Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Influence of Curvature and Expertise on Aesthetic Preferences for Mobile Device Designs

Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Influence of Curvature and Expertise on Aesthetic Preferences for Mobile Device Designs

Article excerpt


Humans prefer curved visual objects (Bar & Neta, 2006), known as the curvature bias. However, other research found a curvilinear relationship that is dependent on the prototypical shape for the category of the object (Blijlevens, Carbon, Mugge, & Schoormans, 2012), or on the zeitgeist effect (Carbon, 2010). Carbon concluded that every era has its shape. Nowadays, owing to the increase in functions of mobile devices and their lack of form freedom, such departure from the prototypical shape is not possible: the screen needs to be rectangular. Hence, the question is how designers can employ curvature to increase aesthetic pleasure, and whether they should divert their attention to other physical properties. This study investigates whether a curvilinear effect of curvature on aesthetic pleasure exists even when the fundamental prototypical shape does not change.

Curvature Bias

People frequently make rapid evaluations of the products that they encounter, usually based on physical product characteristics. Bar and Neta (2006) noted that irrespective of whether an object involves the features of a real product or a meaningless pattern, a sharp or curved contour influences people's attitudes toward that object. Bar and Neta presented two versions of stimuli, sharp and curved, to people for them to choose their preferred one.

Their results revealed that people prefer curved objects or those with round corners. One possible reason is that people's preferences mostly result from visual evaluation, and product characteristics serve as clues and provide great inspiration to users. People can utilize clues to anticipate whether a certain object is dangerous or safe (Bar & Neta, 2006). For example, the shape of an acute angle offers a clue that can help one to detect danger and can attract attention (Berlyne, 1974), thus protecting the user from danger. In everyday life, the sharp or curved appearance of a product provides clues for people to rapidly determine their preferences. Additionally, this phenomenon also exists in interpersonal interactions. Specifically, when two people first meet, one will observe the external features of the other, such as their shoulders, elbows, and knees. If these external features display acute angles, then the viewer will judge the other person to be aggressive (Guthrie & Wiener, 1966), and therefore will be vigilant. Other earlier studies analyzed facial expressions, and concluded that people would feel threatened if the basic external elements of a face formed a V-shaped corner (Aronoff, Woike, & Hyman, 1992). Conversely, a face with a rounded shape would generate warm feelings. Those studies indicate a fundamental bias in favor of objects with curved appearances. Moreover, Bar and Neta (2006) found that an object with a sharp appearance attracted attention because it provokes instinctive feelings of being threatened or endangered. Therefore, people stay away from sharp objects associated with danger, and prefer rounded objects, which are associated with safety. This implies that humans' preference for curved forms could be derived from natural physical reactions.


In previous work, the preference for curvature is not restricted to the physiological perspective. Curvature may not itself influence preference, but instead can be adopted to manipulate the typicality of product designs (Blijlevens et al., 2012; Blijlevens, Mugge, Ye, & Schoormans, 2013; Carbon, 2010). By changing the curvature of product forms, the typicality of products was modified. People had "visual habits" at first sight, so that they often rejected new and unusual designs. According to the "Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable" (MAYA) principle, a successful product has to be as innovative as possible, yet have a design that users consider acceptable (Loewy, 1951). A change in product form that remains within the spectrum of typicality elicits a sense of novelty and preference in people. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.