How to Design Products People Love: Psychology & Storytelling for UX | Brian Pagán | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

How to Design Products People Love: Psychology & Storytelling for UX

teacher avatar Brian Pagán, Human Experience Designer & Coach

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      The Science of Love & Stories


    • 3.

      Creating Characters & Objectives


    • 4.

      Designing Habit-Friendly Interactions


    • 5.

      Writing Your Love Story


    • 6.

      Ethical Persuasion


    • 7.

      Class Project: Using the Love Story Canvas


    • 8.



  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

Out of the apps you install, how many do you forget after a week? How many are you still using? And what makes them different? The answer is love!

I created the Love Story Canvas, which uses techniques from psychology & storytelling to facilitate the process of designing love-worthy products & services. During this course, we’ll go step by step, applying the Love Story Canvas to a real-world design challenge.

This class is for designers, developers, & marketeers who create products & services that empower people. Beginners will benefit from this fresh perspective on design fundamentals, and experienced professionals will enjoy the structured method for persuasive design.

The Love Story Canvas is available as a free download, and we’ll use each lesson to complete a part of your class project. Paper & pen is enough for this, but you can print the canvas & apply sticky notes, if you prefer. Let’s rock and roll!


Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Brian Pagán

Human Experience Designer & Coach


Hey, Brian here! I help tech creators bring their compassion to work with design, art, & psychology.

Over the last 21 years, I've helped companies like Philips, ING, Land Life Company, and WaitWhat turn innovation strategy into award-winning products & services. And my book, The Creative Empathy Field Guide, is a practical toolkit for incorporating empathy into any creative process.

I've given keynotes, talks, classes, and workshops in 12 countries. In them, I employ stories and examples from my work in healthcare, sustainability, fintech, and the internet of things. I hold a Doctorate in Human-System Interaction and a Master’s in Industrial Psychology. Plus, I know six ways to brew coffee.

Other hats I wear include keynote speaker, podcaster, actor, and UX co... See full profile

