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Theory of a design goal:

Beauty of a Product
The Concept of Beauty Beauty as Attribute of Object Beauty as Attribute of Perception Beauty of Discovery Normative Study of Beauty Research Methods

Beauty of a product means its visual attractiveness and it is one of the most important goals in the design of products. It has also been studied almost continually from antiquity until today. The most influential approaches that have been used in the study of beauty, i.e. aesthetics, are enumerated below, though most of them are probably of little use for tackling the problems of research or design today. Most easily applicable is the approach of perception psychology which is discussed in the paragraph Beauty of Discovery.

The Concept of Beauty


While ancient Egypt produced a multitude of objects we today call beautiful, the word beauty was practically non-existent in the writings of the time. Probably the earliest mention to anything near beauty is a title in the library catalogues of the Edphu temple: Instructions for wall decoration. These instructions have, however, been lost. In Egypt, builders and decorators seem to have used a mathematical theory of proportions which is unknown to us. We only know that around 600 BC Egyptian researchers measured the reliefs in Sakkara, in the tomb of pharaoh Zhoser, which were made ca. 2800 BC. On this basis they constructed a system of proportions which was later widely used. Perhaps it is this system that we now can see in many Egyptian reliefs as thin lines with no apparent meaning. On the left here, you can find a typical example from Lepsius (1849): Denkmler aus gypten und thiopien. The next mention to theological decoration comes from Vitruve (I,II,5). "The temples of Minerva, Mars, and Hercules, will be Doric, since the virile strength of these gods makes daintiness entirely inappropriate to their houses. In temples to Venus, ... and the Nymphs, the Corinthian order will be found to have peculiar significance, because these are delicate divinities..." In the Middle Ages, the research of beauty usually was classified as a branch of theology. The argument was that beauty is an attribute of God. The most notable researcher was Augustine (354 - 430: De vera religione). He said that beauty consists of unity and order which emerge from complexity. Such an order might be e.g. rhythm, symmetry or simple proportions. Another eminent philosopher, Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274), wrote on the essence of beauty. He thought that beauty was the result of three prerequisites: wholeness (lat. integritas) or perfection, harmony (lat. proportio) and clarity or brightness. (From: Summa theologica.) When studying an empirical object or an attribute which is difficult to be defined or to be measured directly, an alternative is to define it through other objects or attributes which are easier to study. Thus, instead of a real definition we use a

nominal definition for the object or the attribute. This trick was used in the study of beauty by St.Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, see the passages above. Nominal definitions abound in the dialogues of Plato (b. 428/9 BC) and there are also a few passages where he tries to clarify the meaning of beauty. His method is not really empirical; it resembles modern phenomenology. Plato relies heavily on the earlier experience of himself and his audience, and also on the meanings accumulated in the words of conventional language. Indeed, when contemplating the Greek word for "beautiful", kalos, Plato noted that this word also means "good" and "proper". It is said that Socrates commented on this and asserted that his potato shaped nose was quite practical; therefore it must also be rated as beautiful. Aristotle (384 - 322 BC) had the habit of clarifying concepts through enumerating their components. For beauty (Gk. kalliste) these would be order, repetition of measure (Gk. symmetria) and exactness (Metaphysics XIII, M, iii).

Beauty as Attribute of Object


Plato's writings on beauty are based on his doctrine of ideas. He explained that what we know from everyday experience is not knowledge but only belief or assumption (Gk. doxa) and we should try to find behind it the permanent real knowledge (Gk. episteme) which consists of "ideas". One of the ideas is "beauty" (Gk. to kalon), or the permanent property which belongs to all beautiful objects. This property remains the same irrespective of whether somebody admires the object or not. "That which is apprehended by intelligence and reason is always in the same state; but that which is conceived by opinion with the help of sensation and without reason, is always in a process of becoming and perishing and never really is." (Plato: Timaeus, trans. Benjamin Jowett). "That which is always the same" or the constant essence of beauty might consist of e.g. proportions of the dimensions. This idea is attributed to Pythagoras (ca. 532 BC) who is said to have discovered the fact that certain arithmetical proportions in musical instruments, e.g. the lengths of strings, produce harmony of tones (on the right, an illustration from Gafurio's Theorica Musice, 1492). On the basis of these musical harmonies the Greek tried to explain also the beauty in the proportions of the human body, of architecture and other objects. Vitruve (I:III:2) said that a building is beautiful when the appearance of the work is pleasing and in good taste, and when its members are in due proportion according to correct principles of "symmetry" (where "symmetry" means "a proper agreement between the members of the work itself, and relation between the different parts and the whole general scheme, in accordance with a certain part selected as standard. -- The definition of symmetry is found in I:II:4). During the Middle Ages, proportions and the ratios of numbers were considered important attributes of objects, as can be seen in the "sketchbook" of Villard de Honnecourt, from 13C, an illustration of which is seen on the left. The document contains no explanation to these figures.

