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Attributing meanings to materials

Elvin Karana , Paul Hekkert

Products convey meanings. A kettle may look sober or a tea cup may strike one as traditional or nostalgic. Various factors can play a role in this meaning construction, such as shape, color, use or user characteristics. In our research, we concentrate on the materials of products. A product may be attributed different meanings through the material it is made of. Simultaneously, a particular material may get different meanings in different products. How a material is evaluated and what kinds of meanings it expresses may have a strong influence on people?s appraisals of products. Therefore, understanding materials and how they get their meanings will provide a valuable contribution to the design domain. In this particular study, we aim to find the key variables in meaning attribution to materials. The study consists of three joined studies with three different groups and a thorough assessment of 75 products and their materials. The results of the study are used to build a model covering the key variables that jointly contribute to a material?s meaning.


expressive characteristics, meanings, materials, materials experience