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Shape Spirit: Deciphering Form Characteristics and Emotional Associations Through Geometric Abstraction

[+] Author Affiliations
Gunay Orbay, Luoting Fu, Levent Burak Kara

Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

Paper No. DETC2013-13274, pp. V005T06A008; 12 pages
  • ASME 2013 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 5: 25th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology; ASME 2013 Power Transmission and Gearing Conference
  • Portland, Oregon, USA, August 4–7, 2013
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5592-8
  • Copyright © 2013 by ASME


Understanding and tailoring the visual elements of a developing product to evoke a desired emotional response and aesthetic perception is a key challenge in industrial design. To date, computational approaches to assist this process have either relied on stiff geometric representations, or focused on superficial features that exclude often elusive shape characteristics. In this work, we aim to study the relationship between product form and consumer emotions through a visual deconstruction and abstraction of existing final products. In particular, we attempt to answer three questions: (1) Do observers’ aesthetic judgments rely on the product as a whole, including fine geometric details, superficial surface features, and brand-revealing icons, or are large, prominent shape characteristics sufficient to make this determination? (2) Is it possible to isolate shape features that give rise to specific emotional responses? (3) Is there a relationship between consumers’ ability to recognize a brand and the emotional attributes they associate with that brand. At the heart of our investigation is a shape analysis method that produces a spectrum of abstractions for a given 3D computer model. This produces a hierarchical simplification of an end product, whereby consumer response to geometric elements can be statistically studied across different products, as well as across the different abstractions of one particular product. The results of our study show that emotional responses evoked by coarse product “impressions” are strongly correlated with those evoked by final production models. This, in turn, highlights the importance of early aesthetic assessment and exploration before committing to detail design efforts.

Copyright © 2013 by ASME
Topics: Shapes



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