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The Aestetic and Perceived Attributes of Products

The Design Society
Publication Date
  • Industrial Design
  • Perceptions
  • Aesthetics
  • Design
  • Philosophy


The performance of a product – technical, aesthetic or perceived – is determined by its attributes. Technical attributes of a product, such as its weight, power, scale, efficiency, cost and the chosen material or manufacturing technologies can be measured or expressed in standard, accepted, ways. The character of a product depends on more than this – its technical attributes are a part, but so too are its aesthetic or perceived attributes. The aesthetic attributes are those to which the senses respond: touch, sight, sound, smell and even taste. Perceived attributes of a product – its style and its symbolic associations – are subtler but no less important; it is these that create its delight and give a product its personality, so to speak. In some way, these attributes – of aesthetics and perception – are related to materials but they are more easily spoken of in products. Here we seek to establish whether a general vocabulary for discussing aesthetics and perceptions in industrial design can be established and then assigned to specific products or materials. We do this by surveying design reviews, museum exhibitions and other commentaries on products, searching for a common language; in conjunction with this survey, we measure the responses of a test group to selected products with regard to this language. The results indicate general agreement when assigning key aesthetic and perceived attributes to products, but less so with materials. This research suggests the possibility of including a more complete list of attributes in a database of products or materials that could act as a resource for designers.

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