martypdx - I don’t at all believe process is separate from emotional engagement. And I can honestly say my best work HAS come about from following a user-centered design process - a process that made me feel engaged and excited. If a process feels “formulaic” to you, it may be because it’s the wrong process for what you’re trying to do.
That being said, I agree that there’s definitely a right-brain, “more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts” component to any type of design. My thinking is, if you, your client and your users are in sync in terms of what “fun” (or “cool,” or “pretty,” or “interesting or or or) is, you’re one step closer to “getting it right.” You’ll have a better opportunity to channel your passion and creativity into something that will instill the same passion and creativity in your audience.