A Novel Approach for Predicting and Understanding Consumers' Sense of Design Similarity

A Novel Approach for Predicting and Understanding Consumers' Sense of Design Similarity

A Novel Approach for Predicting and Understanding Consumers' Sense of Design Similarity

Thomas F. Schreiner, Thomas Fandrich, Mark Heitmann and Katrin Talke

Originally published: February 17, 2017 (PDMA JPIM • Vol 34, Issue 6 • November 2017)
Read time: 1 hour, 2 minutes

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Product designers continuously emphasize how important yet difficult it is to create new products with designs similar enough for brand recognition, yet dissimilar enough for a unique positioning. Advancing the understanding of perceived design similarity would greatly help to systematically manage this balance. Design literature typically assesses how much a new design deviates from the status quo based on consumers’ holistic similarity perceptions. For management practice, however, tests of numerous design alternatives with consumers throughout the NPD process are time‐consuming, costly, and threaten confidentiality. In addition, simple surveys often do not suffice to understand the role of individual design characteristics in the holistic perception of a product design. This article introduces an objective measurement approach of design similarity to overcome these drawbacks. The results of an empirical study demonstrate that consumers’ perception of design similarity can be reproduced by means of this approach. In addition, this approach makes measurement of design similarity more efficient, uncovers the design characteristics that drive holistic similarity perceptions, and enables managers to predict the positioning of alternative product designs in the perceptual space minimizing the need for consumer surveys.

Practitioner Points

  • The proposed approach can help designers and product managers understand which characteristics of the holistic product design make their products look different from or similar to their own and to competitors’ products.
  • The approach provides the means to develop products that match the aspired level of visual similarity based on objective design characteristics driving consumers’ similarity judgments.
  • The approach provides insights on likely design perceptions without requiring surveys on each new design concept. Thereby large sets of design innovations can be evaluated keeping innovations confidential.

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