The renaissance revived again the study of Pythagorean proportions. On the right, a study of Leonardo, showing the ratios 1:3:1:2:1:2 in the proportions of the human face. On the left, sketches by Cesariano where the human proportions are applied to architecture. The greatest architect-writer of the Renaissance, Leon Battista Alberti (1404-72), emphasized the formal attributes of buildings and their details, proportionality and ornamentation. Beauty (Lat. pulchritudo) is "a Harmony of all the Parts, in whatsoever Subject it appears, fitted together with such Proportion and Connection, that nothing could be added, diminished or altered, but for the Worse" (VI:II). This seems not say much more than that there must be harmony, proportion and connection between the parts of the beautiful object. However, on this foundation Alberti elaborated an extensive theory of architectural design which later also provided a basis for a long series of followers. After the renaissance, Plato's concept of beauty as an attribute of objects received increasing criticism. Majority of the researchers eventually adopted the view that sensing beauty in an object is not a result only of the properties of the object, but it depends more on the circumstances of studying the object. This view is explained later, under the title Beauty as Attribute of Perception. The study of beauty as a quality of objects was revived in a modern approach in 1928 when American mathematician George David Birkhoff presented his often cited equation: aesthetic value = amount of order divided by the complexity of the artifact The two latter elements in Birkhoff's equation can be measured easily, at least on a rudimentary level. Birkhoff himself tested the equation by designing a vase (picture on the right) which had a great value of beauty in his opinion because only a very limited number of elements (only 3 different curves) were needed to create a highly systematic result. Birkhoff's method has been applied to a coffee pot made in the Rosenthal factory in the picture on the left (Gunzenhuser, 1968, 203). This pot consists of several dozens of pictorial elements; Birkhoff would thus probably find its aesthetic beauty inferior to that of his own creation. The following decades saw, mainly in Germany, a long series of studies in which researchers compiled patterns by assembling simple components, measured their complexity

and how systematic they were, and tested how beautiful the test subjects found these figures. However, these investigations did not prove very fruitful. Few people found simple figures beautiful, and as to real works of art, it is difficult to measure Birkhoff's parameters in them. Nowadays, the mainstream of research tends to regard beauty not as a property of objects, but either as a sensation related to perception, or alternatively as a message. Both these research paradigms will be discussed below.

Beauty as Attribute of Perception


In the previously treated traditional research of art, it was thought that beauty would be a characteristic of the object. Not every philosopher in antiquity agreed on this theory of beauty. On the contrary, Epicurus (342/1 - 270/1) presented a totally different theory, stating that when one senses beauty, a feeling of pleasure (Greek hedone) is involved. In Epicurus, we find the origins of the hedonistic theory. Vitruve, who developed the aesthetics of practical constructing, certainly knew both the theories of Plato and those of Epicurus and tried to combine them in his own theory. In fact, he agrees with Epicurus (I:III:2) to say that beauty equals grace; but a sensation of grace is likely to be produced especially if the artifact has the right proportions - this was an idea borrowed from Plato. On this somewhat shaky basis, Vitruve wrote practical instructions of design enabling artists to attain beauty in art. The research of art as a pleasure of the senses didn't conform to the philosophy of the young Christian church. In so far as profane beauty was worth studying, its definition had to be found in the Holy Scriptures (this approach was already discussed earlier here). Because of the pressure from the church, we have to wait until the Renaissance before the first prominent French theorist of architecture, Philibert de l'Orme (about 1510-1570) turns the development into a direction which would later give rise to modern psychology of perception. De l'Orme did not believe in the absolute beauty of proportions. After verifying by measuring that the Pantheon had Corinthian columns designed with as many as three different proportions (in disobedience to Vitruvian rules which allowed only one set of proportions), he concluded that the most suitable dimensions for a column depended on how big or small the column was, and if it was placed low or high up in the structure of the building. This meant that the actual form of the column did not make it beautiful; instead, the final impression of beauty was created only when you were looking at the column. This encouraged de l'Orme to add new models of his own to the list of traditional column models in his design instructions of the "orders". De l'Orme's thoughts were further developed by a fellow countryman, Claude Perrault (1613-88) and expressed especially in the comments in his French translation of Vitruvius in 1673. Perrault says in them that beauty is not absolute (beaut positive); instead, the sense of beauty is acquired through a habit or by studying (beaut arbitraire). In 1750, A.G. Baumgarten started looking into the prerequisites of perceiving works of art. He wanted to ascertain why man experiences beauty and appreciates works of art. He was thus doing psychological research of art. Baumgarten borrowed the name "aesthetics" from the Greek "aisthetikos", "related to perception". Baumgarten's initiative did not immediately give rise to a particularly convincing theory. A better hypothesis was presented by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), who made aesthetics part of his extensive work of general philosophical history, Kritik der Urtheilskraft (1790). Following in Epicurus' footsteps, he stated that "beauty is something that pleases everyone regardless of their opinions" ... "A pleasing object is beautiful."

