The Aesthetic Usability Effect

Question 1 – Summary

The article discusses the importance of design aesthetics in the perception of people. The author uses experimental evidence to support the idea that aesthetically appealing designs are thought to be easier to use and also have higher attitudes towards the quality of the design. The authors of ‘User Perceptions of Aesthetic Visual Design Variables within the Informing Environment:  A Web-Based Experiment ‘, conducted an experiment to study and better understand how “A person’s psychological and physiological characteristics influence both behavior and decision– making in the informing process” (2014) in particular the aesthetic design being a main focus. The study supports the article ‘Aesthetic-Usability Effect’ as the evidence confirms the theory that there is bias and positive perception towards visually appealing designs over less pleasing ones. Don Norman wrote an article ‘Emotion and design: Attractive things work better’ (2002), which explored the concept that visually artistic designs are perceived as more useful while also discussing the importance of functionality in a design. Norman examines three different teapots and explains that design matters but usability and practicality are equally important. Jane Forsey, author of ‘The Aestheics of Design’ (2013),  Explores the idea that the way people interact with design involves aesthetic choices and judgements as well as practical, cognitive and moral considerations (Forsey, 2013). Forsey discovers unique objects influence attention and reinforces people’s appreciation of good design.

Question 2 – Examples

Modern designers must consider the Aesthetic Usability effect whilst design to ensure it will appeal to their target audience. The following examples will briefly explain how three products successfully use the concept this effect in their designs.


In the article ‘Emotion and design: Attractive things work better’ written by Don Norman (2002), the idea of aesthetically appealing designs are perceived to be easier to use while also evoke positive feelings. The image above is of Norman three teapots in which he discussed in the article. Each teapot were visually unique and appealing to him which is what prompted him to buy them. However the functionality is where they differ. While two of the teapots are practical and interesting to use the other one is virtually impossible to use. Regardless of their usability and practicality, the design is what attracted Norman to purchase.


Secondly, the Apple Mac has been the leading brand for computers since it was first introduced in 1984. The computer offers virtually identical hardware to that of a Windows PC however is nearly double the price.  The major difference being the aesthetic usability of the Mac. The modern day mac offers customers a slim, lightweight design, with high-resolution, LED-backlit glossy widescreen display. Apple provides it’s audience with entertaining screensaver, often moving, a small keyboard and sleek aluminium product. The apple mac computers attract their audience purely due to their aesthetic appeal.


The last example of contemporary design that successfully use the aesthetic usability effect is car companies. Over time there has been thousands of designs and brands of cars, each one becoming increasingly visually appealing. Car companies use the aesthetic effect to influence their audience to buy their car. All cars have essentially the same function, which is to get people from A to B. However, a car that does not look visually pleasing will not engage the audience enough to purchase it or encourage them to drive it. J.D. Power data shows that a third of new car buyers won’t even consider a specific model if they don’t like the exterior styling. The shinier, more symmetrical the design the more appealing it becomes to the intended audience and in turn mean they will be more willing to spend more money just for their aesthetic appeal.



Peak, D.R., Prybutok,V.R., Gibson,M., Wu, Y., &Xu, C. (2014) User Perceptions of Aesthetic Visual Design Variables within the Informing Environment:  A Web-Based Experiment  Informing Science: The International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline, 17, 25-57.

Norman, D. A. (2002). Emotion and design: Attractive things work better. Interactions Magazine, ix (4), 36-42

Forsey, Jane. (2013). The Aesthetics of Design

Folkmann, M.N. (2013). The Aesthetics of Imagination in Design indexfive_facetbrowse_short. Lexus. (2006-2017). A Division of Toyota Motor Sales. (217kb) (2018)



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