Professor of form theory Paul Hekkert is compiling a Unified Model of Aesthetics

In search of the universal principles of beauty

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Published in Senses, Speakers & WDCD by

Alessi is ‘an organization that incessantly delights us with emotionally rich designs and clever metaphors’ and ‘an organization that never fails to charm, amuse and surprise us’, professor of form theory Paul Hekkert said last year in Bogotá when he read the jury’s motivation to award the Italian company the Slow Glow Award. The award is is granted biannually by the board of the Design & Emotion Society that is chaired by Hekkert.

People’s emotional reactions to products is Paul Hekkert’s field of interest and the subject of his talk at WDCD2015 on May 21st. How people react to products and what they appreciate as beautiful can be predicted from a set of universal principles. Hekkert has been working for 20 years on establishing these principles. He is head of the Industrial Design department at TU Delft, where he also chairs the design aesthetics group.

In 2011 Hekkert received a grant from the Dutch Science foundation (NWO) to develop a Unified Model of Aesthetics (UMA). The UMA project is likely the largest research program on aesthetics ever conducted; it involves close collaboration with Swinburne University (Melbourne) in addition to a number of international partners.

In the same year Hekkert published, together with Matthijs van Dijk, Vision in Design: A guidebook for innovators. The book is a practical guide for the application of their Vision in Product design (ViP) method. This method concentrates on the effects that products will have on people and the behaviour the product will evoke. ‘Designing actually starts by establishing the ‘raison d’être’ for the final design,’ the book reads. ‘ViP was invented for designers who value taking this responsibility.’

Hekkert is also co-founder and chairman of the Design and Emotion Society and chairman of the executive board of CRISP, a national collaborative research initiative for and with the Dutch creative industries.

Top image: playful products from the Alessi range

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