Level: All Levels

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Introduction: How many apps do you forget after week? And how many have a meaningful impact on your life? What's the difference? My answer is love. Hey, I'm Brian Pagan, I'm a human experience designer and an actor. I have been in UX for about 15 years now and acting for five of those years. My work explores the convergence between art and science, emotion and intellect and applies the superpowers that we find in there to create products and services that facilitate positive social change. I created the Love Story Canvas to provide a usable and simple framework that combines the science of ethical persuasion, with the science of love and storytelling, to create products and services that people can fall in love with. This Skillshare courses all about using the love story canvas in a way that helps to inform and enhance your design process. Here's a quick breakdown of the videos that we're going to go through. Lesson one, is all about the theory of storytelling and the science of love. Lesson two, is about understanding characters and objectives. Number three, is about designing habit friendly interactions. Number four, is about writing the actual love story. Lesson five, deals with ethical and compassionate persuasion and lesson six, gives an overview of how we can use these techniques in an active project. This course is designed for designers, developers, engineers, marketeers, anyone who creates products and services for other people, beginners will appreciate a fresh approach to the fundamentals and more experienced professionals will appreciate the Persuasive Design aspect of what we covered here. The Love Story Canvas itself is actually available to download for free at To complete the exercises, you need nothing more than the canvas and maybe some paper and pen and sticky notes if you even want to. It's all up to you. Enjoy the course. I'm really looking forward to working together with you and seeing you on the platform afterwards. Thanks a lot. 2. The Science of Love & Stories: Here's the first lesson where we're going to talk a little bit about the theory of love and a theory of persuasive design. We're going to look at the underlying key concepts that will help us continue with the lessons as we go forward and continue with the projects, as we to the class project. Basically, the basic principle of the whole Love Story Canvas and what we're doing here is that person product love follows a lot of the same patterns as interpersonal love, so love between people. This comes from Beatriz Russo, who wrote her whole PhD thesis on the idea of person product love relationships. If we think about the patterns of a person to person love that we can apply to person product love, one of the most key things are the five phases of love. Most love relationships, sustainable, really meaningful love relationships will follow a typical pattern, kind of the five phases. The first is attraction, then there's a buildup, then there is some continuation. Then it maybe deteriorates over time, and at some point, it might end. That's okay. Not all love relationships have to last forever. But something that's interesting is that this pattern, this five phases of love, actually correspond to the five key components of a dramatic arc. This is where it gets really interesting. If we think about the arc of a story, it has a similar five part structure. We have an exposition. There is rising action, where we have a climax, there might be some falling action, and then there's a denouement at the end, the resolution of the story. These correspond fairly well with each other, what I like about this is that we can think of these things in terms of catharsis, dramatic tension. Now, Brenda Laurel in her PhD thesis, which came out as a book called computers as theater, talks about human-computer interaction as when we're designing things, especially computer programs for people to use. She doesn't look at people as users. She looks at users as interactors. In the sense that when we are creating a computer program, what we're really doing is building a stage and creating a cast of characters for an interactor to interact with, to create their own story, to become the protagonist of their own story. That's what the Love Story Canvas helps us to do. I mentioned catharsis a moment ago. Catharsis in its basic form, really is all about building dramatic tension and releasing dramatic tension, especially when the release is a satisfying one. If we understand that if you noticed maybe when I talked about the phases of love and the components of dramatic structure or a dramatic arc, the action always rises and then something will happen that resolves the action so that there is this satisfying release of emotion or release of tension. That catharsis is the thing that will drive our stories forward. When I talk about driving a story forward, I'm talking about the different parts of a story that every story has, and I like thinking in terms of these parts when I'm designing interactions as well. A dramatic arc can represent a beat, a scene, an episode, for example, season or a series. If we look at any TV show, these are the various parts that have the same structure that the TV show is created around. Here's the exercise. We thought about dramatic structure, catharsis, dramatic tension, the building blocks of a story. When you watch the TV show, next time you watch your favorite TV show or you watching movie, what I'd like you to do is examine one of the scenes with the main character in it. Think about that character's objective, think about the challenges that character faces, and also identify where the tension rises and how that tension gets resolved. 3. Creating Characters & Objectives: We talked about the underlying theory and now we're going to start diving into the actual Love Story Canvas itself. Just to give you a quick overview, this lesson we'll talk about the scope part of the canvas, so on the top. In the next lesson, lesson three, we're going to talk about the scene, where we will be constructing a scene around interaction with the product or service. Then in lesson four, we'll talk about how to craft a story around that interaction scene. Let's get started. If you want to download the Love Story Canvas, you can do so at or you can scan the QR code that should be showing up on the screen right now. What I find works really the best in using this is to use your real work. If you're working on a product or service right now, it'll be great if you can apply the Canvas to that. But if you prefer, we'll talk about a test case. If you don't want to use this for your real work, think about a digital VR coach to help people with arthritis to do their physical therapy exercises. We want to get people to fall in love with the service or product that you do or that you're going to create that will help them fix their arthritis through physical therapy. If we take the Love Story Canvas, the first part of the scope talks about a character. This is also the most important part of any story. We need a protagonist who's going to push the character along. Thinking about your character in this case, briefly describe who is the character that you want a design for. Then we'll