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Improving product design: Empirische Untersuchung der emotionalen Wirkung anthropomorpher Produktdesigns am Beispiel Automobil

abstract In mature markets, a product’s emotional value gains more and more in importance. In this regard, especially a product’s appearance, i.e. its visual design, should be an important marketing tool to appeal to the consumers’ emotions. Therefore, a new trend in product design is to create forms which look human-like (anthropomorphic), for example, car designers talk about the “face” of a car – headlights for eyes, grille for a mouth. Hereby, product designers tap into an innate human trait already known from psychology and anthropology: Human beings are highly sensitive to human forms and feel attracted by them.

In this project, I intend to deal with one specific anthropomorphic form, the so called “baby schema”. This human pattern is defined as a set of physical features such as a round face and big round eyes (Lorenz, 1943) usually found in infant but also in adult faces. Interestingly, the “baby schema” is highly relevant as a design dimension in car design for several reasons, too: First, the features of a baby face can be translated into car design features easily, just think of cars like VW Beetle, BMW Mini or Fiat 500 which are commonly described as “cute” because of their baby-like appearance. And second, psychologists and anthropologists have already found out that the baby schema triggers spontaneous positive reactions like positive emotions and approach behavior (e.g. caretaking) in individuals. So it seems to be a promising approach to investigate whether the same positive reactions which are triggered by a human baby schema could be also triggered by a product whose design imitates the baby schema.

In cooperation with Prof. H. Leder from the University of Vienna, Austria, I will conduct experimental studies where I would like to apply modern bio-physiological measurements (e.g. electro dermal activity, facial electromyography) to assess the consumers’ spontaneous emotional reactions to “cute” car designs. How do anthropomorphic product designs contribute to a product’s emotional value?
   
keywords product design, emotional product value, anthropomorphism, unconscious consumer responses, bio-physiological measurements
   
partner Prof. H. Leder, Universität Wien
type dissertation project
status completed
start of project 2009
end of project 2010
additional informations
topics Product design, affective consumer responses
methods behavioral and bio-physiological experiments
contact Linda Miesler