Product Aesthetics

Research Theme: Design Practice

The visual appearance of products is a critical determinant of consumer response and product success. Judgements are often made on the elegance, functionality and social significance of products based largely on visual information. These judgements relate to the perceived attributes of products and frequently centre on the satisfaction of consumer wants and desires, rather than their needs. The current academic literature on product aesthetics is focused on consumer response and is largely unintegrated. In addition, the ways in which designers may consciously evoke specific responses is relatively unexplored. This project approaches the subject of product aesthetics by considering the context of current industrial design practice. A qualitative research approach has been adopted for the study with field interviews providing the majority of the data. The interviews employed a number of visual elicitation stimuli including products, sketches, photographs and diagrams. Qualitative data analysis software was employed for 'coding' the interview transcripts to reveal themes, connections and contrasts within the data.


By reviewing literature from a broad range of fields, the following paper develops a conceptual framework for the varieties of consumer response and the factors that influence those responses.

By analysing interviews with industrial designers, the following paper builds a framework for the factors that influence product form. This framework is complementary to that presented in 'Seeing things'.

The interview study reported in 'Shaping things' used a novel research method that involved presenting the interviewees with research diagrams. The following paper places that method in the context of other qualitative approaches.