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June 13th, 2017

When to Address Aesthetics in Your NPD Process

What are aesthetics? The broad definition is that aesthetics are something of or relating to art or beauty. They are concerned with how our senses respond to an object. If something is aesthetically pleasing, you like it. If it is aesthetically displeasing, you do not like it. Designers know that aesthetics can involve your emotions, as well as all your senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing).

While aesthetics are only one factor in the design of product, they are a very important one. Ask any marketer how important first impressions are. An aesthetic response is immediate and involuntary. It establishes an early opinion regarding preference.

Think of aesthetic appeal as an attribute in a user’s evaluation of preference, along with durability, ease of use, cost, and safety. Aesthetics are a big part of what creates a satisfying user experience. All those other attributes being equal, the more aesthetically pleasing product will win every time.

So when should aesthetics be addressed in the product development process? Unfortunately, many companies make the move too late.

BOLTGROUP is sometimes approached by a client whose new product development is nearly complete. They are essentially asking us to put an aesthetics “hit” on it. This sort of afterthought approach is rarely successful, so we instead introduce the client to our new product development process.

Some companies mistakenly consider design a synonym for aesthetics. Design encompasses much more. It takes into account all aspects of how a product engages with a user, including ergonomics, operation, features, assembly, and of course, form and function. Design essentially defines how the product works. Aesthetics is about how the product is perceived.

You may think of aesthetics as distinctly different from a product’s function, but it’s not.

To be considered great design and desirable to users, a product must both function well and exhibit good design with attributes like beauty, smart ergonomics, and a form that aids in function.

So the best approach is to start with the end in mind. Bring the new product development team in at the outset of the program. Knowledge of the end user, key brand attributes, and current trends should all be identified and communicated early on. Involving all aspects of design along with technical facets of product performance and manufacturability, allows the components of a product to work together seamlessly, providing a superior user experience. The truly great products address all aspects of a product in concert.

Lastly, the application of good aesthetics may serve as a signal for the invisible attributes of quality, reliability, and innovation. For many companies, the application of key brand attributes also supports this. Product design is an important driver of brand equity. For the brand, product design is key to driving consumer preference, creating value and creating a competitive advantage.

For more on developing key brand attributes see: by BOLTGROUP and by Monty Montague

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