Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Effects of Novelty and Its Dimensions on Aesthetic Preference in Product Design

Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Effects of Novelty and Its Dimensions on Aesthetic Preference in Product Design

Article excerpt


An understanding of how to create beautiful objects, ones that elicit aesthetic responses such as "sensory pleasure and delight" (Hekkert & Leder, 2008), is fundamental to the profession of design. All design disciplines - including architecture, product design, visual communications design, interface design, animation - combine a knowledge of aesthetics with knowledge of the different embodying technologies of that discipline. In a more commercial context, product appearance has been recognized as an important factor in the success of a product (Bloch, 1995; Hertenstein, Platt, & Veryzer, 2005). By changing different aspects of product appearance, including form, material and color, designers try to communicate messages and elicit responses from consumers (Crilly, Moultrie, & Clarkson, 2004; Creusen & Schoormans, 2005; Hsiao & Chen, 2006). As pointed out by Raymond Loewy in his famous MAYA - "Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable" - principle, a successful design must be as innovative as possible, but not so much as to be considered unacceptable (Loewy, 1951). To achieve higher aesthetic preference among consumers, designers should aim for the best combination of typicality and novelty (Hekkert, Snelders, & van Wieringen, 2003; Hekkert & Leder, 2008).

Several studies in the past have investigated the relationship between novelty and aesthetic preference in product design (e.g., Whitfield, 1983; Hekkert et al., 2003; Blijlevens, Carbon, Mugge, & Schoormans, 2012). In this paper, we re-visit the relationship between novelty and aesthetic preference, but look further into what novelty means in product design. In particular, we employed three fundamental dimensions of product semantics - trendiness, complexity, and emotion - (Hsiao & Chen, 2006) and explored how changes in product semantics affect judgment of product novelty and, in turn, judgment of aesthetic preference. By linking product appearance characteristics to novelty, we hope to offer operational information to designers that can be used to achieve an optimal level of novelty in product design.

Typicality/Novelty and Aesthetic Preference

Prototypicality or typicality is usually defined as the degree to which an object represents a category (Loken & Ward, 1990; Veryzer & Hutchinson, 1998; Hekkert et al., 2003). Barsalou (1985) discussed three possible determinants of typicality: similarity to the ideal of the category, similarity to the central tendency of the category, and frequency of encounters with the object as a category member. To investigate the influences of typicality, some studies have employed the "prototype distortion" approach by systematically varying a given prototypical stimulus (e.g., Veryzer & Hutchinson, 1998; Blijlevens et al., 2012), while other studies have measured perceived typicality by "goodness of example" ratings (e.g., Barsalou, 1985; Hekkert et al., 2003). The concept of novelty, furthermore, is related to typicality. Berlyne (1971) classified two kinds of novelty: absolute novelty - an object that has never been experienced before - and relative novelty - an object that consists of a new combination of previously experienced elements.

Past studies, however, have obtained inconsistent results concerning the relationship between typicality/novelty and aesthetic preference. To examine this relationship, a preference for prototype theory was proposed by Whitfield (1983; Whitfield & Slatter, 1979). Using different styles of chairs as stimuli, Whitfield and his colleagues found a positive linear relationship between typicality and preference. By systematically distorting the stimuli, Veryzer and Hutchinson (1998) found a negative linear relationship between prototype distortion and aesthetic response. Other studies, using houses, paintings, and music performances, have also found a positive relationship between typicality and preference (Purcell, 1984; Hekkert & van Wieringen, 1990; Repp, 1997; Hekkert & Leder, 2008). …

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