Sensory interaction with materials in product design

  • Hengfeng Zuo

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Designers of consumer products are concerned with how their products will be perceived by consumers in the market place. The materials used in the manufacture of these products become the media by which the interface between the consumer and the designed product is perceived. Our perception towards these products will be strongly influenced by the sensory interaction with the materials through both visual and non-visual means. Compared with the engineering properties of materials, sensory properties, perceived images, meanings and values of a material in the human-product interface, referred to as the 'material representation' are far from being systematically investigated. This is the background from which this research was initiated. The aim of this research is to explore the material representation in a holistic system, which is referred to as the visual narrative matrix. The matrix is created in an empirical way but based on a combination of theoretical and experimental research. Controlled experimental investigation is focused on the relationship between the material sensory properties (texture) and human subjective response via the sensation of touch. The theoretical analysis and the experimental findings contribute to the development of a new database. the database will make it possible for designers, artists and engineers, through innovative treatment and application of existing and emerging materials, to be able to create artefacts more effectively matching human perceptual, sensory and emotional expectation. The experimental findings and the visual narrative matrix are original. This thesis includes the research background, literature review, research methodology, the results from controlled experimental research, and the development of a matrix of material representation. By carrying out controlled experimental research on texture, it has been possible to identify a way in which people subjectively describe a material texture by touch (Dimension-Lexicons). Slight differences in these descriptive lexicons have been analysed in terms of gender, material surface finish, sensory conditions, and control groups etc. Further in-depth experimental research has revealed correlations between various subjective responses within texture perception dimensions. Understanding of these correlations will assist in the selection of an optimal material texture. A series of texture perception maps have been produced which directly display the nature of texture perception in terms of material categories and sensory modalities. In parallel, through experimental testing, the quantitative relationships between subjective response to texture and the objective physical parameters of materials have also been reported. This has provided important information about human sensory perception for the manufacturing and processing of materials. All of these experimental results have been integrated into the matrix of material representation.
    Date of Award2003
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Nottingham Trent University

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