Joyful [Book Review] #WhatsOnYourBookshelfChallenge

October 22, 2021

Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee

Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee (cover) Image: black text over a large orange frozen ice cream bar against a white background

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Self Help, Home Design, Aesthetics, Reflection

Today I’m reviewing a book that’s been on my (virtual) bookshelf for some time. I’m linking up with Deb @ Deb’s World and Sue, Donna, and Jo for the October installment of #WhatsOnYourBookShelfChallenge .

Whats On Your Bookshelf Challenge

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

Does the outer world of design affect our inner joy? Do our outward surroundings promote joy? The author explores the principles of psychology, visual and sensory input, and design to discuss how they might promote personal joy. Ten aesthetics that affect joy are addressed in depth and she reveals “a distinct connection between the feeling of joy and the tangible qualities of the world around us”: Energy, Abundance, Freedom, Harmony, Play, Surprise, Transcendence, Magic, Celebration, and Renewal. In addition, the author provides sample worksheets for making our own spaces more joyful.

Key Concepts:

Although I’m not a formal artist, I’ve always loved thinking about design principles and I strongly believe that creating a welcoming and warm environment is as important as the menu when we consider hospitality. However, I hadn’t seriously considered how aesthetics might affect my personal joy quotient.

I am intrigued by the author’s comprehensive and thoughtful explanation and application of each aesthetic.

Energy: vibrant color (energy made visible) and light (colors power supply)

Abundance: lushness, multiplicity (ex: confetti), and variety

Freedom: nature (water, blue sky, trees, gardens), wildness, and open space (most commonly enjoyed paintings are landscapes)

Harmony: patterns, beat (in music), harmony begets harmony

Play: circles, spheres, and bubbly forms

Surprise: contrast and whimsy

Transcendence: elevation and lightness, awe

Magic: invisible forces, illusions, enchantment, mystery, curiosity, iridescence

Celebration: synchrony, sparkle, and bursting shapes, string lights, glitter, contrast of light and dark (fireworks, candlelight, fireplaces)

Renewal: blossoming, expansion, and curves, anticipation


  • I is thrilling to think about the many elements in the author’s descriptions that I already incorporate into my home decor and party planning that do bring me joy. It’s nice to recognize and embrace these elements not just as my personal preferences but as overall important elements of design. My intuition in creating my environment is justified, and I’m challenged to deliberately incorporate more elements!
  • I think two excellent companion reads to Joyful might be The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living and The Happiness Project.
  • I was most doubtful about the aesthetic of “magic” and was prepared to skip over the power or magic of stones and gems; however, I was surprised by how she pivoted to a discussion of “enchantment” and “charm” as other concepts for magic.
  • For me, spirituality plays an important part in the source and amount of joy in my life and the author does not address spirituality (which she might have included in the transcendence chapter).
  • I read Nicki’s post this morning, How To Be Sad, and it reminded me of the children’s movie Inside Out which animates our inside emotions of fear, joy, disgust, anger, and sadness. Have you seen it? My favorite character is “sadness” because she’s the one who can offer comfort and empathy….sadness has value. This reflection connected back to my musings on Joyful. Sadness can coexist with joyfulness.
  • The first chapter of Joyful reminds me of Debbie’s post here on her family and the color orange! (Yes, Debbie, the first chapter is about the colors orange and yellow and I thought of you immediately!)
  • Overall, Joyful is an enjoyable and inspiring read which I recommend for readers who enjoy design and concepts of well being.

My Rating:  4 Stars


Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee (cover) Image: black text over an orange ice cream bar with one bite taken ...against a white background

Joyful Information Here

Meet the Author, Ingrid Fetell Lee

Author Ingrid Fetell LeeIngrid Fetell Lee is a Brooklyn-based designer and writer whose work focuses on the way that design affects our health and happiness. As founder of The Aesthetics of Joy and in her role as IDEO fellow, she empowers people to find more joy in daily life through design.

Ingrid has over twelve years of experience in design and branding, most recently as Design Director of IDEO’s New York office, having led design work for Target, Condé Nast, Eileen Fisher, American Express, Kate Spade, Diageo, Pepsico, and the US government, among others. She has been featured as an expert on design and joy by outlets such as The New York Times, Wired, PRI’s Studio 360, CBC’s Spark, Psychology Today, and Fast Company. She was a founding faculty member in the Products of Design program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Her design work has been exhibited at imm Cologne, Germany.

Ingrid holds a Master’s in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute and a Bachelor’s in English and Creative Writing from Princeton University. Her first book, Joyful, will be published in North America by Little, Brown in September, 2018. She loves pancakes, polka dots, and rainbow sprinkles, and has an extensive repertoire of happy dances for any occasion.


Is Joyful on your TBR or have you read it?

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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  1. This sounds like my type of book Carol! I have read the two suggested companion books you mention and am a huge fan of Hygge, having hosted a Danish exchange student for a year and visiting her and her family for years. I also love the fact that Joyful’s chapter on yellow and orange made you think of me!!! How fun the blogging world and our connections continue to be 🙂
    Thanks for joining in with our #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge, it’s great to have you.

      • Hi Carol, I have just read the first few chapters as a sample and LOVED it! So many great quotes I could relate to in Ingrid’s words. Color is energy made visible. I especially liked the bit about her friend Beth who always wears colour – like someone I know!!
        ‘….thinks not just about the effect of wearing color on herself but also about its effect on other people…..It’s almost as if a colorful garment is a tiny gift, a brilliant spot of joy in a bleak landscape.’

        Thanks so much for this review as it has made my day 🙂

  2. Lately, I have been into Swedish modern. Makes complete sense as we live in Maine where there are a lot of short, dark days. I’ll be checking out this book.

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