This content relates to : NEW PRODUCT & SERVICE DEVELOPMENT


Product design is an increasingly important source of competitive advantage for many companies across a wide range of industries. 

Creating design value starts with the translation of design goals into different forms of design levers. 

Design levers motivate the development of new products that elicit favorable consumer responses by providing rational, kinesthetic, and emotional value. 

Charles Noble

The University of Tennessee Knoxville 

Although product design has been linked with positive behavioral and psychological consumer responses such as choice and attraction respectively, extant research on product design has been highly fragmented. Against this background, this paper seeks to accomplish two important goals: (1) delineate the key dimensions of design in order to develop a language for understanding and studying product design; and (2) to integrate these dimensions into a model that links design goals with desired psychological and behavioral consumer responses.  

To achieve these goals, the authors adopted a grounded theory approach. Initially, design related research in marketing, design, and other related fields was reviewed to identify dimensions and variable relationships relating to product design. Next, in-depth interviews with product designers and interactive product feedback from consumers were used to obtain complementary insights. The resultant value-based model proposes that a firm’s design goals lead to design levers that influence the development of a product that achieves desired consumer responses.  

Design goals reflect a firm’s preferred path for achieving competitive advantage (e.g., offering innovative features, developing visual characteristics). These design goals influence the use of design levers; i.e., the dimensions and features that the design team can manipulate to create a product that is consistent with the design goals. Visual aesthetics such as material, color, shape, size, and texture are an important design lever because they help create a favorable first impression with consumers. Additional design levers include features, graphics, and product platforms. 

The design levers motivate the development of new products that generate three types of consumer value: rational, kinesthetic, and emotional. Rational value refers to quality and performance cues inferred by consumers. Kinesthetic value incorporates work (e.g., ergonomics) and communication (e.g., sensory cues) dimensions while emotional value includes holistic (e.g., concinnity), differentiating (e.g., novelty), and design appeal (e.g., high design) components. 

The authors caution that marketplace and organizational factors can enhance or impede the translation of design goals to design levers while individual tastes and preferences as well as situational factors will moderate the relationship between product value and consumer responses. Nonetheless, the nuanced explication of product design offered in this paper can help NPD managers create dominant brands with lasting advantages.  


Charles Noble 

Jerry & Kay Henry Distinguished Professor, Joe Johnson Faculty Research Fellow, The University of Tennessee Knoxville 

Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Product Innovation Management

To learn more, read: 

Noble, Charles H. and Minu Kumar (2010), “Exploring the Appeal of Product Design: A Grounded, Value-Based Model of Key Design Elements and Relationships, Journal of Product Innovation Management, 27 (5), 640-657.