those elements remind us of shared humanity in a common experience of our physical world.

Ingrid Fetell Lee particularly analyzed the “aesthetics of joy” and came to the conclusion that those are especially round things, pops of bright color, symmetrical shapes/arrangements, multiplicity, a sense of abundance and a feeling of lightness.

Case Study Project Backboard

Project Backboard was founded in 2014 by Dan Peterson. Dan’s mission: using public basketball courts as a canvas for creative expression to strengthen communities and inspire multi-generational play. To Dan, basketball is much more than only sport – it represents joy and community. In the last years Project Backboard renovated over two dozen basketball courts from Memphis to Puerto Rico. [5]

“I am trying to explore how color can reengineer the space to make it feel more inviting.” – Dan Peterson

ARTIST: Carlos Rolón – Toa Baja, Puerto Rico

“I see art as a real utility that changes the way people engage with space. I feel they feel safer. When walking into our space, I believe people feel a physical vibration of the color. You feel the color in your body.” – Dan Peterson

ARTIST: Jim Drain – Fargnoli Park, Providence, RI

Project Backboard is only one of many examples how our environment and society can benefit by sparking joy through art and design.


[1] Oxford Dictionaries. Joy. Url:
(last retrieved November 08, 2020)
[2] Lupton, Ellen: Design is Storytelling. (p. 61) New York: Cooper Hewitt 2017
[3] Fetell, Lee: Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness. Little, Brown Spark 2018
[4] TED. Fetell Lee, Ingrid: Where joy hides and where to find it. URL: (last retrieved November 08, 2020)
[5] Project Backboard. URL:
(last retrieved November 08, 2020)