Quantifying Aesthetic Form Preference in a Utility Function


One of the greatest challenges in product development is creating a form that is aesthetically attractive to an intended market audience. Market research tools, such as consumer surveys, are well established for functional product features, but aesthetic preferences are as varied as the people that respond to them. Additionally, and possibly even more challenging, user feedback requires objective measurement and quantification of aesthetics and aesthetic preference. The common methods for quantifying aesthetics present respondents with metric scales over dimensions with abstract semantic labels like “strong” and “sexy.” Even if researchers choose the correct semantics to test, and even if respondents accurately record their responses on these semantic scales, the results on the semantic scales must be translated back into a product shape, where the designer must take the consumers' numerical scores for a set of semantics and translate that into a form which consumers will find desirable. This translation presents a potential gap in understanding between the supply and demand sides of the marketplace. This gap between designer and user can be closed through objective methods to understand and quantify aesthetic preferences because the designer would have concrete directions to use as a foundation for development of the product form. Additionally, the quantification of aesthetic preference could be used by the designer as evidence to support certain product forms when engineering and manufacturing decisions are made that might adversely affect the aesthetics of the product form. This paper demonstrates how the qualitative attribute, form, cannot only be represented quantitatively, but also how customer preferences can be estimated as utility functions over the aesthetic space, so that new higher utility product forms can be proposed and explored. To do so, the form is summarized with underlying latent form characteristics, and these underlying characteristics are specified to be attributes in a utility function. Consumer surveys, created using design of experiments, are then used to capture an individual's preference for the indicated attributes and thus the form. Once preference is summarized in the utility function, the utility function can be used as the basis for form generation and modification or design verification.


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


National Science Foundation (U.S.)

Keywords and Phrases

Design of Experiments; Product Development; Supply and Demand; Marketing research; Utility theory

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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© 2009 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jun 2009