What Makes a Design Beautiful and Attractive To Us

Are there general rules to creating visually pleasing designs?
What makes certain products scream quality and beauty whilst other lacking designs look cheap and tacky.

I think this is one of the most important aspects of design, is it simply intuitive or can it be explained, I’m curious - any books/articles/websites on this matter would be really interesting. To me a good design must be consistent in style, but why a particular style is visually pleasing I’m far less sure on, I’d love to hear your views.

Read this.

Sit down with some Donald Norman books.

Thanks for the starting points, The Design of Everyday Things or Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things any good yo?
To be honest I’m rather new to ID but I’m getting into to it early and trying to absorb as much advice and information as I can :slight_smile:

Both have some great thoughts, as does the book :Watches Tell More Than Time: Product Design, Information, and the Quest for Elegance by Del Coates (actually has a picture of a watch I worked on while at Evo…)

Dig in, this site has tons of good info. While many people argue that aesthetics are subjective, I think there are certain principals in our collective lexicon that attracts the majority of us to some things and repels us from others. We also play with these lexicons to create tribal indicators, a guy in kakis and a button down driving a volvo wearing penny loafers with a blackberry is telling something to the world with his choices and sending signals to potential friends and enemies about what he values. Then there is the function of form, how does a form lead us to intuitively use a product, much the way a handle tells us were to hold something.

Yo: I didn’t remember a lot about what makes something beautiful in Don Norman’s books. I haven’t read them since Uni though.

Back to the original question: There aren’t any hard and fast rules. Maybe the only one that I can think of is symmetry. That seems fairly universal in terms of visual appeal. Other factors engage the emotions and are therefore are more or less appropriate depending on the environment and target market.

Can you explain this for me? Why are Norman’s books so highly regarded? Everything I read in his books were what I would call common sense.

Maybe I need to read them again…but the underlying theme of all his books were never anything more profound than “think twice about whether it makes sense for that button to go there”.

All brilliant design is obvious in retrospect.


while we’re talking about symmetry and such here is a short but sweet explanation of how we react to certain compositional elements.

i think what yo is talking about is more society-driven - in an isolated from social context environment this same khaki guy would have probably selected different objects for their design. but then sucking up to social groups is definitely one of the things a designer has to do.

When I first got into design, I judged everything on it’s shape. But then something that was visually ugly, suddenly became beautiful in use. As I learn’t more, it was about how clever it was in manufacture, how the designer had managed to cut out parts and pair down the design to the bare essentials, saving material and tooling costs. Now it’s a combination of all of the above and more, a simple Bic biro is a beautiful object bacause of it’s simplicity and functionality.

I agree with Yo, there are just some objects that a greater percentage of the population find more beautiful than others, but I think by it’s very nature of function/purpose etc each product also creates it’s own individual set of judging criteria not just based on aesthetics.

I have to agree with this as well. I think where this collective lexicon comes from is actually in the psychology of how we evaluate a potential life-long mate. Yes, you heard me right. The way we evaluate our attraction to the opposite sex is probably very similar to the way we evaluate a product we may consider buying and find visually attractive.

I think that’s where the idea of creating a humanistic aesthetic comes from. It doesn’t have to be very literal, but you can draw on the proportions/ musculature of the human body and translate it into the product, bio-mimicry if you will. It’s been scientifically proven that certain proportions, color combinations, patterns will evoke specific feelings within the viewer. A designer should know of this and consciously design it into the product.

Perhaps this will be the next level in industrial design. So far, we have been designing products to appease the limitations of machines (manufacturing concerns) and programming software (computing power). As Kurzweil hints, the next singularity may just as well rid us of these limitations and designers can be focused only on appeasing the sensibilities of human beings.