Emotion thru design: losing the hard/soft skill divide

Alastair Somerville
3 min readOct 8, 2019
Dortmund All rights: Roland Baege 2019

I’m doing a new full day workshop in San Jose on 30th October. It combines all the elements of my work in accessibility, sensory design, emotional design and structured conversation that I’ve put into previous workshops at places like Hyperisland, Google, UX Week and SxSW.

This workshop is different tho.

Bridging the gap

San Jose workshop format

Most professional training splits learning between hard and soft skills. Between that knowledge you need to do your tasks and that knowledge you need to manage your relationships to do your tasks.

This gap is deeply unhelpful and it has consequences in the work we can do.

This workshop highlights that problem because it is centred around sensory and emotional design.

It’s personal

Listening to emotion workshop 2019

A workshop about senses and emotions is personal. I deliberately design workshops that are experiential so people can comprehend ideas at a visceral and personal level. The knowledge has to be anchored to the personal perspective as it’s the only one that makes sense for future work.

Emotional design work is hard. It’s not possible to divide up the engineering of emotional products and services from the experience of emotions in research and product management.

You cannot build new products that have emotional effects without being able to recognise and work with emotions in your workplace.

This is why the full day workshop is about learning about the effects of senses and emotions in product interactions and about the recognition and management of emotions in professional interactions.

To design well for senses and emotions is to:

  • Recognise them in product experiences
  • Recognise them in yourself
  • Recognise them in the people you work with

There is no hard/soft skill gap. To build with emotions professionally is to work with emotions professionally.

Come along

This workshop is being organised thanks to the efforts of Terri Rodriguez Hong and you can buy tickets on Eventbrite now.

The full day workshop is $50 so hopefully it’s affordable.

This workshop will mix things up that we normally keep separate but that’s deliberate because the only way we’ll get to the future is by dumping old idea about what needs to be kept separate.

To build new products, the skills we need mix engineering, research and management skills. The hard/soft skills divide is dead and we need to work together in new ways that mix our skills fluidly.



Alastair Somerville

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. www.linkedin.com/in/alastair-somerville-b48b368 Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX