Synergy between Sustainability and Desirability
In today's environmentally conscious market, there are increasing instances of so called “sustainable
products" which often fail to convince the public as a desirable product. Until recently, the concept of
“sustainability” has hardly gone beyond the environment-saving aspect of it and reached design topics
such as "Sustainable Aesthetics". This research investigates the ways to make sustainable products
Automobile as one of the most influential inventions of 20th century is in the brink of a major
transformation due to sustainability concerns of the current paradigm of mobility. Thus it has been
chosen as the subject of this study.
In this study a case research on city cars as an eco-friendly and thus sustainable type of motor vehicle has
been selected. Two series of studies for investigating public perception of sustainability and form
aesthetics has been conducted on a number of existing (and later designed) vehicles in this class.
The main objective of the research is to answer this question:
1. What makes a product (in our case, city cars) more “desirable” in public opinion(?).
"Desirability" is one of many emotions that could be elicited while experiencing a product. How about
other emotions, that shapes our product experience? The second objective was:
2. Investigate the role of emotions is the way people perceive products.
The concept of "sustainability" has a complex and multi-faceted nature which could not so easily be
expressed in product form-giving. Therefore the third objective of the study was:
3. Find a meaningful way of communicating a tangible manifest of sustainability; and
devise a method to investigate people's perception of "sustainable aesthetics".
The study was framed with two non-verbal experiments one of which was PrEmo as the emotion study
Figure 1: PrEmo user interface
In the other experiment1, which was designed to investigate sustainable aesthetics, symbolic and
semantic functions of a number of selected pictures were used as a communicative medium in conveying
the relevant manifest of sustainability (figure 2).
Figure 2: SADS interface
Sustainable Aesthetics in Design Study (acronym: SADS)
For these studies 9 city cars were selected as stimuli considering the form language diversity. Each
stimulus had 2 images of front and rear quarter view of each city car.
In order to calibrate results of the study the stimuli were manipulated in Photoshop to eliminate
distractions caused by photo ambience and generate a holistic impression of the form of the cars ignoring
unnecessary details. Below in figure 3 an example stimulus can be found.
Figure 3: Example of a stimulus
Fourty Iranian people participated in each study including both gender between 20 to 35 years old.
The raw data gathered for PrEmo experiment was analyzed with Correspondence Analysis for which the
results are displayed in figure 4.
Figure 4: PrEmo experiment results
Two stimuli of PininFarina B0 and Ciroen C-airplay respectively scored highest in evoking positive
emotions and as the graphical representation of the analysis reveals they both situated in close proximity
of desirability, pride, satisfaction, hope, and joy.
For the SADS experiment Factor analysis was utilized to interpret the raw data. The results revealed that
Pinin Farina B0, VW Up! And Citroen C-airplay was located in close proximity of "aesthetically more
sustainable" entities. The graphical representation of the SADS analysis is displayed in Figure 5
Figure 5: SADS experiment results
Putting the results of two experiments together, two vehicles – Pinin Farina B0 and Citroen C-airplay –
were selected for a comprehensive ontological study of shape aesthetics (volume arrangement, surface
treatment, and aesthetic key lines) for reflection in the design phase. Ultimately the reflection of the
findings manifested in three concepts which are displayed in Figure 6
Figure 6: three design Concepts
In the last stage of study, another session of PrEmo experiment was conducted with same 40 participants
for the three developed concept. The result of this session is displayed in Figure 7.
Figure 7: results of PrEmo Experiment for designed concepts
As a self reporting non verbal method, PrEmo provide an opportunity to study the emotions evoked in
product experience without being bond to limitation imposed by language usage. Moreover PrEmo is a
disciplined method, which has claimed categorizing human emotions in to a set of more or less
universally accepted standard. This study, conducted in a substantially different cultural and social
context, could be a testimony for universality of PrEmo. However, in the course of the experiment it
became apparent that majority of participants found some of the emotions obsolete and/or irrelevant
such as: fascination and Sadness.
As mentioned earlier, in the latter part of the study PrEmo was also used for the evaluation of the
designed concepts. In this part a round table animation of each concept was often used for better
communication. However, displaying the stimuli with three quarter still rendering images versus a
roundtable animation revealed a major difference in results. Therefore adding a roundtable animation to
PrEmo would be a significant improvement especially for design evaluation.
Personal and Background information
Name: Bahareh Barati
Institution: Department of Industrial Design, School of Fine Arts, University of Tehran
Program: Master of Fine Arts Industrial Design
As a graduating master student I used PrEmo in my thesis project titled: Sustainable Aesthetics in
Automotive Form giving.
Tel: +31 (0) 20-717 38 59