The Aesthetic-Usability Effect
The aesthetic-usability effect is when an object looks easier to use because it appears beautiful to the user. In their book, Universal-Usability Effect, Lidwell, Holden and Butler describe aesthetic-usability effect as “a phenomenon in which people perceive more-aesthetic designs as easier to use…wether they are or not” (Lidwell, Holden, & Butler, 2003).
The authors (Lidwell, Holden and Butler) make several points about the aesthetic-usability effect in their book the Universal-Usability Effect
Their points are as followers:
- If a product appears aesthetically pleasing to the user it is more likely to be used.
- If a product is aesthetically pleasing faults in the product are more likely to be over looked or ignored.
- If an object is beautiful it is likely that people will develop a positive relationship with it which helps create creativity.
The author suggests that the reader should also research other theories such as attractiveness bias, form following function, the golden ratio, the Law of Pragnanz, Ockham’s Razor, and the Rule of Thirds.
Attractiveness bias is “defined as a tendency to see attractive people as more intelligent, competent, moral, and sociable than unattractive people” (Steward, 2008, 7 October). You could see how this principle could apply to a product or object
An example of the aesthetic-usability effect is the Zippo lighter (see figure 1). An ordinary Bic lighter (see figure 2) would work to light a cigarette however a Zippo lighter is not made of plastic like the Bic lighter.
A Zippo is made from metal. This not only means that the Zippo is durable but it also the makes the Zippo lighter aesthetically pleasing. A Zippo is stylish and sleek. The Bic in contrast looks cheap and nasty.
Not only that, people throw out Bic lighters on a weekly basis. I however have a Zippo light from the 1950’s and it still work like it was new
I also believe it is important to mention that aesthetics is subjective. I would prefer the Zippo over the Bic lighter. However there maybe people who prefer the Bic lighter. This is what is meant by subjectivity.
Joseph Joseph morta and pestle (figure 3) is another example of an aesthetically pleasing product looking easy to use. It is not what you would expect an morta pestle to look like. It is an incredible stylised version of an ancient tool.
The Philip Starck Juicer (figure 4) is another example it is very beautiful however it isn’t very good at juicing. But many still buy it for decoration.
- Lidwell, W., Holden, K., & Butler, J. (2003). Aesthetic‐Usability Effect. In Universal Principles of Design (pp. 18‐19). Massachusetts: Rockport.
- Steward, L. (2008, 7 October). Design Bias. [Web log post]
- The Zippo Image
- Bic Lighter Image
- Joseph Joseph Orb Pestle & Morta Image
- Philip Starck Juicer – The Juicy Salif Image