Baumgarten's ideas about positive, empirical research of beauty were put into practice by Georg Th. Fechner (Vorschule der sthetik, 1876). In his laboratory experiments, he studied the aesthetic preferences of common people with no aesthetic training. He studied, for example, which proportions a quadrangle had to have in order to be estimated as beautiful by the subjects. These experiments were later pursued by other researchers, notably by Weber, whose summary of some results can be seen here on the right. The ratio of height and base of each quadrangle is marked on the horizontal axis of the diagram, and the vertical axis indicates how high a percentage of test subjects estimated each different quadrangle as beautiful. Neither the proportions of Pythagoras (1 : 2 etc.), recommended also in many newer theories of art and architecture, nor the proportions of the so-called golden section (1 : 1,62, in the figure marked with G) were considered more beautiful than others. Over the years, Fechner's studies grew into a new, vital branch of science: perceptual psychology. An example of architectural research conducted in the spirit of perceptual psychology is Arkitekturens uttrycksmedel by Sven Hesselgren (1954). The book influenced for example J.S. Sirn's (Finnish professor on architecture, 1889 - 1961) Lectures on Forms (Muoto-oppi): "No recipes for creating beauty can ever be devised, but by analysing, we can ascertain the causes of different impressions, their sources and origins, and thus make architectural creation easier when the designer becomes more conscious of the nature of his own creation and the factors governing the results" (6). Sirn explained (16) that clear, decisive figures please the eye because they are easily understood and thus give satisfaction. The designer should not create uncertainty in the spectator by e.g. dividing a distinct whole into two parts of the same size, as opposed to what has been done in the pictures here on the right. Sirn found psychological grounds for many other rules of thumb for design, for example for the need of contrast: "In everyday life, the greatest means of refreshment are based on contrasts. Hot and cold, night and day, shadow and sunshine, fire and water, mountains and valleys, and work and play are all concepts and phenomena without which our lives would be much poorer... The same need of stimulation exists in design..." (60) Recent research in perceptual psychology seems to show that there seems to be an optimal level for the complexity and the amount of sensory arousal that objects give to man. More exactly, it is not the object itself but the whole situation when man experiences the object that seems to have an optimum of complexity. In primitive rural societies the complexity of life was often modest, and people often appreciated an artificial increase of complexity when perceiving artefacts, which the artesan could achieve by decorating the product. As a contrast, we often feel that modern life is too complex, and accordingly we appreciate if products around us are relatively simple, which can be attained by using plain surfaces, definite rhythm, symmetrical or other distinct shape, etc., which the user then can sense as beauty of the product. When studying the beauty of products that are used for practical purposes, it can be difficult or impossible to eliminate the non-aesthetic and formal aspects of the object, as Fechner and his followers tried to do.

Most people think that preferences concerning beautiful form depend of the type of the object. A beautiful fishing boat is different from a beautiful racer. Moreover, many people perceive as beauty (or as a pleasure near it) various qualities of the product, for example its accord with tradition, the quality of workmanship, good usability, or any of the various sources of interest in products that are discussed later on.

