Author and design critic Don Norman discusses the three ways that good design makes us happy. (Norman, 2003) Beautiful, Functional and Reflective are his three categories of design emotions. Norman makes the case that pleasant things work better. That beauty enhances function. When people reflect on these experiences they develop an emotional experience.

According to Hayward (2012) positive emotions not only affect cognition, they also increase learning outcomes. This would indicate that emotional design effects should be considered when designing multimedia learning environments. In Emotional Design in Multimedia Learning, Hayward & Homer (2012) talk about the effect of using color and visual shapes to influence positive emotions. Homer (2013) suggests that some color combinations are more likely to create positive emotions. These include saturated and analogous bright warm color combinations including yellow, orange, and pink. Homer (2013) also suggests that some shapes are more likely to induce a positive affect on the learner. These include round, or oval features without sharp edges.

To provide optimal learning environments instructional designers need to consider not only the content being delivered, but the students’ needs as related to emotions and motivation. (Kim, 2013). Kim (2013) also contend that simply understanding a learner’s emotions is not sufficient; rather the process of cultivating the desired emotion is what will lead to positive outcomes including open-mindedness, motivation, and effective cognitive strategy.

I find this concept fascinating. If positive emotions have a positive impact on cognition, than designing a learning environment that will either elicit, or cultivate positive emotions would be desirable. In considering the effect of color on emotion, the instructional designer could vary color according to the emotions that would be most suited for a particular learning module. For example, if bright warm color combinations create more happy feelings, and students with happy feelings learn more, it makes since to use bright warm color combinations for learning modules. If greens and blues are better for calming emotions. Testing components could use green and blues to help students relax and perform better on examinations.

Norman, D. (2003, February). Don Norman: The three ways that good design makes you happy [Video file]. Retrieved from

Hayward, E., Homer, B. (2012). Emotional Design in Multimedia Learning. Journal of Educational Psychology. Vol. 104, No. 2, 485-498.-

Kim, C. & Pekrun, R. (2013). Emotions and motivation in learning and performance. In M. Spector (Ed.) Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology (pp. 385-441). New York, NY: Springer.