Foundations Of Cognitive Science

Visceral Design

Norman (2004) argues that people process objects and devices at three different levels.  Visceral processing involves automatic, prewired, emotional responses: rapid judgments of good or bad. Behavioral processing involves brain processes that control everyday behavior, and can produce responses that are more sophisticated than can visceral processing.  Reflective processing involves reasoning and remembering, reflecting back on past experiences and actions, and evaluating them with the goal of planning future action.

Visceral design is that component of design that aims at generating appropriate responses at the visceral level of processing.  It is the use of physical features – look, feel, and sound – to generate positive affect (Norman, 2004).  “Visceral design is all about immediate emotional impact.  It has to feel good, look good” (p. 69).


  1. Norman, D. A. (2004). Emotional Design: Why We Love (Or Hate) Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books.

(Added November 2010)