Beyond Emoticons: Combining Affect and Cognition in Icon Design

  • Siné McDougall
  • Irene Reppa
  • Gary Smith
  • David Playfoot
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 5639)


Recently there has been a shift in emphasis from interface usability to interface appeal. Very few studies, however, have examined the link between usability and appeal and evidence regarding the direction of the relationship between the two remains equivocal. This paper examines the nature of the relationships between the usability and aesthetic appeal of icons. The findings from three studies presented here show evidence, not only for the symbiotic relationship between aesthetic preference and performance, but also for the possible causal links between the two. The implications of these findings for interface design and theoretical explanations of usability are discussed.


Icon Affective computing Aesthetic preference Performance Usability 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Hassenzahl, M., Tractinsky, N.: User experience – a research agenda. Behaviour & Information Technology 25, 91–97 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bauerly, M., Liu, Y.: Computational modeling and experimental investigation of the effects of compositional elements on interface and design aesthetics. In: Proceedings of the 8th Annual International Conference on Industrial Engineering – Theory, Applications and Practice (2008)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bauerly, M., Liu, Y.: Development and validation of a symmetry metric for interface aesthetics. In: Proceedings of the 49th Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (2005)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bauerly, M., Liu, Y.: Computational modeling and experimental investigation of effects of compositional elements on interface and design aesthetics. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 64, 670–682 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bauerly, M., Liu, Y.: Effects of symmetry and compositional elements on interface design and aesthetics. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction 24, 257–267 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Hassenzahl, M.: Emtions can be quite ephemeral: We cannot design them. Interactions 11, 46–48 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Lindgaard, G., Dudek, C.: What is this evasive beast we call user satisfaction? Interacting with Computers 15, 429–452 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Lindgaard, G., Fernandes, G., Dudek, C., Brown, J.: Attention web designers: You have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression. Behaviour & Information Technology 25, 115–126 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Han, S.H., Hong, S.W.: A systematic approach for coupling user satisfaction with product design. Ergonomics 46, 1441–1461 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Tractinsky, N., Katz, A.S., Ikar, D.: What is beautiful is usable. Interacting with Computers 13, 127–145 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Tractinsky, N., Cokhavi, A., Kirschenbaum, M., Sharfi, T.: Evaluating the consitency of immediate perceptions of web pages. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 64, 1071–1083 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Zhang, P., von Dran, G., Blake, P., Pipthsukunt, V.: Important design feature in different website domains: An empirical study of user perceptions. e-Service Journal 1(1) (2001)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Kurosu, M., Kashimura, K.: Apparent usability vs. inherent usability. In: CHI 1995 Conference Companion, pp. 292–293 (1995)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Tractinsky, N.: A few notes on the study of beauty in HCI. Human-Computer Interaction 19, 351–357 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Berlyne, D.E.: Studies in the new experimental aesthetics. Hemisphere, Washington (1974)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Raymond, J.E., Fenske, M.J., Tavassoli, T.T.: Selective attention determines emotional responses to novel visual stimuli. Psychological Science 14, 537–542 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Zeki, S.: The splendours and miseries of the brain: Love, creativity and the pursuit of human happiness. Wiley & Sons, Chichester (2009)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Fang, X., Singh, S., Ahluwalia, R.: An examination of different explanations for the mere exposure effect. Journal of Consumer Research 34, 97 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    McDougall, S., Curry, M.B., de Bruijn, O.: Measuring symbol and icon characteristics: Norms for concreteness, complexity, meaningfulness, familiarity and semantic distance for 239 symbols. Behavior Research Methods 31, 487–519 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Forsythe, A., Sheehy, N., Sawey, M.: Measuring icon complexity: An automated analysis. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers 35, 334–342 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Isherwood, S., McDougall, S., Curry, M.: Icon identification in context: The changing role of icon characteristics with user experience. Human Factors 49, 465–476 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    McDougall, S., de Bruijn, O., Curry, M.: Exploring the effects of icon characteristics on user performance: The role of concreteness, complexity and distinctiveness. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 6, 291–306 (2000)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Byrne, M.D.: Using icons to find documents: Simplicity is critical. In: Proceedings of INTERCHI 1993, pp. 446–453 (1993)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Scott, D.: Visual search in modern human-computer interfaces. Behaviour and Information Technology 12, 174–189 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Quinlan, P.T.: Visual feature integration theory: Past, present, and future. Psychological Bulletin 129, 643–673 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Green, A.J.K., Barnard, P.J.: Iconic interfacing: The role of icon distinctiveness and fixed or variable screen locations. In: Diaper, D., et al. (eds.) Human-computer interaction – Interact 1990. Elsevier, North-Holland (1990)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Rogers, Y., Oborne, D.J.: Pictorial communication of abstract verbs in related to human-computer interaction. British Journal of Psychology 78, 99–112 (1987)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Forsythe, A., Mulhern, G., Sawey, M.: Confounds in pictorial sets: the role of complexity and familiarity in basic-level picture processing. Behavior Research Methods 40, 116–129 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Jacobsen, T., Hofel, L.: Aesthetic judgments of novel graphic patterns: Analyses of individual judgments. Perceptual & Motor Skills 95, 755–766 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Lavie, T., Tractinsky, N.: Assessing dimensions of perceived visual aesthetics of web sites. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 60, 269–298 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Vartanian, O., Goel, V.: Neuroanatomical correlates of aesthetic preferences for paintings. Neuroreport 15, 893–897 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Kawabata, H., Zeki, S.: Neural correlates of beauty. Journal of Neurophysiology 91, 1699–1705 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Zajonc, R.B.: Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology Monographs 9, 1–27 (1968)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Bornstein, R.F.: Exposure and affect: Overview and meta-analysis of research, 1968-1987. Psychological Bulletin 106, 265–289 (1989)Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Chokron, S., De Agostini, M.: Reading habits influence aesthetic preference. Cognitive Brain Research 10, 45–49 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Heath, R., Mahmasanni, O., Rouhana, A., Nassif, N.: Comparison of aesthetic preferences among Roman and Arabic script readers Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain, and Cognition, vol. 10, pp. 399–411 (2005)Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Arnheim, R.: Art and visual perception: The new version. University of California Press, Berkeley (1974)Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Humphrey, D.: Preferences in symmetries and symmetries in drawings: Asymmetries between ages and sexes. Empirical Studies of the Arts 15, 41–60 (1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Reber, R., Winkielman, P., Schwarz, N.: Effects of perceptual fluency on affective judgments. Psychological Science 9, 45–48 (1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Reber, R., Schwarz, N., Winkielman, P.: Processing fluency and aesthetic pleasure: Is beauty in the perceiver’s processing experience? Personality and Social Psychology 8, 364–382 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Siné McDougall
    • 1
  • Irene Reppa
    • 2
  • Gary Smith
    • 1
  • David Playfoot
    • 2
  1. 1.Bournemouth University, Fern BarrowPooleUK
  2. 2.Swansea UniversitySwanseaUK

Personalised recommendations