The Psycho-Aesthetics Process

Advanced Design-Thinking Methodology


Companies invest vast resources into innovation and strategy and often find themselves frustrated in confronting two major hurdles:

Poor Collaboration

Fostering collaboration between executives and creative teams brings special challenges. Differences in tolls, education and perspective frequently lead to delays, battles of unsatisfying compromise and uninspired results.

Information Overload

Although information from market research is abundant, insight can be in short supply. Traditional market research and financial data reveal very little about consumers' emotional triggers in the decision process in a way that can inform design and business strategy.


About Psycho-Aesthetics


The roots of Psycho-Aesthetics (P/A) come from a uniquely pivotal time in which its founder Ravi Sawhney worked with dozens of cognitive and industrial psychologists developing the first touch screen interface at Xerox PARC, the birthplace of many of today’s technologies, including the Macintosh. During this challenging time, he found that several facts created barriers to its success:

  1. People were not yet familiar with computers;
  2. People related to CRT screens as TVs and thereby knew only to never put their finger prints on the screen;
  3. They knew to stand back far enough to avoid its radiation. A button on the screen saying “touch to start” was met with great resistance, in part due to the presentation of the technology.

Imagine a foot-deep display with a 5-inch by 7-inch display buried inches inside a dark bezel. It was anything but intuitive. Success was finally attained after months of exploration, playing with various designs on screen, and working to reduce the perception of depth and darkness, all of which eventually allowed users who were new to the concept to immediately accept and interact with it. That was 1978.

The study of the psychological aspects of aesthetic perception.
— Oxford’s definition of Psycho-Aesthetics

The Psycho-Aesthetics Process Overview


  • Conducting Desktop Global Research
  • Curating Trends
  • Generating Research Hypothesis
  • Creating Hypothetical Concepts
  • Conducting Ethnographic Studies
  • Interviewing Stakeholders
  • Creating Stimuli
  • Conducting Co-Creation Sessions
  • Creating Research Plan
  • Screening Criteria and Discussion Plans


  • Generating Insights
  • Creating Go To Market Strategies
  • Benchmarking Competition
  • Developing Personas
  • Identifying Consumer Triggers
  • Developing Help Me Statements
  • Mapping Opportunity Zones
  • Developing Customer Experience Journey

03 Key Attractors

  • Identifying Category Attractors
  • Defining Solution Criteria
  • Finding Key Product Attractors

04 Hero's Journey

  • Outlining Hero's Journey for Key Personas
  • Defining Moments of Truth
  • Defining Avenues of Consumer Attraction
  • Engagement and Adoption/Purchase
  • Creating Viral Demand

05 Design

  • Brainstorming in Creative Immersion Sessions
  • Ideating & Conceptualizing
  • Creating & Iterating Concepts
  • Development of Wireframes
  • Mapping Proposed Solutions
  • Exploring Colors, Materials & Finishes
  • Prototyping
  • P/A Validating of Proposed Solution
  • Developing the Brand
  • Developing Elevator Pitch

06 Execution

  • Developing the Product/Service
  • Integrating Partnerships
  • Engineering/Programming the Product
  • Creating Go To Market Solutions
  • Creating Fast Fails
  • Iterative Testing of Prototypes
  • Testing of Beta Versions
  • Cycles of Design/Engineering Improvements
  • Debugging
  • Tolling, Press Check and Producing
  • Conducting Pilot Studies
  • Ramping Up Production

07 Moments of Truth

  • Empowering Consumers
  • Rewarding Customers
  • Creating Heroic Evangelists
  • Generating Viral Demand

The P/A Map

Relative – Scalable – Adaptive


P/A maps are a scalable design-strategy framework. They are a center point to Psycho-Aesthetics, providing a consistent lens to see the world through. By adopting P/A maps, we as designers develop relevance and understanding of how people see the world, resulting in our ability to empathize with them and their perceptions. Additionally, we find that using P/A maps trigger recall at a higher level than occur otherwise. Viewing visuals trigger recall of process and insights that allow communication with higher levels of depth, clarity, and conviction. e maps become a new shared language between stakeholders and ourselves.

It is used to map personas, brands, and offerings against the consumer’s Hierarchy of Needs, Desires, and Aspirations on one hand and levels of interactivity on the other. Once these entities are mapped, opportunity zones (White Space / Blue Ocean) can be identified and design directions can be de ned and communicated.


The vertical axis of the P/A map is a translation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs into a consumer’s Hierarchy of Needs, Desires and Aspirations. The most meaningful experiences provide the highest level of empowerment. By “empowerment,” we mean the emotional connection we make with products and services and how those emotions empower us to do things we couldn’t or wouldn’t do without them.

The horizontal axis of the P/A map is based on levels of interactivity, from passive interactivity (like a paper clip) to highly immersive interactivity (like a skip loader). Although function can be a part of a design’s level of interactivity, this axis also serves to measure how many senses are activated and how deeply engaging the interactivity is overall.


The Hero's Journey

Defining the Hero's Journey


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