[ToC]

 

ALTERATIONS IN PROPORTION

C J Abend, "Product Appearance as Communication," Sensory Evaluation of Appearance of Materials, STP 545, American Society for Testing and Materials, 1973, pp 35-53

A control test we might employ to check appearance communication is to make slight alterations to the ax design and see if this changes the impression of what it communicates to us. Firure 3 is such an experiment in that materials remain unchanged, but only configuration is altered. In illustration A, the orientation of the head is reversed which strikes most peopleas odd or frustrating. Illustration B shows the blade position changed to the center of the lever. This ax can still be used but presents a dilemma. In Illustration C, we employ a split handle at the head which forks out into two distinct grips (perhaps this is an improvement as it suggests a two-handed operation). Illustration D alters the design by means of a change in scale; the size of the tiny blade now seems to have lost all of its advantage of mass and looks ineffective and peculiar, which it is. (The reason for this is similar to why toys look childish to adults—because their appearance is exaggerated and out of scale. This causes the idea to be either over-stated or under-stated. What is being communicated is the fact that they are not meant to be taken seriously but rather as cartoons of the real world.) In the last illustration, E, we have kept proportion and material the same, but changed the shape of the head and handle which is now square. Tactile experience is evoked and one can almost feel the discomfort in this grip; at the same time, the object is no longer an ax. It is something else, perhaps a sledge to be used for breaking rock. With alteration of design, we have altered the information.