The role of visual appearance on the perception of automotive seating comfort

  • Tugra Erol

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Automotive seat comfort is becoming one of the major aspects in distinguishing carmanufacturers amongst their competitors. Unlike discomfort, the concept of comfort isregarded a highly subjective and multi-faceted phenomenon associated with experiencesand emotions, affected by numerous factors. In this thesis, the role of the visualappearance of automotive seats is explored as being one such factor able to influenceand affect the perception of comfort.The overall aim is to empirically investigate and understand the effects of the visualappearance on the actual and expected comfort of automotive seats via a series ofexperimental and explorative studies. To validate the effect of the appearance on actualperceived seating comfort, an experimental study was conducted comparing comfortperception of two physically identical seats which only differed in their visual appearance,i.e. the design of the seating cover (n= 18). The study showed that, indeed, seatingcomfort and preference was affected by the visual design. To better understand theunderlying mechanisms behind the impact of the visual design, two exploratory studieswere conducted. Using the card-sorting technique, the first study indicated thatparticipants (n=28) were aware of at least three different dimensions related to the holisticautomotive seat comfort experience, whereby the visual appearance was found to be amajor dimension. A secondary card-sorting study (n=24) was carried out using images of38 production seats which indicated that categorisation and taxonomy effects werestrongly present and relevant to the design features of seats with the main dimensionsbeing ‘Sporty’, ‘Comfortable’ and ‘Luxurious’. A subsequent in-depth study was conductedin order to capitalise and extract the relevant features and to uncover the underlyingmechanisms that led to the participants’ assessment and comfort preference (n=27). Thestudy involved eye tracking (implicit measures), emotional design based evaluations andcomfort item ratings, user mark-up annotation exercise and a card ranking exercise withseat images. The results indicated that the seat headrest and the back design were themost significant areas for assessment where the headrest particularly played a vital role inthe categorisation processes. This led to a final study of conjoint analysis with cardranking on designed seat images (n=26). The aim was to empirically estimate the relativeimportance of different car seat design features on the previously determined dimensionsof expected automotive seat comfort. The findings confirmed that the headrest designwas a major influence on how seats were assessed. This research has provided a betterunderstanding of the effects of appearance of automotive seats on the perception ofcomfort and proposed the underlying mechanisms, enabling the possibility of improvingthe perception of comfort through the visual appearance of automotive seats. It providesinsights for transport designers with a focus on actionability of design variables whileenabling informed decisions.
    Date of Award2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorCyriel Diels (Supervisor), James Shippen (Supervisor), Dale Richards (Supervisor) & Chris Johnson (Supervisor)

    Cite this