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Posted 12.14.04

Researcher Looks At Link Between Product Design and Desirability

COLUMBIA, Mo. In the midst of a holiday season shopping spree, durability and efficiency are just two qualities people look for when selecting the perfect gift. According to research conducted by Peter Bloch, professor of marketing at the University of Missouri-Columbia College of Business, consumers are increasingly more interested in aesthetic value, or an attractive visual design.

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"Vegetable peelers, wireless phones, car-washing buckets and lawn tractors are all being designed with attention to the aesthetic value of their appearance," Bloch said. "Although attempts to produce goods with attractive forms are nothing new, today we are seeing a widespread emphasis on product design unmatched since the art deco era of the 1930s."

Bloch's study had two goals: to conceptualize the role a product's visual appearance plays in today's market and to develop a scale that measures ways this concept affects consumers.

"Visual appearance influences consumers' perceptions in several ways," Bloch said. "First, superior designs distinguish products from competitors and help gain recognition in a crowded marketplace. They also have a symbolic function that influences how a product is comprehended and evaluated. Finally, it is the first thing about a product that connects with a potential buyer, and regardless of product class, judgments follow from this sensory experience."

Bloch used the centrality of visual product aesthetics (CVPA) scale to rate the value consumers assign to product appearances, to evaluate their ability to recognize and categorize product designs, to examine their level of response to the product's visual appearance and to determine how aesthetics influence product preferences and purchase satisfaction.

"The CVPA reflects an enduring concern with the aesthetic benefits provided by a product," Bloch said. "The present research would not only fill gaps in our understanding of consumer preferences and reactions to design, but also has the potential to further our understanding of a number of seminal consumer behavior concepts such as brand loyalty, involvement, materialism and innovativeness."

Bloch's findings were published in the Journal of Consumer Research.



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