look at that character's objective. What is the character trying to achieve or better yet what is the objective that we can help the character achieve? Then we're going to look at the key habit. When we construct our scene in the next lesson, this is going to be the interaction that this person has with your product or service that represents a habit that's going to help that person, that character, to achieve their goal or achieve their objective. Finally, because we don't design in a vacuum, we also need to look at your business need. Ideally, whenever the character goes through their key habit and goes through the scene that we're going to construct, they will somehow take some of the value that you're giving them but they will also give you some value back. That's because we need to also construct a sustainable business model around this interaction, which we won't go into too deeply now. Basically, it's good to think about the business need, the core business need, that this is going to help serve for you and for your organization or business or you as a designer. If we think about this in terms of an example, if we think about a frequent flyer program, a character could be a person who wants to go on a trip. Their objective is to have a fantastic vacation. The key habit is to book flights. The business goal in that sense of the business need that's being served obviously is the money that you're going to get or that the airline is going to get from when the flight is purchased. As you're filling in this Canvas, please remember that the character and the objective are going to determine everything that happens from here on out especially when we're constructing this key habit and is also when we are crafting the story around that. We're doing it in such a way that we want to help the character achieve their objective. We want to create something meaningful that gives that person, that character, meaningful value in their life. Thanks very much. See you in the next lesson. 4. Designing Habit-Friendly Interactions: Okay. Do you remember the story arc we talked about in lesson 1? What we're going to do now is apply that story arc to constructing a scene around which your character will be interacting with the product or service that you're going to create. Basically what we're doing, is we're taking the key habit that we defined in the previous lesson, and we're going to break it down into its four parts. If you're thinking about this or if it feels a little bit familiar to you, it should be. What we're doing here is adding a storytelling layer on top of Nir Eyal hooked model, and the added value of adding this storytelling layer, is that it allows us to look more long-term into what he calls investment. But without going into that too far, I just wanted to give a shout out basically to our theoretical background and where the structure really comes from. The four parts that we are going to be dealing with in the scene, the four parts of the scene that we want to create and design for are, challenge, action, reaction, and commitment. The challenge is the thing that drives the character or prompts the character to actually go and complete the action. In essence, this is a perceivable stimulus that your product or service will show or somehow present to the person that will create some rising tension that they will want to resolve by completing the action that you want them to complete. In case of the arthritis, the action is going to be doing a physical therapy exercise. Now it's important to understand that when you create a challenge, the best challenges have a built-in affordance that show the character, how to release the tension in a very clear way. Also ideally with the action that we're going to define, like the arthritis case, the action is going to be something that helps the character achieved their objective, but ideally, it also helps you accomplish whatever business need it is that you're trying to fulfill, the one that we defined in the previous lesson, at the same time and in a fair and equitable way. After the person or character completes the action, then they'll be a reaction, which is basically a perceivable change that allows the character to understand that the tension is resolved, and it's almost like a reward, but doesn't necessarily have to be an extrinsic reward. It can also be some feedback or some meaningful response that allows people to understand that the action that they've done has been received and understood. Finally, and here's the fun part, is the commitment part. The commitment is going to be the part of this that connects the scene that we construct here to the larger story that we're going to craft in the next lesson, and what it is, is a small piece of effort that the character can put forth to ensure that as they go through this scene that we construct here over and over, that it becomes more, and more, and more valuable over time. Again, to bring back the example of a frequent flyer program, a challenge could be that, a person sees an ad for a special price, flight to Bali, for example. Action is then buying the flight, buying the ticket. The reaction becomes the experience of taking that flight and receiving the ticket and all that stuff, and the commitment here is actually joining the frequent flyer program. Because if a person is buying tickets and traveling anyway, their frequent flyer program allows them to get more, and more, and more meaning out of that as they go along and buy more and more flights. How exactly this works. We'll examine in the next lesson. See you there. 5. Writing Your Love Story: Okay, so the scene that we constructed in the previous lesson is going to be something that we connect to the larger story, the larger narrative that we're going to craft here in this lesson. If you remember the phases of love from lesson one, these are going to come back here as we construct the longer term narrative. Which makes sense of course. If you're thinking about the arthritis case, this section is going to be about how your VR coach is going to adapt to the changing needs and abilities of the character doing the physical therapy over time. The parts of the story that we're going to be thinking about here in this narrative are the build up, an early reward, continuation, and a long-term reward. If you look at the Canvas itself, you see that there is an arc there with building up and release of dramatic tension. What that means is that when we think about the build-up and the continuation of the story, these are moments and mechanisms that we will design to allow people to gain more and more value and make a deeper commitment to your product or service. The rewards that we're going to give them are going to be ways they can cash out the value that they've been storing over and over by going through a key habit seen, in ways that will become larger and more profound and more meaningful over time. The build up obviously is how can the character accumulate value over time? With the Frequent-flyer program, for example, this is that a character builds up points every time they book a flight. The first early reward is, how can a person "cash" in that value in a short-term way? With Frequent-flyer program using points, I can use those points to spend them on