LEE. M., TANAKA. K., NARITA. Y. Perceived Simplicity of Three-dimensional Objects. International Journal of Affective Engineering Special Issue on ISAE 2013 Vol. 13 (2014) No. 1

Researchers noted that when people are looking at an object in everyday life they often say it can be classified as something that is simple or not simple. However the criteria for judging simplicity differ among different individuals. Researchers made a study that is useful to designers who in the design process want to take into account how ordinary users perceive and react to product shapes. In this study researchers were studying the figurative attributes of three-dimensional shapes and their arrangements.

First they wanted to extract those morphological attributes that influence the impressions of the simplicity. They used 50 different three-dimensional models made from wood and two study groups which contained both five persons. During the process where abstract expressions about their impressions were offered researchers repeatedly asked questions about or compared with other models until concrete morphological attributes were voiced.

Researchers identified 11 attributes concerning the simplicity of a three-dimensional object: 1. surface shape, 2. features of component size, 3. regularity in arrangement of components, 4. number of components, 5. symmetry, 6. number of different components, 7. continuity at component joints, 8. stability of each component, 9. stability of the entire model, 10. centre of gravity and 11. motif. Each of these attributes was assigned qualitative values that reflected the degree to which a model contains that attribute.

Then researchers had 40 new subjects whom they showed one by one all 50 models and they needed to provide they impression of whether the model presented was simple or not simple.

Finally they identified two generally different combinations of attributes contribute to perceived simplicity. First involves a balance between number of different components and features of component size, number of components, stability of the entire model and the stability of each component. Second is the combination of surface shape, number of components and symmetry.

In mini-symposium on Usability and Kansei Engineering Yoshihiro Narita introduced research activities on Kansei engineering. He said how Kansei engineering means emotional / affective engineering where users psyholocihal emotions and needs are taken care of in the product design. He presented how they are interested in shapes, words (cool), colors and physical stimulus. The article about simplicity in three-dimensional models is one example what they have studied in Kansei Engineering.

For me it was interesting to listen and to read how to experiment why people see something as simple or as not simple. I think the attributes what researchers identified could be really helpful in all the situations where designers are talking about how to produce simple products. It can also help conversations with the users when regarding if they see the product simple or not.

– Olli Toivonen

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