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Athena Herrmann

Athena Herrmann

Design Director

The Importance Of Surprise & Delight In UX Design

Is It Possible to Create a Personality for your Product Interface?

While in North Vancouver visiting a client, I noticed something that’s sole purpose is to make pedestrians walking up (or down) the steep hill of Lonsdale Avenue happy.

Scattered here and there along the boulevard are carved animals, a sort of an amalgamation of various mystery figures.

As my colleagues and I walked, we debated about what kind of animal they were and what they were for. Is it a bunny? A polar bear? Final consensus: A cow! (Cowbearnny?)

As to their purpose, there were many theories. “Are they to stop skateboarders?” “Are they boot scrapers?”  “Do they keep dogs from peeing on doorways?”

My guess is that they are there for the sole purpose of making the experience of walking that stretch of street better. Of creating a positive opinion of the area. For making people happy.

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This theory applies to many things and can be very effective in the world of UX design. I’m sure you can think of many examples of awful, purely utilitarian interactions on the web. Unfortunately, there are less examples of remarkable experiences…

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In the book “Designing for Emotion”, Aarron Walter writes about how to design for humans by creating designs that engage people on an emotional level. He states that to do this, it’s critical to bond with your audience by designing a personality that the interface will embody.

Of course, a key way to do this is by understanding the persona of the users who are interacting with your product. But your design can have a persona too.

When creating a new design for a product or a website, the visual design team at Akendi conducts a creative workshop with key stakeholders. Asking the right questions in this information gathering session helps us to personify the product we are designing.

We regularly ask questions like “If your product walked into a bar, what would it look like? How would it act?” to characterize its personality.

The Role of Curiosity

How does this lead to surprise and delight for your customers and users?

The key to is to pique curiosity. To engage people directly by grabbing their attention at the right moment with an approach that fits with them. To make them stop and notice. To start a conversation.

Thinking back to the little cowbearnnies decorating Lonsdale Avenue, that moment of discovery spurs an opportunity to create further engagement with those interacting with it.

Having surprise and delight moments flow neutrally from your brand and voice ensures authenticity.

These moments also create differentiation from your competitors and give you a competitive advantage. They create a connection that people remember and have the opportunity to create a long-term connection with your brand.

Was there a time when you experienced surprise and delight around a user experience? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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Athena Herrmann

Athena Herrmann

Design Director

Athena brings 14 years of expertise in print, web, brand identity, and mobile, software and application design. From concept to completion, Athena possesses a rare combination of design skills. She works with an immaculate attention to detail, a clear grasp of the target and message as a whole, extraordinary creative talent, and the production skills to bring her ideas to life. Athena delivers projects within budget and time restraints while maintaining Akendi’s consistently high standards. She has had the opportunity to work with some of North America’s most respected organizations including The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, RBC, Whole Foods Market, SAP America, York Region, Blackberry, the Government of Canada, the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. Athena holds a BFA in Graphic Design from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York and has earned the professional designation of Registered Graphic Designer.


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