Beauty of Discovery
Perceptual psychology starts from a model in traditional psychology in which man and the environment constitute the basic elements and mutually influence each other both through stimuli and responses. What happens in human cognition between a stimulus and a response? The behavioristic school of psychology considers that it is impossible to know the exact answer to this question because the contents and the function of consciousness cannot be studied properly without interfering with them. If this disturbance is to be avoided in research, consciousness should be treated as a "black box" whose relations to the outside are the only thing studied. Theorists of cognitive psychology hold a totally different view: they have formed very detailed, hypothetical models of the function of consciousness. A typical model is presented by Matti Syvnen, 1985, 165, figure on the right: The chain of events from stimulus to action has often been rigidly supposed to be a one way line of events. To begin with, the object of research has been distinguished as "how the subject experiences the environment", that is, how he acquires information about the environment through the senses. Earlier, many researchers divided perceptions into three phases: perception, cognitive interpretation and evaluation. Nowadays, the general view is that all these are different aspects of one single event. As a proof of this we may consider the picture of a goblet by an early psychologist Edgar Rubin (figure on the left). The person looking at the picture does not acquire a definitive perception of the goblet immediately; instead, he has to decide which of the two alternatives he wants to see in the picture. Outlines help to form a perception. The concept of the outline (German Gestalt) was first presented in psychology by Christian von Ehrenfels in 1890. He paid attention to the fact that to understand a tune, its overall outline was more important than the individual tones. If the tune is transposed to a new key, every tone of it becomes something else but the overall outline of the tune stays the same. When forming outlines, our subconscious seems to obey certain regularities, the so-called Gestalt laws. Among them are the following: imperfect figures are completed into familiar figures signs that are near each other tend to be joined together in the mind to compose larger entities. A simple example of the transformation of close signs into larger figures is the following:
i iI Ii iI Ii iI Ii iI Ii iI Ii i

The line of signs above is usually perceived as pairs which are formed by signs close to each other, either iI or Ii. A more logical grouping in which the similar elements ii and II would form pairs seldom takes place in the first phase of perception: it is more typical in the later phases of reflection when the subject consciously evaluates and interprets his perception.

One phenomenon of perception takes place when smaller components become a bigger whole. Let us look at the following figure which is composed just of the plus and minus signs:
---------------------------++++++----++++++---------++--------++-----------++--------++---------++++++----++++++---------------------------

From behind the signs, the figure I I becomes perceptible, I I being a background structure (in German: Superzeichen). The picture in the consciousness concerning circumstances on the outside, acquired by a perception process, can become interesting and important to the observer only when he has related this image to his earlier picture of the world. In cognitive outlining, the perception is fitted into the system of earlier perceptions stored in the memory, which (especially when speaking about matters related to the environment) can be called a cognitive map. Now the individual also has to decide if the perceived matter calls for measures or not. In this evaluation, earlier learned attitudes and behaviour patterns serve as a frame. The social environment is crucial in this because it provides the final value judgements of the physical objects in the individual's environment. It is interesting to look at the perception process in the light of the recent quantitative theory of information. The unit information is measured with is the bit (= binary digit). It is the smallest amount of information other than zero. One bit of information tells us if a binary quantity has the value 1 or 0. One letter contains about five bits of information. However, a 25 letter word strains our memories with far less than 125 bits, for as soon as we see the beginning of the word, we can figure out the rest. This is because in long words, there is a great deal of redundant i.e. repetitive information. The capacity of perception is rather limited. It is capable of receiving only about 20 bits a second altogether through all the senses. From the short storage time of our consciousness follows that the amount of information which we can process at a time cannot considerably exceed the amount of a hundred bits. You have perhaps sometimes come across a blurred figure or text, for example a cryptogram, and wanted to figure out its meaning. You can probably recall the enjoyment at the moment of enlightenment when you have figured out the hidden meaning of the message. This pleasant feeling seems to be directly caused by the fact that the consciousness of a human being has worked hard and attained its goal: perception. Another example which can be tried out right now. On the right, there is a picture by Bartlett representing a young woman. It is also possible to perceive this picture in a totally different way, but that usually requires some effort. I am asking the reader to try to perceive this again and to pay attention to his or her feelings when the new outline is found. According to a hypothesis put forward by George Birkhoff in 1933, the above feeling of pleasure which is physically caused by the very effort to perceive and the success in it, is the same thing as the aesthetic pleasure obtained when looking at works of art. A person looking at a work of art intensively looks for and also finds some initially hidden, "deeper" structure in the work of art, which causes a pleasant feeling. We may call "beauty" that feeling of pleasure which follows from the effort to perceive and the success in finding an initially hidden background structure in the work of art. That hidden structure might be e.g. the triangular form of a traditional Madonna group, or a geometrical structure of proportions like the Modulor of Le Corbusier (1951), or any other attribute of perception of the object that was discussed above. But it might alternatively consist of a message, i.e. the work of art or product symbolizes something, see Theories Of Message on a separate page.

