How to spark Joy in your Visual Content

Ingrid Fetell Lee is a designer based in New York. She has researched how shapes, colours and textures can influence our state of mind. The results of this work are reflected in a book that has become an international bestseller: Joyful

Ingrid Fetell Lee talks about 10 "aesthetic principles" for promoting joy visually. They are backed up by numerous studies in psychology and anthropology.

They can be applied to any visual content like graphic facilitation, sketchnoting, mind mapping or presentation design.

Above is a photography Moodboard with the 10 aesthetic principles suggested by Ingrid Fetell Lee.


Express energy in your visuals with bright images and vibrant colours. The symbolism of different colours varies from culture to culture, but it seems that brightness is a dimension that is universally associated with joy.


Any collection of colourful objects, such as confetti, encourages a mental association with abundance.


Paths to the horizon, open spaces and natural landscapes evoke freedom. Deep lines of sight, views of the horizon encourage a sense of freedom.


The circle has symbolised harmony in many cultures since ancient times. Symmetry (preferably radial), visual patterns and rhythms promote the perception of harmony. The human eye naturally looks for a common denominator between different objects and you can make them appear to go together. The common denominator can be size, shape or colour. We love pattern and rhythm. The structured repetition of elements creates a basic level of harmony. Almost all cultures use patterns in their decorative arts.

In addition, a good visual flow, without extraneous angles, allows the eye to move easily.


Play is one of the most important sources of joy available to us and has deep roots in human life.

Circular objects and loops have been associated with playfulness for thousands of years, while sharp angles are associated with danger and negativity.


If the essence of visual surprise lies in the contrast between an object and its context, then to increase surprise we should increase the contrast.


Like joy, metaphors for health, dynamism and positivity have an ascending dimension ("to be at the top of one's career" or "to be held in high esteem"). On the other hand, people tend to feel a natural attraction to things that float or fly.


Visual effects, and iridescence in particular, contribute to a sense of magic. Iridescent materials have been considered magical since ancient times.


People are the most important element of any celebration.

Like the pop of a champagne bottle, the explosive shapes suggest the release of energy previously under pressure, reflecting the sudden burst of joy that takes place during celebrations.


"Organic forms bring the fluidity of the living world," says Ingrid Fetell. Flowering and S-curves are recommended to represent renewal and life.