ICoRD'13 pp 317-329 | Cite as

Extracting Product Characters Which Communicate Eco-Efficiency: Application of Product Semantics to Design Intrinsic Features of Eco-Efficient Home Appliances

  • Shujoy Chakraborty
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Mechanical Engineering book series (LNME)


So far the development of Eco-efficiency in home appliances has only concentrated on their technological attributes, overlooking the communication of Eco-efficient qualities through the aesthetical appearance of such appliances i.e. a meaning to be transmitted to the user. Technical attributes are communicated through extrinsic features i.e. labelling, branding, packing [1]. These are considered as semiotic content (not concerned with semantics) and give information regarding the product independent of meaning, and as such have no direct relation to the product appearance or character [2]. This paper will explain the application of product semantic theory to re-design the product characters of home appliances which communicate their Eco-efficient qualities through their intrinsic features within a non-instrumental product experience. The final output will be a set of design guidelines consisting of 6 product characters—Futuristic, Feminine, Unconventional, Practical, Simple, Smart—which appliance designers can apply. Product characters are adjectival constructs or visual metaphors [3, 4]. Design theorists have pointed out that companies which are able to communicate a specific meaning (such as Eco-efficiency) through their product appearance can achieve a competitive market advantage [5]. Athavankar [6] cited product semantics as having amongst others 2 core goals, (1) Improving user-product interaction. (2) Demystifying complex technologies. The intention of semantics as a design theory was to apply linguistic theories into a design process to develop `readable’ or `self-evident’ products through easy to apply methods [7].


Product characters Eco-efficiency Home appliances 


  1. 1.
    Lee M, Lou YC (1996) Consumer reliance on intrinsic and extrinsic cues in product evaluations: a conjoint approach. J Appl Bus Res 12(1):21–29Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Krippendorff K, Butter R (2008) Semantics: meanings and contexts of artifacts. In: Schifferstein H, Hekkert P (eds) Product experience. doi:
  3. 3.
    Gorno R, Colombo S (2011). Attributing intended character to products through their formal features. Paper presented at: DPPI’11 Dppi: international conference on designing pleasurable products and interfaces, Milan, JuneGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Krippendorff K (2006) The semantic turn, a new foundation for design. Taylor, Boca Raton, FLGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Blijlevens J, Creusen MEH, Schoormans JPL (2009) How consumers perceive product appearance: the identification of three product appearance attributes. Int J Des 3(3): 27–35. Retrieved from Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Athavankar U (2009) From product semantics to generative methods. Paper presented at international association of societies design research Iasdr 2009: rigor and relevance in design, Seoul, Oct 2009Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Brown C (2006) Product semantics: sophistry or success? In: Feijs L, Kyffin S, Young B (eds) In: Design and semantics of form and movement DeSForM 2006, Koninklijke: Philips Electronics N.V, pp 98–103Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Cooper T (1999) Creating an economic infrastructure for sustainable product design. J Sustai Prod Des (8): –17. Retrieved from
  9. 9.
    Krippendorff K (2008) The diversity of meanings of everyday artifacts and human-centered design. In: Feijs L, Hessler M, Kyffin S, Young B (eds) Design and semantics of form and movement DeSForM 2006 Koninklijke: Philips Electronics N.V, pp 12–19Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Krippendorff K (1989) On the essential contexts of artifacts or on the proposition that “design is making sense (of things)”. Design Issues 5(2):9–39. Retrieved from
  11. 11.
    Crilly N, Moultrie J, Clarkson JP (2004) Seeing things: consumer response to the visual domain in product design. Design Studies 25:547–577. Retrieved from Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Hekkert P, Schifferstein HNJ (2008) Introducing product experience. In: Hekkert P, Schifferstein HN (eds) Product experience, 1st edn. Charon Tec ltd, USA, pp 1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Mills B, Schleich J (2010) What’s driving energy efficient appliance label awareness and purchase propensity? Energy Policy 38(2):814–825CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Cramer J (1997) Towards innovative, more eco-efficient product design strategies. J Sustain Prod Des (1):7–11. Retrieved from
  15. 15.
    Sanders L (2008) An evolving map of design practice and design research. Interactions 15(6):13–17 doi:  10.1145/1409040.1409043 Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Demirbilek O, Sener B (2003) Product design, semantics and emotional response. Ergonomics 46(13/14):1346–1360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Vihma S (2007) Design semiotics- institutional experiences and an initiative for a semiotic theory of form. In: Michel R (ed) Design Research Now- Essays and selected projects. Birkhäuser, Basel, pp 219–232Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Butter R (1989) Putting theory in practice: an application of product semantics to transportation design. Design Issues 5(2):51–67. Retrieved from
  19. 19.
    Boess S (2008) Meaning in product use: which terms do designers use in their work? In: Feijs L, Hessler M, Kyffin S, Young B (eds) Design and semantics of form and movement DeSForM 2006, Koninklijke: Philips Electronics N.V, pp 20–27Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Crilly N, Moultrie J, Clarkson JP (2008) Shaping things: intended consumer response and the other determinants of product form. Des Stud 30:224–254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Blaich RI (1989) Philips corporate industrial design: a personal account. Des Stud 5(2):1–8. Retrieved from
  22. 22.
    Crilly N (2011) Do users know what designers are up to? Product experience and the inference of persuasive intentions. Int J Des 5(3): 1–15. Retrieved from Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Wikström L (1996) Methods for Evaluation of Products’ Semantics, PhD Thesis, Chalmers University of Technology, SwedenGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Evans M, Thomas P (2011) Products that tell stories: the use of semantics in the development and understanding of future products. Paper presented at City University International conference on engineering and product design education, London, SeptemberGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Norman DA (1988) The design of everything things. Currency Doubleday, USAGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Thomas R (2006) A new dialog. In: Feijs L, Kyffin S, Young B (eds) Design and semantics of form and movement DeSForM 2006, Koninklijke: Philips Electronics N.V, pp 10–18Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Gibson JJ (1979) The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception, Houghton Mifflin, Boston MAGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Karana E, Hekkert P (2010). User-material-product interrelationships in attributing meanings. Int J Des 4(3):43–53. Retrieved from Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Janlert LE, Stolterman E (1997) The character of things. Des Stud 18(3):297–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 31.
    Spool JM, (2004) The KJ technique: a group process for establishing priorities,
  31. 31.
    Lawson R, Storer I (2008) ‘styling-in’ semantics. In: Feijs L, Hessler M, Kyffin S, Young B (eds) Design and semantics of form and movement DeSForM 2006, Koninklijke: Philips Electronics N.V, pp 41–49Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer India 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Politecnico Di MilanoMilanItaly

Personalised recommendations