Moreover, if the object of study is not a work of fine art but a product that is used for a practical purpose, we may sometimes feel delighted (and have a sensation of beauty, or near it) when we discover unexpected qualities in the product, for example an unusually high level of quality, of usability, of safety, or any of the various sources of interest in products discussed later on. The deeper structure always lacks the majority of details of the surface structure of the work of art, so it is always simpler than the surface layer (or at least it looks simple at first before it, too, may reveal new depths). Thus, the quantitative theory of beauty provides an explanation for something that many researchers of aesthetics have noticed, mainly that one component of beauty is simplicity. The same goes for scientific work as well: a line of thought can be called beautiful or elegant particularly because of the startling simplicity of its basic idea. The pleasure caused by unravelling the background structure is strongest if it is preceded by an intellectual problem: at first, the work seems otherwise explicit but there is something mysterious, irritating and incompatible in it. At the moment of "a-hah" or "eureka", all the pieces fall in place, the irritation disappears and a pleasant feeling of clarity replaces it. The sensations of irritation in a complex situation and pleasure when it is sorted out, are by no means restricted to aesthetic experiences - in fact, they seem to belong to man's original biological abilities, and they are necessary when man needs to adapt himself to changes in the environment. See e.g. Toffler 1970 p. 297. The intensity of pleasant feeling depends on the amount of intellectual effort used when studying the work of art. If the work of art is very easy to interpret, trivial or commonplace, its aesthetic value remains low. Compare the experiences of finding the background patterns in the symbols on the left and on the right. The Electrolux trademark on the left at first seems be hinting to air conditioning, vents and fans only. It reveals its another meaning, the letter E, first in prolonged inspection. As a reward, it gives more aesthetic pleasure when the second explanation is found. -- The trademark of the British Eagle aviation company on the right discloses its two-fold content of the letter E and an eagle, effortlessly and without producing much aesthetic pleasure, either. On the other hand, a work of art shoud not be so complicated that outlining its background structure and deeper content becomes impossible. The diagram on the right indicates how aesthetic pleasure depends on the complexity of the work. There is an optimum level of complexity. The optimum for complexity is different for a layman that has earlier seen few or no similar works of art, and for an expert in the pertinent field of art, see the figure on the left. The more works of art the expert has seen or heard, the less he is interested in superficial structures which are often common to many works of contemporary artists. He passes these standard characteristics as self-evident facts, and they do not give him any aesthetic pleasure. On the other hand, his erudition makes him capable to find out, interpret and enjoy more complicated works than is possible for a layman. It is even possible that a given work of art (marked with x in the diagram) can be too intricate for the layman while being too simple for an expert!

Gradual comprehension
Abraham A. Moles (1966) has added precision to Birkhoff's hypothesis. According to Moles, the greatest pleasure produced by perception is felt when consciousness is allowed to function at its maximal effect, that is, approximately at the rate of 100 bits a second.

