Auditory and Visual Contributions to Affective Product Quality

By Özcan, Elif; Cupchik, Gerald C. et al. | International Journal of Design, April 2017 | Go to article overview

Auditory and Visual Contributions to Affective Product Quality


Özcan, Elif, Cupchik, Gerald C., Schifferstein, Hendrik N. J., International Journal of Design


Introduction

Interactions with products inherently facilitate a multisensory experience with a certain quality (Özcan & van Egmond, 2009; Schifferstein & Spence, 2008). Based on this experience, people can exhibit an affective response. For example, if a person encounters a Harley Davidson motorbike going down the road with a wild roaring sound and colorful, adventurous look, they may get excited in response to their experience of the motorbike and feel a desire for it. What triggers these feelings during a multisensory product interaction may be unclear. With the example of the Harley Davidson, is it the wild sound, the adventurous look, or the combination of both that elicits ‘excitement’ and consequently ‘desire’? Recent studies propose the design for sensory experiences (e.g., visual design, sound design) as a suitable strategy for creating pleasurable products (Lageat, Czellar, & Laurent, 2003; MacDonald, 2002; Özcan, 2014; Peck & Childers, 2008; Schifferstein & Desmet, 2008). A common assumption is that a carefully designed product sound or product image will tackle the sensory pleasure and thus positively influence the overall appreciation of the product. However, combining a number of pleasant stimuli does not necessarily result in a desirable product experience (Schifferstein, Otten, Thoolen, & Hekkert, 2010). Therefore, it is essential for designers to be aware of the fundamental differences in the way potential users affectively respond to single sensory properties of a product and the product as a whole (Schifferstein & Cleiren, 2005; Schifferstein & Desmet, 2007).

In this paper, we empirically study the affective qualities of auditory and visual product experiences, particularly how the affective qualities of unisensory product experiences contribute to the affective quality of the overall product experience. A further interest is discovering whether modality interactions (auditory-visual) take place when evaluating the affective quality of the multisensory product experience. Our scope for auditory product appearance (i.e., product sounds) is limited by consequential sounds, which are defined as machinery sounds that are an immediate consequence of active and functioning products (shavers, cars, espresso machines, water kettles) as well as human-product interactions (Fog & Pedersen, 1999; Langeveld, Egmond, Jansen, & Özcan, 2013; van Egmond, 2008). Within this category, we choose to study the sounds of small sized domestic appliances such hairdryers, mixers and toothbrushes.

Product Sounds & Sound Design

Sound is an integral part of a product, being considered a product property in design terms. Since any product with moving parts can produce sounds, designers have the freedom and possibilities to design the sound of a product through engineering solutions (e.g., mechanical). Some sound relevant product design decisions might include replacing a gear mechanism with a quieter one, using foam and tight closures for dampening or noise cancelling, or altering the product mechanism for less friction in moving parts. The practice of sound design is more commonly seen if the sound is thought to threaten the overall desired impression that a product needs to make on the user (Özcan & van Egmond, 2006; van Egmond 2008). Traditionally, sound has been considered as noise to be either canceled or improved through mechanical and acoustical analyses and construction (Lyon, 2000; Sottek, 2008; Susini, McAdams, Winsberg, Perry, Vieillard, & Rodet, 2004). Recently, with the increasing knowledge and tools in the field of experience-driven design, the sounds of products are being designed to be pleasant and congruent with a desired product experience (Alt & Jochum, 2003; Fenko, Schifferstein, & Hekkert, 2011; Ludden & Schifferstein, 2007). The application of sound design can be found in a wide range of designed objects such as foods (e.g., cracking sound of chocolate covered ice-creams), their packaging (e. …

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