Academic journal article International Journal of Management

A Study of the Attitudes of Chinese Consumers to Aesthetic Product Designs

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

A Study of the Attitudes of Chinese Consumers to Aesthetic Product Designs

Article excerpt

Aesthetic product design has been growing in recent years, as an area of marketing concern. This is largely because the buying behavior of consumers has been shown to depend a lot on the appearance, the 'look' of products to consumers. The purpose of this study is to develop a useful framework for understanding Chinese consumer aesthetic attitudes. Based on the results from in-depth, semi-structured interviews with ten convenience samples, the findings suggest that some aspects of such attitudes are influenced strongly by cultural norms in China. The most important of these are aesthetic 'utility,' 'conformity', 'simplicity' and feelings' each of which are derived from Chinese traditional values, such as the importance of saving, the desire for collective interpersonal relationships, and the seeking of spirits in society. Other aspects of their aesthetic attitudes, such as 'westernization' and 'novelty' come from Western culture influences, like media communication and globalization. It is argued that the framework developed in this study can provide the basis for future studies that analyze the attitudes and behaviours of Chinese consumers toward the aesthetics of product design.


Consumer aesthetics, the responses of consumers to the aesthetic or appearance aspects of products, has become an important area of marketing in recent years (e.g. Veryzer, 1995). Lash and Urry (1994) suggested consumers' aesthetic experiences with large symbols and experiences have been developed by, or have resulted from, the current intensive efforts to design products and even services that 'look' as good possible, in the eyes of consumers. What is beyond argument is that good product design is essential in a competitive market and that whether or not a product has this feature depends mainly on a consumer's aesthetic attitudes, how he or she regards the appearance of the product. Holbrook and Hirschman (1982) showed that consumption always depends on subjective consumer aesthetic attitudes, which themselves typically stem from value and cultural backgrounds of the consumers involved. The purpose of this research is to examine the effects of Chinese consumer aesthetic attitudes on product design.

Literature Review

A number of studies have investigated the way in which the attitudes of Chinese consumers are influenced by their cultural background, by the norms and values that define Chinese culture. Using Chinese characteristics as the basis for his arguments, Li (1988) argued that the Chinese aesthetic character 'Mei' (beauty) is based on two other characters, 'Yang' (sheep) and 'Da' (strong). It could be because 'Yang Da Ze Mei' (a strong sheep is beautiful) or that a strong sheep looks beautiful because of its taste. Another interpretation is linked the character's meaning traditional dancing rituals, in which dancers use the head of sheep for adornment. 'Yang Da' (big sheep) suggests that the decorations look magnificent. Another Chinese researcher, Zhu (2003) claims that for the Chinese aesthetics is about abstraction, about things that are far from practical needs, such as physical satisfaction, and that appeal to the scarcest values and human spirits in life. He argues that the aesthetic experience is created by a beholder's free will as it focuses on an engaging object. Zhu (2003) claims that transference is a feature of many aesthetic experiences and that it is produced when a person's emotions are projected on to external objects, such as particular products and goods . The objects in this case 'take up' people's emotions or affects, their imagination and even their will, and typically lead to them having unique aesthetic experiences, which necessarily involve their aesthetic attitudes.

Working from the same perspective, Li ( 1 988) argues that aesthetics should be researched through a number of ways if the 'whole system' wants to be properly understood. In this respect, Ecker (1998) maintains that an object/ event(X) such as a product or good just as much as a painting of piece of music is perceived as a work of art (Y) only in a cultural context (Z) and that without understanding the latter it is impossible to make sense of why and how the object in question is perceived in aesthetic terms. …

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