Rachel brushed her hair and felt confident to start the day. Chris brushed his hair and asked himself, “should I be losing this much?” Grace brushed their hair and winced. Charlie brushed his hair and wished he were someone else.

People feel a lot of things when they interact with things, like a brush.

Seemingly mundane, everyday micro-interactions can be rich with emotion. Touchy/Feely is a tool for uncovering the richness of these micro-moments to build and apply empathy during the design process. A Touchy is an interaction. A Feely is an emotional response to the interaction. It can be something you say out loud, something you say to yourself, something commonly said, specific memories or associations, a physiological reaction, or some other emotional descriptor. Some Feelies are personal because we bring our own references and memories to interactions. Some Feelies are more universal because we have shared experiences and cultural associations. By examining micro-interactions to better understand the emotional responses people have to them, Touchy/Feely helps us see patterns and connect the dots between interactions, feelings, and gestures to create good design for people.

(A collaboration with Martelle Esposito)






As a regular practitioner of Touchy/Feely, I’ve begun to see people, places, and things in new ways. I see the physical world as tangible feelings. I find myself more in tune with the connections between micro-interactions and feelings and the personal stories and cultural experiences that create them. I recognize interesting gestural patterns. I’ve seen micro-interactions that once seemed mundane as really inspiring and very relevant to my work. And, I’ve found empathy comes more naturally. Ultimately, I am more aware of where the physical and emotional worlds meet.

With all these great outcomes for myself, I wanted to share this tool with others. What started as my personal take on making sense of things, evolved into an Instagram series, a book, and workshops about Touchy/Feely that other designers have found valuable and that have resonated beyond the designer community.