According to this, first of all, a work of art should contain a sufficient amount of superficial content or decoration immediately appealing to the senses. As a starting point to the interpretation can serve also the name of the work, if any. But to qualify as competent art, the work must be able to offer also a deeper content. Finding this deeper content will then produce the pleasant feeling of "eureka" once more, provided again that discovering it is not too easy. If it is very easy, or if there are no deeper layers to be discovered, the aesthetic pleasure remains brief and thus meager, and the work of art risks being classified as kitsch. The perception of a profound work of art proceeds thus as several (or at least two) step-by-step phases. Each successive stage of comprehension should optimally be attainable so that the flow of new information remains always in the range of 100 bits per second, i.e. near the maximum of human abilities of perception. The deeper content can be a background structure, or anything else that arouses interest, for example an invitation to an emotional mood, or a message. The most rewarding work of art is one in which the process described above can take place several times successively like in the figure on the right. Such a multifaceted work of art can be looked at over and over again. In each new vista the observer finds something new; first perhaps a solution to a problem which remained unsolved in the previous phase of observation, and second, a novel surprise: another problem motivating him to a deeper still reflection. Each phase of observation leads to more profound comprehension and thus increases the aesthetic value of the work. The procedure of gradual aesthetic comprehension is a little different for the two existing genres of art: Synchronic objects of art have no temporal dimension: they remain constant all the time and the public can inspect their details in any order of sequence. To this group belong most industrial products and immobile works of art like paintings. Diachronic works such as music, novels and dramas, arrive to the public as fixed sequences which include an opening, a continuation and an end. It is the composer's task to determine in advance the succession in which he reveals the various layers of his work to the public. In synchronic objects all the parts are visible all the time, but it does not mean that the author of the work has no means to guide the process of its study. The procedure of studying an immobile object can be more or less fixed in advance, for example, with a menu system. Similarly, esteeming the architecture of a large building usually involves a promenade in the building which the architect can pre-design so that the public has the possibility to enjoy surprises and "a-hah" experiences. Moreover, a common method for pointing out a suitable starting point for the user's inspection is to give conspicuous emphasis to such an element, or to provide a detail or characteristic that differs from what is normal in the genre of objects (i.e. a "contra-standard" characteristic) which arouses the curiosity of the spectator and invites him to take a closer look. In diachronic works several different tactics (which sometimes can be used in synchronic works, too) are available for arousing and keeping the interest of the public. They include the following: The puzzle game design where the artist first exposes all the necessary details and then each member of the public has the option of putting the pieces together and finding the general structure behind them. For example, in the classical detective story a series of clues are given, and when approaching the final pages the public can try to deduce who was the murderer. Theme and variations. The artist first gives the general pattern and then instances where it can appear. The "a-hah" experience of the audience consists of recognizing the theme in its various

ingenious guises and surprising contexts. Cyclic design. Returning to the initial scene or situation which the public now can understand more profoundly than in its first inspection, see the figure on the right. Cf. Hermeneutic study. Dramatic tension and its settlement. The tension can be created between two contrasting goals, or between pursuit and obstacles. An example is the standard dramatic structure of a short film, defined by Cowgill (1997 p. 3): 1. A hero who 2. wants something, 3. takes action, but 4. meets conflict, which 5. leads to a climax and, finally, 6. a resolution.

Expectation and Distinction


In some fields of art the content of a work of art is largely known to the public in advance. If you, for example, buy a ticket to a Chopin recital, you expect that the pianist plays the well-known pieces approximately according to the notes; if there are too many deviations you will have the feeling of being deceived. What happens if everything is played exactly as it is printed in the notes? It could be made with a high-class electric piano so that, for example, each 1/4 sound in a 3/4 bar has exactly the same duration and the volume is adjusted according to the composer's instructions p, pp, f etc. The resulting aesthetic experience would probably remain bleak. There would be no "life" or "swing" in the presentation. The public perhaps would not complain, but they would not recommend the presentation to their neighbors. In other arts notes are not used, and even for music many listeners do not know the notes of the music they hear. In any case, each member of the the public of any work of art has very often an expectation, in other words they expect something of the work. The very incentive of the public for coming to see or hear a work of art is nearly always that they want to see or hear something that they can anticipate on the basis of their earlier experience about art. Often it is simply a reminiscence of an exemplar, i.e. an admirable work of art that they have seen or heard. In arts that depict something, the expectation is often dictated by the motif. For people that are in the habit of analyzing objects of art, the expectation could be a combination of standard properties that they have found to be characteristic of the genre in question. When a member of the public then observes a work of art, his or her impression of the work seldom corresponds to the expectation exactly. We can call distinction (or originality) the difference between expectation and the completed perception of a given work of art. The direction and amount of distinction designates the aesthetic experience as follows: If distinction is negative, i.e. the public receives less than it had expected, the work of art will be estimated substandard and nonprofessional. In the diagram, expectation is marked with a black dot and negative distinction in green. If distinction is nil or very small (black line), i.e. the work is about what was expected, the work will be estimated as trivial and the artist as professional but not high-class. The optimal aesthetic experience (red line) is attained when the presentation gives more than what was expected. Such a work of art is characterized verbally as, for example, entertaining, exciting, amusing, intense, or profound. Translated into the concepts of Moles (1966), above, the optimal aesthetic experience is attained when the public can use their abilities of discovery and interpretation at their maximal intensity and for a prolonged time. Finally, if distinction is too great (blue line), the work of art may remain incomprehensible (which

