Emotional Design in Asia Localization: China Case Study

Emotions are at the core of each human being. However, the way in which we feel, experience, and express our emotions differs across cultures and languages. This is where user experience (UX) designers need to consider these factors and utilize emotional localization in the digital world of online sales.

In this article, we take a deep dive into emotional UX and emotional localization as well as focus on China as our case study for effective emotional localization when it comes to design and purchasing decisions made by Chinese consumers. Let’s explore this topic in more detail below.

What is emotional design?

Before we explore what emotional localization is, it’s important to briefly define and understand what emotional design refers to. In short, emotional design is one part of creating digital experiences. Through these digital experiences, products are designed to elicit specific emotional responses from users.

As such, emotional design goes beyond functionality and aesthetics. Instead, it’s about connecting with users on a deeper and more emotional level. This could mean creating experiences that personally resonate with users and making interactions not only useful but also delightful and memorable.

This translates into making products that are more lifelike and memorable through engaging a fuller range of emotions, some of which may include joy, surprise, sadness, anger, and others.

Why does emotional design matter?

There are many reasons why emotional design matters. Below is a brief outline of some of the reasons why companies and e-commerce retailers need to incorporate this design principle into their products and marketing efforts:

  • Emotions drive decisions: For example, positive emotions associated with a brand or a product can shape user behavior. This can lead to higher engagement, loyalty, and brand advocacy.
  • They influence consumer perceptions: In UX, it is vital to understand the psychology of emotions. The reason behind this is that emotional responses can influence users in various ways. For instance, they can affect a user’s perception of the value of a product or its usability.
  • Shows respect for a user’s emotional state: When done properly, UX’s incorporation of emotional intelligence into design can show a user that their emotions are acknowledged and respected. As such, this can lead to a memorable and enjoyable experience with a brand or a product.
  • Enhanced user engagement: Emotional UX can play a significant role in driving user engagement. When a product resonates with a user on an emotional level, it becomes more than just a “thing”. It becomes a companion in the user’s journey and experience.
  • Builds brand loyalty: In addition to the above, emotional UX can foster strong user loyalty. Consequently, users with a strong emotional connection to a product can become brand advocates and spread the word about the brand.
  • Differentiates within a crowded market: Finally, emotional UX offers a unique way for a brand’s products to stand out by focusing on how they make the user feel. In turn, this creates a distinct and memorable brand experience that differentiates the brand from others in a crowded marketplace.
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Emotional triggers in design

There are numerous emotional triggers in UX design that designers should be aware of. Among these triggers include colors, visuals, and sounds. In the context of China, for example, red can mean luck and prosperity, while in the West, blue can convey trust and stability.

As for the remaining triggers, it is worth considering that imagery, typography, and layout can also affect a person’s emotional state, as can sounds and music that are associated with the product. Therefore, for effective emotional design to take place, it is essential to subtly integrate these elements in order to create a cohesive and emotionally resonant user experience.

Design principles for emotional UX

Apart from emotional triggers, there are a few design principles involved in driving emotional UX for better success rates. Examples of these include:
Emotional Localization

  • Empathy through a deep understanding of the user’s feelings, needs, and motivations. As such, designs should not only be functional but also emotionally supportive.
  • Gathering user feedback through an “empathetic feedback loop” means constantly iterating designs based on emotional responses to ensure a user-centric approach to design.
  • Through storytelling, a digital journey can be transformed into a relatable and engaging experience, making the user experience more immersive and memorable.
  • Visually speaking, color, imagery, typography, and other elements can play a major role in evoking emotions. These can set the tone for the user experience. With this, it is important to maintain a consistent visual language to reinforce emotional coherence.
  • Microinteractions are also important. These are small, functional interactions that can have a strong emotional impact by turning a mundane task into a delightful experience. For example, a satisfying click sound or a playful animation can stimulate a user’s emotional experience.
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What is the role of emotional design in the localization process?

With emotional design and UX, it is vital for foreign companies entering a new market to employ the use of emotional localization. This goes far beyond mere translating of product descriptions and localizing prices into the local currency. It’s about understanding how cultural nuances influence the emotional impact of products and/or services on users in Asian markets.

What is also important to understand and take into account is that although language plays a critical role in understanding, experiencing, and expressing emotions, there is no single global standard for emotional experiences. For instance, the word “happy” can have multiple synonyms in one language but only one word to express it in another.

Also, emotions are very frequently expressed through words and language and, therefore, language supports information emotional categories, aids in describing and expressing emotional states, and shapes emotional experiences. What is important to consider is that factors such as culture, language, and geography influence the diversity of emotional experiences.

This is where emotional localization becomes a critical point for market entry in order to accurately adapt to a foreign culture and linguistic environment. Therefore, a translator’s job is not merely to translate a text from a source language to the target language. Instead, apart from their strong understanding of grammatical rules, they also need to possess a deep understanding of cultural influences in the language.

Case Study: China

Research has been carried out to discover the relationship between emotional design and emotional localization on consumer behavior in Mainland China. Results have been compared to Hong Kong, where the language spoken is similar and cultural nuances are quite close as well. What was discovered is that the emotional design of a product is related to five primary factors, which are:

  • Originality
  • Beauty
  • Pleasure
  • Ergonomics
  • Exquisite
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However, what must be noted is that apart from certain emotional appeals, consumers in China also make rational purchase decisions. This is made by frequently comparing product benefits and cost-effectiveness. As such, good product design does not only communicate with the user and captures their attention. It should also increase their willingness to buy through the experience of using it.


When it comes to strong emotional design and emotional localization, UX designers have a difficult job of ensuring that their products go beyond functional and useful but also stimulate an emotional response from their users.

However, because linguistic and cultural factors play such a huge role in how emotions are expressed, it becomes necessary to carry out strong and effective emotional localization in order for the product design and the intended elicited emotion to have a strong effect on the user without causing them harm and while considering the element of empathy.

In the case of Chinese consumers, it’s essential to create an emotionally resonating experience for these users. However, it is also necessary to take other factors into account, such as comparability and affordability.