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Beauty Matters! Usability and Aesthetics - International Information Design Symposium in Stuttgart

16.10.2008 - (idw) Hochschule der Medien Stuttgart

Do you love your mobile phone? If yes, why? Do you love it because you can do the things you like to with it? Like telephoning, sending text, and enjoying music? Or is it because it is so beautiful and it really fits to you? You think these are questions that are difficult to answer? Yes, you're right. But there are more: Does beauty lie solely in the eye of the beholder or can it be objectified? Do users of interactive products care about beauty at all? What human needs are satisfied by beauty? What is the structure of an aesthetic experience? Can we design beauty in a systematic way, or is it just gut feeling? Do people pay for beauty? The 7th International Information Design Symposium Beauty Matters! Usability and Aesthetics will try to give answers to these questions. It will take place on Thursday, November 27, 2008, at Stuttgart Media University (Hochschule der Medien, HdM) in Stuttgart ( The symposium is part of the beauty matters initiative (further information see the website

Renowned international experts in the field of usability and aesthetics like Paul Hekkert, Peter Wright, Kees Overbeeke and others will give an overview of current research. What is beneficial is pleasant - Paul Hekkert (Delft University, Netherlands) explores the logic underlying pleasant sensations. He proposes that people have come to derive aesthetic pleasure from perceiving environmental features or patterns that are functionally beneficial, i.e. adaptive to their sensory systems. In his presentation "What is beneficial is pleasant" he will examine the extent to which these functionally beneficial features and patterns contribute to a product's usability. Thomas Jacobsen (Leipzig University, Germany) discusses neuro-cognitive implications of aesthetics. He presents an interdisciplinary framework encompassing seven psychological perspectives, suited for investigating the neural underpinnings and temporal course of aesthetic processing. The goal is to build up a unified theory of aesthetic processing. Meinald T. Thielsch (University of Münster, Germany) will present experimental approaches to aesthetics and usability. The concepts of aesthetics and usability are complex enough, and the question is whether there are relationships between them? This talk will try to shed some light on this question on the basis of experimental data.

Why is it that some people of one culture love particular colour combinations and other people hate them? Christoph Häberle (Stuttgart Media University, Germany) explains colour preferences, social conventions and individual aesthetic perception. He has been working on colour preferences across cultures for more than ten years. Häberle has been engaged in the subject of colour preferences in various fields of life, the consumer behaviour of different target groups, and people's general treatment of colours. When we go to a shop to buy a new TV set, we usually have a lot of rational things in mind. How many functions does it have? Can I use it? What is the price? Is that all we are concerned about? Yes and no. Marc Hassenzahl (Folkwang University Essen, Germany) will show that various influences drive our decisions about product use and that beauty plays an important role.

Aesthetics researchers agree on basic principles of aesthetics. It is accepted that beauty is an important quality of products. So everything seems to be OK. But Axel Platz (Siemens AG) - winner of the "red dot award" from the Design Center North Rhine-Westphalia - points out that it is still not easy to agree about what beauty in product design really is. And it is even harder to achieve it. Beauty very often seems to be the beauty of screen shots. But products are interactive. Kees Overbeeke (Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands) aims to answer the question: "How to design for interaction with highly interactive dynamic systems?" What we need is an aesthetic language for interactive systems. Kees Overbeeke will present insights on this. Peter Wright (Sheffield Hallam University) carries on the connection of aesthetics and interaction. In his talk "the aesthetics of experience-centred design" he will present three interaction design projects which can be understood in terms of an embodied dialogical aesthetics. These projects point to a terrain that explores our experience of relations between subjectivity and otherness, self and place, self and community, self and technology.

The Organization
The symposium is organized by Michael Burmester (Stuttgart Media University), Marc Hassenzahl (Folkwang University Essen ), and Franz Koller (User Interface Design GmbH, Ludwigsburg).


Prof. Dr. Michael Burmester
Stuttgart Media University
Phone: 0049 711 25706 101

David Prüm
Stuttgart Media University
Phone: 0040 711 25706 114
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