will not prevent snobs from praising it). Artists who want to get renown thus have to try to create works that give the public something that it could not expect. They have to deviate from earlier works, but only to a suitable extent. The cognitive mechanism of aesthetic pleasure gives thus an explanation for the continual quest for progress in arts, too. It goes without saying that experts and professionals of any field of art have much higher and much more detailed expectations than laymen have. The more works of art the expert knows, the less he is interested in such features that are typical of the conventional style generally applied in the field. He passes these points as self-evident facts, and they do not give him any aesthetic pleasure. These different expectations explain the different receptions that a work of art sometimes gets from the general public on the one hand, and from "avant-garde" on the other. The general public may, for example, feel that a given work of art differs from expectations in a suitable way, whereas the avant-garde feels that it contains nothing of special interest and corresponds to what is normally expected from the genre, and is thus " dj vu"if not kitsch. On the other hand, another work that differs from the expectations of the avant-garde in an interesting way may be unintelligible to the general public.

Supplementary sources of interest in products


Traditionally aesthetics has been restricted to the realms of the senses of vision and of hearing. This limitation is regrettable, because these are only two of several human channels of perception. Especially the senses of touch and movement can be important when evaluating e.g. sports equipment, vehicles, clothing and furniture. The senses of taste and smell are traditionally the domain of culinary art, but there might be situations when they, and other simple corporeal urges could be included in the experience of other types of products, too. On a separate page we have a discussion of the numerous aspects of attractiveness, or "pleasurability" of products. Moreover, there are a few emotional sources of pleasure that can arouse interest in a product or in a work of art. Of these, sexuality has traditionally been a customary element in those arts that can depict man and his life. In the process of perceiving the work, sexual content is best adapted for the initial phases of observation. Sexual hints provide points of interest that can motivate the public into closer inspection of the work, during which its other content then will eventually reveal itself, as explained by Moles (1966), above. Because sexuality is one of the first characteristics to be noted in the product, it is often important in the marketing situation. Makers of kitsch are well aware of the fact. Other cognitive and emotional sources of pleasure that are innate for a human and that could be used to enhance the interest in a product, include: Attraction to social co-operation in the spheres of family, work, and various organizations. Desire to get appreciation. Pursuit of knowing and comprehension. Desire to set and attain goals.

Normative Study of Beauty


The above discussed traditions in the study of art have been mainly informative in nature. However, the prefaces of study reports often announce that the author's final goal has been normative, i.e. to help later artisans, architects etc. to create more attractive works. Note also that many authors were occupied as teachers in art schools and they were thus willing and able to guide the artistic creation of their colleagues and students. At first sight there seems to be no great difference between informative and normative study of beautiful products, because aesthetics has traditionally been concentrated on the most beautiful objects and the normative goal in new production is the same. Researchers of aesthetics have traditionally selected as their

objects of study such artifacts that were regarded as exceptionally beautiful, i.e. renowned works of art, which can make it difficult to apply the findings to the creation of more commonplace products, see a discussion on the alternatives when demarcating the Population of Study. The situation gets more complicated if we accept the fact that different segments of the general public can have different tastes, and we want to please more than one of these tastes. This could be done in several ways. One approach could be first defining the target customers and then creating one product exactly for these people, and perhaps other products for other groups. Alternatives to this could be, either finding an arbitrated compromise product that would please the majority, or perhaps making a "double-coded" work so that two (or more) different levels of public could find different sources of satisfaction in it. In the normative study of art, a frequently applied model can be seen here on the right. It includes the term feedback, borrowed from the theory of cybernetics, which is an important factor in the creation of works of art, and which appears in the form of criticism. The figure has been borrowed, slightly modified, from Herbert Franke. The greater number of benefits we wish to attain, the greater is the risk that some of the targets get into conflict with each other. Note that beside the pleasures listed above, there are many practical objectives that a product is supposed to reach (like usability, economy and ecology), and each of these targets can obstruct reaching some other goals. It is difficult to develop general theory for the task of arbitrating between goals in conflict, even if such a need arises frequently in a development project for a specific product, cf. Strategic Design, the methods of creating a Product Concept and Evaluating a Design Proposal.

