The aesthetic-useability effect is a theory that suggests that if a product’s design demonstrates a strong sense of aesthetic appeal, is more likely to be used or adopted by consumers, independent of its functionality. As such, designs that are functional but do not possess aesthetic appeal are less likely to be used. A design’s aesthetic appeal is defined by its perceived ease of useability.
“Aesthetics is the science or philosophy concerned with the quality of human visual and aural experience and sensory-emotional values applied through judgments of sentiment and taste. It is a broad study area that includes both the aesthetics of nature and the aesthetics of human creations” (Williams, 2010)
Aesthetics are incorporated into broad infrastructure and play an important role in the way we function as a society: “Aesthetics is used to programme people, so that, through their own urges, they help promote the life of the organization” (Thyssen, 2011)
In the same way, albeit on a smaller scale, aesthetics are used in the design of products with a view to increasing their appeal or useability. “Aesthetics is the aspect of design and technology which most closely relates to art and design, and issues of colour, shape, texture, contrast, form, balance, cultural references and emotional response are common to both areas” (Digital Design & Technology, 2011).
Apple computers are a prime example of a company that has placed a high value on aesthetic appeal. Apple has employed the colour white, which is ubiquitous in their product line, due to its suggestion of peace and calm. This, along with a minimal interface of functions, has seen Apple computers enjoy a popularity among consumers in general, and a particular share of those who are novices in the market. In contrast, the typical appearance of a PC or laptop are dark grey surfaces that feature a myriad of functions and sub-functions, due to the powerful nature of the computer.
Bustillos (2011) points out that “The widespread admiration for Apple’s design ethos is in two parts: one functional, the other aesthetic. The functional aspects of Apple’s products can indeed be magical and thrilling. But the vibe of Apple’s product design is uniformly cool” (The Awl, 2011).
Examples of Aesthetic-Useability
1. The Retractable Pen
The retractable pen performs its function, writing, in the same way as any other pen. Rather than using a cap over the nib, there is a button that produces and retracts the nib. Due to the impressive functionality of the ball point however, there is no need for either a cap or a retractable feature. The ball point featured in the nib will roll and quickly produce ink when called upon. The retractable feature remains a popular one due to its perceived functionality and ease of use. When held, the buttons’ proximity to the thumb makes it accessible and very quick to use.
2. The Reach Toothbrush
The patented design of the Reach toothbrush has proved successful due to its perceived effectiveness of reaching the rear molars, which call for a different scrubbing angle than the front incisors. The Reach toothbrush seems to work in the same way as any other toothbrush, as the main function of cleaning the teeth is performed by the bristles. Cleaning ones teeth can be seen as a chore, so a perceived reduction of effort is appealing to the consumer. The Reach toothbrush fulfills the impression of enhanced useability through simple aesthetics by incorporating a kink into the handle. The model shown also features a gap in the fulcrum that further suggests that the brushing effort will be dissipated.
3. The Pump-Head Dispenser
Pump-head dispensers are featured on almost every household product that contains a liquid substance. These containers are almost always produced alternately with a snap type cap or screw top. The popularity of the pump head is due to its aesthetic impression of instant action, ease of use, and an implied distancing of the user to the liquid itself (lack of mess). Regardless of the liquid content, the visual image of the pump calls for it to be depressed and used.
Bustillos, M. (2011). Less Human than Human: The Design Philosophy of Apple. Retrieved from http://www.theawl.com/2011/11/apple-and-design
Digital Design and Technology. 2011. Product Design – Aesthetics. Retrieved from http://www.digitaldandt.org/index.php/electronics/design-develop-manufacture/product-design?start=1
Stephens, A. W. (2010). Improving the aesthetic and other experiential design aspects of bicycle paths in Western Australia. Retrieved from http://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/874
Thyssen, O. (2011). Aesthetic Communication. New York, NY : Palgrave Macmillan