On the appropriateness of appropriate judgements in design evaluation

Cyriel Diels, Aysar Ghassan

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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This paper discusses issues related to the knowledge universities can disseminate to commercial organizations in ventures that are enterprise-driven. It focuses on the area of industrial design, in particular the automotive design industry. The automotive industry has been set mandatory emission reduction targets which require design innovations in the form of smaller and lighter vehicles fueled by renewable energy sources. The required customer enthusiasm and uptake will to a large extent be determined by these vehicles’ visual appearance and associated customers’ product affection. From an automotive design perspective, this poses an interesting challenge as vehicles which are perceived to be beautiful are almost without exception, also large in size. Accordingly, the automotive industry is challenged with designing small, yet desirable and beautiful vehicles. In responding to this challenge, this paper presents the findings of an empirical study which aimed to evaluate if, and to what extent, previously identified automotive design principles were related to vehicle aesthetics. The study aimed to do this by asking automotive design experts to rate a set of urban vehicles. Research suggests that such “appropriate judges” - as defined by shared knowledge and experience - should have a considerable degree of consensus of opinion with regards to aesthetics in art and design. The study investigated the level of agreement between experts with respect to the judgment of aesthetics and the previously identified design principles. The results of the study demonstrated that between experts, large differences existed with regards to their appraisal of the vehicles’ aesthetic. These findings are at odds with the suggestion that experts should be able to reach a high level of consensus provided the “judges” share a common education and experience in the relevant domain. This paper puts forward possible explanations which may help explain these results. Firstly, it questions the appropriateness of the aesthetics-related design principles utilised in the study; then it moves on to discuss the method utilized in the study; finally, this paper discusses the appropriateness of essentialising design principles in design research. The paper moves on to evaluate what “appropriateness” means in the context of investigation into aesthetics in design research. The paper concludes by suggesting that through conducting design research, academics may be able to challenge preconceived notions in design. This ability may in turn fuel design innovation and thus may be very valuable in enterprise ventures between universities and commercial organizations.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Event17th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education - Loughborough University Design School, Loughborough, United Kingdom
Duration: 3 Sept 20154 Sept 2015


Conference17th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education
Abbreviated titleE&PDE15
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

Bibliographical note

Originally published in the Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Engineering and Production Design Education 2015, published by the IED and Design Society, 2015, ISBN [number TBC].


  • industrial design
  • automotive design
  • vehicle aesthetics


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