Using Social Distinctions in Taste for Analysing Design Styles across Product Categories
Dirk Snelders, Ruth Mugge, Maartje Huinink


People can develop a taste for particular styles of design across a wide range of product categories. The literature has suggested that people’s preferences for such ‘cross-category’ design styles are influenced by social distinctions, based on education level and age bracket. In this article, we have argued more precisely that such social distinctions are indispensable as criteria for an analysis of cross-category design styles. In a quantitative study with over 400 people and 200 products in 10 product categories, we have demonstrated how design preferences across product categories are related to people’s education level and age bracket. We then qualitatively analysed people’s design preferences across product categories, and we arrived at seven cross-category design styles. Five of these styles could be identified only on the basis of the differences in design preferences between groups of a different age and education level, as established in previous studies. Taken together, this article has provided an approach for designers to analyse cross-category design styles, based on the inclusion of social distinction indicators (education level and age bracket) that help identify critical differences in people’s tastes.

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