Apple Watch: can three concentric circles evoke emotions?

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At the recently concluded WWDC, Apple executives alluded to how Apple Watch users are addicted to completing the activity rings before the end of the day. watchOS 3 will even a new face showcasing the day’s activity rings. As an Apple Watch user I can vouch for the veracity in the claim that users are motivated to complete these rings. Looked at in isolation, they are just three concentric circles, aren’t the? No big deal. A client may even laugh at a designer who presents ‘three concentric circles’ as as a great design idea.

Apple Watch

So how does such a seemingly basic design element evoke a powerful emotion and motivate someone to exercise?

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs

The above quote is oft-repeated in the context of what design is. I feel sometimes clients (especially in enterprise, public sector and government domains) mistakenly dismiss ‘looks and feels like’ and are simply satisfied with something which works…kinda. In my view, all are interlinked and have to be integrated – great design is definitely not just about looks and feelings but unless these two are done right the outcome will never be out ‘how it works’. Design most definitely evokes an emotion (‘how it feels’) and that is driven by how it looks…both go hand in hand. When we wear our favourite fashion brand or perfume we do feel good, don’t we? For some driving a car or using a gadget may evoke that feel good factor. But all of it has to come together in a holistic package.

With the Apple Watch’s activity rings it is the holistic package of the device, the imagery, the subtleness and extremely personal nature of the haptic alert (so you feel a vibration or pulse on your wrist) all come together to create an emotion. Sure enough there are other devices and apps which also aim to do the same – present goals and motivate the user to complete them. I have seen it on the Pedometer++ app (a confetti splash on the screen when goals are achieved) and the Mi band (which also sends a buzz when the days’ goal is completed) but none come close to the Apple Watch in motivating to exercise through this simple design device.

I guess such ‘foresight’ and the ability to predict how it can all come together to create an emotional impact is what makes a great design mind. And commands a premium.

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