Lessons for Industrial Designers to Engineer Desirability That They Don’t Teach You In Design Schools

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Being the dean of a Design School is no easy job today. Design schools is struggling to serve three masters: to the student and the industry and to the society, the last one is a new one as designers generally have come to a consensus that design for social change is part of the design agenda.


With limited time and resources, design educators need to define a strategy for D-schools’ future: Is it teach the person/artist to create? Or training craftsmen (both traditional and software tools) to supply to the industry or to develop thinkers to solve wicked problems?

Design education is becoming so broad that educators finding it difficult to balance between breath and depth, not deep enough in some areas and not general enough to cover the ever expanding design practices. I am afraid we have not come to a conclusion of what design education should be like and simply continuing training the design thinkers of tomorrow in the techniques and tools from yesterday.

Back to my topic of this post. Here are three lessons of industrial design on engineering desirability that are borrowed from sociology. After all, industrial design is about getting humans to buy, use and love our products. If you send your designers talking to the dating experts, here’s what you’ll get:

1/ A few mms here and there can make a big difference. According to the Journal of Psychopharmacology, when we’re drunk, guys look cuter because we don’t notice the asymmetry of their face. The biological explanation: A symmetric guy is less likely to have genetic defects and makes a better mate. Male of female, the sex appeal lies mainly in face shape.

One example according to paleontologists, the dimensions of the region between the mouth and the eyebrows are crucial in determining how attractive a man’s face appears to the opposite sex. For product design, there is a specific asymmetry that determines the attractiveness of a product, and they may not comply with human factors or ergonomic principles, but what’s more important? An attractive boyfriend or an ergonomic boyfriend? Not sure people know it, your nose should be part of foreplay, not only in sex but also in product design and marketing.

2/ The power of smell. Smell is a relatively new element outside of the personal care and cosmetic industry. Here’s an example from the work of Smell and Taste Research Foundation based out of Chicago, the blend of lavender and pumpkin turns guys on. Do you remember the smell of leather (real leather) in a new car, it didn’t last very long but it felt so good. My favorite is the smell from Abercrombie store. Everytime I bought something the smell is there and that reminds me pictures of fun college days. I wonder why my iTouch, MacBook, Blackberry or Cannon Powershot doesn’t have any smell on it; particularly it is something I carry all the time. Wouldn’t it be great if my Blackberry had a unique on that changes according that was on the other side of the line? Another million-dollar idea here.

3/ Colors are always sexy. Why aren’t your product colorful? According to research men are attractive to women who wear a particular color and find them more desirable. Pantone can make us more desirable to the opposite sex (email me I will design your personal color mood board). These are cultural specific naturally. Why red for Valentine’s Day? That’s a color associated with romance, and primal instincts that link the color with sex. That’s also the reason why the butts of some animals turn red when they are ready to mate. Look at red color interior of Bugatti Veyron! It is not just about using colors, but using it strategically.

Here’s a simple test, have your girlfriend or boyfriend trying different colors of sweaters from J.Crew and you will see why he/she looks particular attractive in certain colors. There are research to show which colors works better creating desirability. But 90% of products out there were designed not with that in mind, someone just randomly decides on a color to be used. If you want your product to be sexy, spend more time with the Pantone guide and your customers.

Original Post: http://mootee.typepad.com/innovation_playground/2009/11/lessons-of-product-design-to-engineer-deisrability-that-they-dont-teach-you-in-design-schools.html