Psychophysical Identities

type - big idea
Big Idea
category - design
A new wave of designers are exploring how familiar physical feelings can be translated into visual sensations and mood-lifting branding

Drivers: what’s happening

For the past decade, people have been obsessed with how everything makes them feel, forcing brands to become fluent in the language of emotions and moods.

During the pandemic – a time when purchasing habits were at an all-time low – this skill became necessary for brands to maintain a connection with their customers. Then, they were deliberately creating content and experiences that were intended to have a physical or emotional reaction. Some were tuning into content that prompted an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), which OnePoll reports 32% of Americans admit to watching, while others enjoyed synaesthesia – the feeling of experiencing multiple senses simultaneously.

This shift has led to a rise in empathetic brands – those whose sole focus is to evoke physical sensations or emotional experiences. Card game We’re Not Really Strangers, for example, encourages players to spend time focusing on feelings, perception and reflection by asking one another questions. Its Instagram warns that ‘feelings may arise’ during play, with content that aligns familiar sensations with words; for example, ‘questions that feel like a hug’. Now, the idea of translating feelings into written or visual cues is being explored in branding and identity-building.

Published by:

29 June 2022

Author: Olivia Houghton

Image: Woo, UK


Arcsaber 11 branding by Monopo London for Yonex

Case studies: what’s new


Branding and communications agency Monopo London is behind a fresh identity for badminton brand Yonex’s Arcsaber 11, a racquet that has garnered a cult following. Animated clips aim to replicate the feeling of hitting a shuttlecock, while referencing the brand’s shuttle-hold technology, in which the strings wrap around the shuttlecock for a microsecond upon impact. The team created a dotted pattern as an abstract of the string bed, with the animation demonstrating the dots connecting to reflect the shuttlecock’s impact. Arrow and target-inspired symbols also feature to communicate the racquet’s unique sense of control.


Cultural entities are also using psychophysical branding to communicate the emotional and physical reactions that people experience around music, art or theatre. Ticketing platform Dice recently developed a new identity inspired by the energy of fan culture. Alongside a new word mark and mascot, a fresh set of bright, colourful visuals were also designed. These are described by Dice’s in-house design team as ‘vibrations’ and are said to represent the energy of fans at a live show. ‘What we’ve landed on recognises the vibrancy of our fan community as well as the visceral emotion and feeling of togetherness that makes people return to live events again and again,’ says Patrick Duffy, executive creative director at Dice.


Similarly, Otherlands Festival in Scotland has unveiled a new identity based on the notion of ‘frisson’ – the psychophysical response to excitement. Designed by London-based Studio Nari, the branding was born from extensive preliminary research among festival-goers. The team asked people what they felt when they were at festivals and how they could explain that feeling in words. Respondents cited feelings such as ‘getting chills’, ‘goosebumps’ or ‘a feeling of sudden emotional excitement’. 

‘Badminton fans say that it’s an incredibly satisfying racquet to use because it almost feels as if the racquet embraces the shuttlecock when you hit it’
Mattijs Devroedt, managing director, Monopo London

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