Research Papers: Design Theory and Methodology

A Test of the Rapid Formation of Design Cues for Product Body Shapes and Features

[+] Author and Article Information
Ping Du

UX Researcher Dollar Shave Club,
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
e-mail: dping1516@gmail.com

Erin F. MacDonald

Mechanical Engineering,
Stanford University,
Stanford, CA 94305
e-mail: erinmacd@stanford.edu

Contributed by the Design Theory and Methodology Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL DESIGN. Manuscript received August 2, 2017; final manuscript received March 3, 2018; published online May 23, 2018. Assoc. Editor: Irem Tumer.

J. Mech. Des 140(7), 071102 (May 23, 2018) (14 pages) Paper No: MD-17-1529; doi: 10.1115/1.4039768 History: Received August 02, 2017; Revised March 03, 2018

Consumers often use a product's visual design as a mental shortcut to judge its unobservable attributes. Mental associations between visual design and unobservable attributes aid consumers in their judgments, and hypothetically reduce consumers' mental load. This paper describes a study that shows the possibility of quickly creating an association in subjects' minds between a holistic visual cue of a product—its body shape—and the general idea of “environmentally friendly” versus “not environmentally friendly,” a typically unobservable attribute. In this study, products' actual environmental friendliness was not measured. Subjects completed an association-building task, in which they developed mental associations between a product's visual cues and its “environmental friendliness” rating, an arbitrarily predetermined rating the authors supplied. The body shape was successfully used as a cue to subliminally communicate to subjects the product's “environmental friendliness.” As a comparison, an individual feature of the product was also used to cue; however, that was unsuccessful. An eye-tracking device was used to identify where subjects were focusing their eyes and for how long. In both the association-building task and a testing task that followed, subjects spent a greater percentage of time looking at the product's cued areas (the body and the selected feature). But during the testing task, subjects spent an even higher percentage of their time looking at the cued areas than they did during the association-building task. This indicates that mental associations, or cues, work to distribute mental load more efficiently.

Copyright © 2018 by ASME
Topics: Design , Testing , Bicycles , Shapes
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Fig. 1

Literature identifying effects of body design and feature design on consumer judgments of products

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Fig. 2

Selected visual design cues for the electric bicycle and the electric heater

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Fig. 3

Sample product images with positive cues (P), negative cues (N), and neutral variants (Ø)

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Fig. 4

Demonstration of the association-building task

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Fig. 5

Summary and illustration of the comprehension questions about the electric bicycle

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Fig. 6

Example AOIs specified for the experiment

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Fig. 7

Results from the testing task. Body-cues and body-plus-feature cues affect “environmental friendliness” ratings in the desired direction. Feature-cues alone have no effect. Statistical significances obtained from pairwise comparisons with {Body, Feature} are specified as: + for p < 0.1; * for p < 0.05; ** for p < 0.01; *** for p < 0.0001. Error bars indicate ±1 standard errors.

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Fig. 8

Subjects evaluate the products more efficiently after the association-building task by decreasing their attention on the uncued AOIs and increasing their attention on the cued AOIs. *** for p < 0.0001. Error bars indicate ±1 standard errors.

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Fig. 9

Average ratings of “environmental friendliness” for the design variants obtained from the post-task survey questions




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