upgrades on free flights. It doesn't take me super long time for me to actually build up the points. As soon as I have what I need to spend for the upgrade, I can do it. However, if I want to continue, then some Frequent-flyer programs, for example, will allow me to achieve levels. A continuation of my relationship would be that if I am using it for a long, long time, I can achieve levels which give me the long-term reward of bigger perks, like being able to skip the line to go to Security faster or check-in extra baggage or things like this. This is where silver level, gold, ivory, things like that come into play. That's how this story or this narrative structure would come to life for a Frequent-flyer program. Think about how this applies to your own work and your own project. While crafting this, try to remember that the crafting this love story around the key habit incentivices or helps and inspires people to carry that key habit forward so that it brings them closer to achieving their objective. Once they've maybe achieved parts, or maybe even the entire objective, think about the ways that the relationship between the character and your product and service can change over time as the characters needs and desires change over time. That's the Canvas, but it's not the end of the story. In the next two lessons we'll consider different ways we can apply the Canvas in the real world. In within larger real-world projects. All right, see you in the next lesson. Thanks. 6. Ethical Persuasion: All right, so what we've done up to now is we've looked at how the Love Story Canvas can help us identify people who are in need of some help or support. Create a framework around which we can understand how we're going to help them. Because technology these days is so intimately intertwined with people's lives, it's important for us to think about the ramifications and the consequences of the decisions that we make during the design process in such a way that we're doing it in an ethical and compassionate way. Now I talk about compassionate design because I feel like ethical design is good because it helps us to think about how can we make sure that we mitigate any harm we might be doing? But compassionate design triggers us to look beyond the harm and make sure that we're actually actively helping people, were giving people a helping hand and empowering people who need it. It's really exciting. When I am trying to figure out whether what I'm doing is compassionate or not. I'd like to follow a simple heuristic. Basically, it's all about fair value exchange. The value that someone needs to give up in order to access the value that I want to provide them is basically their cost, right? The value exchange is fair when the cost that they have to spend, the value that a person needs to give up in order to gain the value I'm giving them is fairly balanced with the value that I wanted to provide. I'd like to ask you now as the exercise for this lesson, to look at the Love Story Canvas that you've filled in so far. Whether you did it for your own work or you did it for the athlete's coach. I challenge you to have a look at any stakeholders that might be affected by the decisions that you've made within the Canvas, especially the character that's going through the story. Think about any kind of cost that they have to spend, any kind of value that might need to give up in order to get the value you provide them. Think about whether that cost is less or greater than or equal to the benefit that you provide, the value that you are providing them and see if that exchange is a fair and equitable one. Also, I'd like to you to think about whether the cost and the value that those people need to give up and character needs to give up, if that's hidden or not. If they are aware of what they're actually giving, if they're aware of the deal that they're making with you. Then once you've thought about that, maybe it's interesting for you also to think about the products or services that you are using in your personal life. Is there any product or service that is taking more than it's giving? Is there any product or service that exploits you more than it empowers you? Think about that and in the next lesson, we're going to discuss how to use the Love Story Canvas in an active project. Ideally within a team. See you in the next lesson. 7. Class Project: Using the Love Story Canvas: If you have been following along and doing the exercises during the lessons, that's super cool. If you haven't, that's also okay. You can take this opportunity now to download and fill in the Love Story Canvas yourself. You can download it at, or scan the QR code on your screen. Again, this works best if you use it for your actual work, any projects that you might be working on in the real world, but if not, you can also follow the arthritis case that I mentioned during the lessons. What if we're going to use this for real at work within a company, for example? Well, I intended the Love Story Canvas to actually be a tool for ideation workshops. With ideally somewhere between two to four people, maybe even 10 if you really need to include a lot of stakeholders for example in it, and the best results come from when the team is diverse as possible, not only from, let's say, a demographic, or ethnic, or gender point of view, but also from the perspective of expertise. If you can have a very diverse team with diverse perspectives and diverse expertise, then there are lots of different perspectives that will be informing the decisions that you make while filling in the Love Story Canvas. Another thing that helps this to work best and succeed as much as it possibly can, is if you have at least some kind UX research or market research that you can draw from to make sure that the assumptions that you make, or that you and your team are making while creating the canvas are as informed as possible by data from the real-world. Some analytics or some testing you might have done, maybe even some lean startup, MVP style testing. All of that is very, very helpful. Once you've actually created the Love Story Canvas, it's a great input for other parts. If your design process like journey mapping or interaction design,it can inform any prototyping that you make, or even marketing strategy for example. If you're looking at how to understand the relationship between your product or service, and stakeholders overtime. As an exercise for this final lesson, what I'd like you to do is think about what can you do tomorrow to help integrate what we've learned through this course into your real work at work. Think about that, and I'm really curious to hear what things you're going to come up with. 8. Conclusion: Thanks a million for joining my first ever Skillshare course. I had a blast making it, and I hope that you had a blast going through the lessons, and I'm really looking forward to seeing you on the platform. I'll be there giving feedback, answering questions, and who knows? Maybe you'll find your next collaboration partner in the community. If you're interested in some more free downloadable things or videos, you can come to my website at, and I'm really looking forward to hearing about your work, and falling in love with your product or service. Thanks a lot and see you next time.