Aesthetic Influence on Products

As discussed in the previous lecture, there are three main nodes that influence the design aesthetic of a product – Function, Human Factor and Emotional.


Functional based products are necessary items to help users in completing a task. Little or no emotional appeal is required for these products since its functionality is what consumers are buying for. They are usually tools and equipment that require mechanical precision for high efficiency. It can be considered as a mature product with stable demand, where an ideal design is mainly of utility purpose. Examples are screwdriver, clock, fan, can opener and rice cooker.

+ Comparing bicycles from different brands:

A typical bicycle would look like this,

Below is the Cannondale Dutchess, a lightweight bicycle designed for women:

Designer: Wytze van Mansum (2009)

And the origami-inspired Fold Bike that folds into a super compact size:

Designers: Tim Gerlach & Eason Chow Wai Tung (2015)

Despite every designer’s effort to push the boundary of its structure, a bicycle ultimately has to help user complete his/her task — ease of transportation.

Human Factors

Products are designed with priority to the use of conduct. On average to last for a period of time per use, it is important for users to feel comfortable enough to grip, hold or touch. Body and form have to be intuitive enough for user to know how to use without any instructions. An ergonomic product will fit the human body measurement in maximizing the comfort of users while interacting with it. Examples are backpack, spectacles, sofa, chair, earpiece and mattresses.

+ The Bath Pouch aims to bring convenience for mothers to bathe their babies with getting backache, pretty cool! Baby will not be as afraid to take a bath in his/her familiar space of a cradle. Mothers don’t have to worry about accidents of submerging baby’s head into the water.

Designers: Yihao Tsai & Yu Ting Cheng (2013)


To evoke user’s emotion, the aesthetic of product wants to project a certain mood or impose a certain status to the user. It has to activate a personal connection from our memory and experience, relating to feeling of happiness, nostalgia or fear. Relevant motifs/forms associate users with what they find (un)familiar. Use of colours, scent, texture enhances the visual aesthetics too. This type of design has high reliant on consumers’ taste, perhaps targeted specifically to a selected group of consumers. They tend to be luxury products, if not with unconventional visual. Products tend to be more innovative when designers push boundaries to entice consumers for its novelty. Examples are jewelry, clothes, branded footwear (yeezy, nike, adidas), and children’s toy.

+ High end speakers Bang and Olufsen use a minimal and sleek form to distinguish itself in the market. Smooth and shiny steel surface gives an edgy look. The effort to ‘hide’ the head speakers blends product into the living space like a decorative piece. Neutral cool colour palette brings out a modern and timeless theme.

BeoVox 2 speaker installation
BeoSound 2 wireless speaker
BeoLab 90 loudspeaker

Overall Thoughts

A good product will immediately communicate its intention through the aesthetic. It gives user a sense of trust to commit to – in both practical and emotional way.

Three nodes can be interchangeable depending on the stages of product in the market. Below is the transformation of aesthetic value of Mini Cooper over the decades, from functional to emotional appeal.

When resources were scarce after the Suez Crisis (1956), there was a need to reduce fuel usage from the public. In 1959, Alec Issigonis designed Mini Cooper which has became the iconic British small car loved by avid collectors worldwide. This is one interesting product, in my opinion, that shifted its aesthetic quality from functional to emotional node. Its initial selling point was to save fuel while at the same time, introduce the space-saving front-wheel-drive layout that freed 80% of the car space. In this present day, driving a Mini Cooper around gives driver a unique persona – hip, retro and quirky. It could evoke a strong sense of sentimental value to someone from the older generation. Or garner interest for its round and bulky form, a fresh look from the mainstream 21st century design.


Good Read: Visceral, Behavioural and Reflective Design

Here’s something I found relevant to explain the 3 nodes. Extracted from the book ‘Emotional Design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things’ by Donald Norman. Read it here!

Visceral Design

“You can find visceral design in advertising, folk art and crafts, and children’s items. Thus, children’s toys, clothes, and furniture will often reflect visceral principles: bright, highly saturated primary colors. Is this great art? No, but it is enjoyable…At the visceral level, physical features—look, feel, and sound— dominate.”

Behavioural Design

“Good behavioral design should be human-centered, focusing upon understanding and satisfying the needs of the people who actually use the product…understanding the user’s needs, ideally derived by conducting studies of relevant behavior in homes, schools, places of work, or wherever the product will actually be used… This iterative design process is the heart of effective, user-centered design.”

Reflective Design

“Attractiveness is a visceral-level phenomenon—the response is entirely to the surface look of an object. Beauty comes from the reflective level. Beauty looks below the surface. Beauty comes from conscious reflection and experience. It is influenced by knowledge, learning, and culture…reflective-level operations often determine a person’s overall impression of a product. Here, you think back about the product, reflecting upon its total appeal and the experience of using it.”



Author: Lau Yi Wen

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