Aesthetics

Your constantly-updated definition of Aesthetics and collection of topical content and literature

What is Aesthetics?

Aesthetics is the philosophical study of beauty and taste. The term stems from the Greek word “aisthetikos,” meaning “of sense perception,” and is related to the study of sensory values. In design, aesthetics refers to the visual attractiveness of a product. Studies have proven that creating good aesthetics in a product leads to better usability and user experience.

In the field of user experience (UX) design and interaction design, aesthetics is important because it impacts the UX of a product in several ways. Firstly, it creates an attractiveness bias, which is down to the fact that we’re drawn to beautiful things. When users visit a website, or try a new app, they make quick decisions on whether or not to continue using it. Much of that decision hinges on the aesthetic appeal of the design. Secondly, good aesthetics helps to make users more tolerant of usability issues. Studies have found that visually appealing websites are rated as more usable than they actually are, because their attractiveness elicits pleasant emotions in users. Don Norman, pioneer of UX design, has written extensively about this phenomenon in his book Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things.

In designing with the purpose of increasing aesthetic value, one consideration in particular is essential—namely, the notion that beauty is not only objective and universal (as German philosopher of the Enlightenment period Immanuel Kant argued), but that it has a subjective side to it as well. A user’s cultural background, education, or class may influence his or her judgments of aesthetic value. Designers need to understand these aspects in order to match them with the appropriate design. Thus, as aesthetics involves multiple dimensions of a target audience’s makeup, it demands research into diverse areas relevant to a product’s distribution, including foreign market considerations.

Literature on Aesthetics

Here’s the entire UX literature on Aesthetics by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Aesthetics

Take a deep dive into Aesthetics with our course Emotional Design — How to Make Products People Will Love.

What separates great products from good ones? Attractive designs? User testing? Genius designers? Well, these might be contributory factors, but the true distinction lies in how they make users feel. Every experience has an emotional component, and using products is no different. Incorporating emotion should therefore be a key consideration when designing products or websites. This course will provide you with an understanding of emotional responses and how to create designs that encourage them.

An understanding of emotional design—how users feel and what affects these feelings—is essential if you want to provide great user experiences. There are probably things near you right now that are not necessarily the best, and they might not even be particularly attractive, but you are nonetheless still using them. Take a seashell from your favorite beach, or your very first tennis racket, for example; they are meaningful to you, and you consequently feel a connection to them. These connections are powerful; they subconsciously affect you and have the capacity to turn inanimate objects into evocative extensions of you as an individual.

In this course, we will provide you with the information necessary to elicit such positive emotional experiences through your designs. Human-computer interaction (HCI) specialist Alan Dix provides video content for each of the lessons, helping to crystallize the information covered throughout the course. By the end of it, you will have a better understanding of the relationship between people and the things they use in their everyday lives and, more importantly, how to design new products and websites which elicit certain emotional responses.

All Literature

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