Research Methods
During many centuries beauty and especially the beauty of products has been studied from many different angles. Each of these lines of research has reached deeper and deeper insights, but in spite of that every explanation of beauty has remained deficient: it lacks at least the other well known angles, and probably something else that no researcher has ever thought of. It seems that 'beauty' is a name that has been given to several concepts which we can study one at a time, but no one has yet been able to combine them into one comprehensive theory. Time will show if future researchers will succeed better in this respect. A common weakness in the study of beauty has been that the researcher has developed his assertions just on the basis of his personal and subjective competence (which often was admirable, because many authors also were qualified artists). Few assertions were ever tested with other people; in the best case they were tested in the works of art created by the author himself. This lack of corroboration not only diminished the credibility of the studies but it also was one reason why these studies had weak connections to each other and no general theory of beauty ever developed. Nevertheless, it is possible that this weakness of methods can eventually be corrected (see Diachronic View on Arteology). The first researchers of beauty thought that the essence of beauty is the same everywhere and for everyone. It seemed unnecessary to consult many people when studying it, because already the researcher himself is a human being and his opinions about beauty could be comfortably recorded with solitary contemplation in an arm chair. The normal method in informative studies of beauty until 19 century was probably somewhat similar to the modern method of phenomenology or perhaps hermeneutics. Today it is only the most obstinate existentialists who still assert that their findings will be valid anywhere, while other people think that they are unquestionably valid only in the author's sphere of culture. Of course, there is always the possibility that phenomenological findings happen to have wider validity as

well, therefore if you like the method you can well use it and publish the results as hypotheses to be tested by others. A more reliable method for exploring the mechanisms and patterns in the perception of beauty by different people in different countries, is empirical study in co-operation with these people. You will first need to define the group of people that you wish to study. In the study of aesthetic experience it is important to note that the experience depends not only on the work of art itself but as much on the expectations that each member of the public had originally. For collecting these, a suitable method is survey with thematic interview. Its normal alternative, a poll is not suitable because people's artistic expectations are usually too vague to be expressed in definite questions and answers. Possible questions for mapping out a person's expectations could be: "When coming to see my exhibition, what did you expect to see?" and "Could you compare my work to some other similar works of art that you have seen?" If you can construct a hypothesis for your study, you can consider testing it with experiments in laboratory, for example by preparing variations of a suitable work of art to be used as stimuli in the experiment. You can make these variations so that they differ only with regard to one variable, and the experiment will then reveal which effect the variation has to the aesthetic experience, see Stimulus in the experiment. Remember here, too, that all such experiments always involve one more important variable: the different expectations of the public, which you should not forget to include when registering people's reactions to the variable objects of art. You can, of course, take as your object of study the existing works or products themselves, though the difficulty is often their great variation. Some methods are explained under the title Holistic Study of Products. If you intend to study not static objects but procedures, like for example musical compositions, dramas or computer programs, you can perhaps adopt the technique for their description from the designers of these commodities if the normal methods of observation are not sufficient. When the purpose of the study is normative, i.e. if you want to assist the design of new products, the approach becomes slightly different depending on whether you want to create general design theory, i.e. models, standards and other tools for design, or if you just wish to develop one new product (or a series of them). Suitable methods for the latter task are explained in Artistic Research and Developing an Industrial Product. Note also the methods of Collective Design. The methods for creating general design theory are discussed in Preparing Design Theory. Many of the descriptive methods listed above are also serviceable. The researcher's proposals for design guidelines should always be tested with a sample selected from the target group of customers. When developing theory of design it is important to test not only written guidelines but also as fidel mock-ups as possible. Suitable methods are listed in Presenting the Draft and Prototype and Evaluating a Design Proposal. Do not forget to include in the testing group people with impaired abilities of perception.

April 7, 2005. Original location: http://www2.uiah.fi/projects/metodi Comments to the author: