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Understanding Product Appearance: Cognitive and Emotional Response to Product Visual Form

Nathan Crilly , James Moultrie , P. John Clarkson

Consumer response to product appearance is presented as one stage in a process of communication between designers and consumers. The product is considered to be the medium through which this communication takes place. Consumers' psychological responses to product form are comprised of emotional and cognitive aspects, with cognitive response comprising aesthetic, semantic and symbolic components. Taken in turn, these components relate to the perception of beauty, interpretation of what the product 'says about itself' and judgements on what the product 'says about its user'. These three aspects of cognitive response are often considered in isolation. However, remaining cognisant of each component promotes consideration of the way in which each component interacts with the others. Emotional responses to products may be better understood by considering the aesthetic, semantic and symbolic responses that accompany them. This paper discusses consumer response to product visual form within the context of an integrated conceptual framework and suggests implications for future research.


product aesthetics, product semantics, social symbolism, product design, Styling