The emotive qualities of patterns: insights for design

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The role of pattern use in the visual arts has not been fully analysed in terms of its emotive and semantic values. Patterns have played a dominant role in art, architecture and design for thousands of years but their nuanced relationship with human observers has not been systematically analysed – the emotive and semantic qualities of their forms are yet to become fully clear. This paper presents work in experimental aesthetics, analysing the emotive and semantic qualities of commonly used patters. Focus groups were used as a means of analysing a set of sixteen distinct patterns where each group considered each pattern and assigned each one emotive and semantic values. The patterns were sourced from a wide variety of cultures and varied hugely in terms of their underlying geometry; angular forms, curved forms and symbolic content. Our results reveal that many patterns have complex emotive connotations and can sometimes convey strong value judgements that we suggest are derived from the qualities of their form and foundational structure. The possible reasons for these phenomena and the implications for design practice and design research and subsequently discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering Design
Subtitle of host publicationICED17
Place of PublicationBristol
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2017
Event21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED17) - The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada., Vancouver, Canada
Duration: 21 Aug 201725 Aug 2017
Conference number: 21


Conference21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED17)
Abbreviated titleICED17
Internet address


  • emotional design
  • design theory
  • user centred design
  • asethetics
  • patterns


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