What makes us think products are beautiful?

Ideal Standard reveals the results of a pioneering neuroscientific study into how the brain makes us think products are beautiful?
IStonicwebThe research, which used a combination of EEG scans and online studies, examined the conflict the brain experiences when presented with aesthetically pleasing but functionally poor products.
Measuring the responses of over 1,400 individuals, findings of the research include:

  • The more beautiful we consider an object the more we anticipate that it will function well
  • Products that are initially rated as beautiful become less beautiful when their functional performance is poor
  • The drop in activity in the rostral prefrontal cortex (the “beauty detection area” of the brain) may have a continuously inhibiting impact in the future so that any time objects are known to function badly the perception of beauty is diminished

The research was commissioned by Ideal Standard and conducted by Mindlab, a neurological research facility based in Brighton, England. The results were analysed by neuroscientist Dr Jack Lewis; an expert in brain imaging.
“Logically there should be no connection between how beautiful we consider an object and how well that object functions,” said Dr Lewis.
“But what this study shows is that when an object we rate as beautiful turns out to perform poorly, the level of electrical activity in the part of the brain associated with aesthetic appreciation reduces.
IS_TonicII_Multiproduct_Ambt_GB_K083701;R4302WG;A6326AA;R4358WG;R4349KP;E316001;K706401;K405001“So if a beautiful object lets us down, we don’t consider it as beautiful. If an ordinary looking product works well, we consider it more aesthetically pleasing.
“We’re calling this phenomenon ‘aesthetic dissonance’,” said Dr Lewis. “It describes what happens in the brain when there is a conflict between perceptions of beauty and experience of function.”
The results have a significant impact on the design community.
“What designers have always intuitively understood – that there is an intimate relationship between the functionality of a product and our aesthetic appreciation of it – has now been established scientifically” says Dick Powell, world-renowned and award winning co-founder of leading design company Seymourpowell.
“The research will empower manufacturers and brands to challenge the aesthetic recommendations of their designers if those recommendations  compromise functionality. The knowledge will drive the industry forward to create products that work just as beautifully as they look.”
Jordi Cazorla, Vice President – Commercial at Ideal Standard International, said: “At Ideal Standard we have always sought to marry together form with function. This study, for the first time, demonstrates how form and function interact in the mind of the product user.
“Commissioning the research demonstrates our continued commitment to delivering products that have style that is matched by performance, offering ‘A Beautiful Use of Space.
“Our latest range, Tonic II, is a fantastic example of form and function brought together in one, superbly cohesive collection.  It’s been shaped and influenced hugely by the results of this fascinating research, and we look forward to getting feedback from our customers.”