Title: 'Complexity in simplicity': the effects of visual complexity on consumers' comprehension of product innovations

Authors: Peiyao Cheng; Ruth Mugge; Cees De Bont

Addresses: Faculty of Social Science, Department of Design, Harbin Institute of Technology, Shenzhen, 518000, Guangdong, China ' Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, Department of Design, Organisation and Strategy, Delft University of Technology, 2628 CE Delft, The Netherlands ' School of Design and Creative Arts, Loughborough University, Loughborough, LE11 3TU, UK

Abstract: Designers are frequently involved in embodying product innovations. It is challenging to embody really new products (RNPs) because consumers often have difficulty comprehending them. This study explores the value of visual complexity for designing RNPs. In study 1, an experiment was conducted (n = 77) to test the effects of visual complexity on consumers' comprehension of incrementally new products (INPs) and RNPs. The results revealed different effects for INPs and RNPs. Specifically, a more complex appearance triggers congruence with the functions of a RNP, which facilitates consumers' comprehension. For INPs, no effects for visual complexity were found. Based on the positive effect of visual simplicity on consumers' aesthetic response to product design, the design strategy 'complexity in simplicity' is proposed. In study 2, we asked experienced designers (n = 6) to apply this design strategy. Results showed that they can design RNPs using the 'complexity in simplicity' and possible ways to achieve this are explained.

Keywords: congruence; consumer comprehension; design research; product appearance; product innovation; visual complexity.

DOI: 10.1504/JDR.2020.10039324

Journal of Design Research, 2020 Vol.18 No.5/6, pp.270 - 293

Accepted: 03 Mar 2021
Published online: 02 Nov 2021 *

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