People Go Ga-Ga for Baby Faces, Even on Machines

Ever notice how people just go silly around babies? A recent study shows that not only are we programmed by evolution to respond to baby faces (so that our ancestors didn’t just abandon them), but that this reaction is hard-wired to even affect our perception of products.

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The study,Isn’t It Cute: An Evolutionary Perspective of Baby-Schema Effects in Visual Product Designs‘, in the latest issue of the International Journal of Design looks at how consumers were affected by car fronts.

Non-manipulated (original) and manipulated (babyfaced) pictures of cars and faces.

They found that :

“consumers are sensitive to evolutionarily significant shapes in product designs. Based on our findings, designers can increase the affective value of products by creating cute designs which can benefit from the human predisposition to feel attracted by baby-schema cues (e.g., by emphasizing or exaggerating the features of visual key stimuli in product designs, such as very large headlights)”

This has been suggested before — for example, Scott McCloud illustrates beautifully how we see ourselves in the world — but it’s interesting to see how deeply ingrained our instincts are when it comes to looks. And of course, cute isn’t always appropriate. Luckily, another article in the same issue looks at more business-like products. As our own Jeroen van Geel tells us, it’s all about getting an appropriate product personality.

Still, if cute is on-brand for you, look at using baby like proportions on features. Is this why the internet is made of cats?

Vicky Teinaki

An England-based Kiwi, Vicky is doing a PhD at Northumbria University into how designers can better talk about touch and products. When not researching or keeping Johnny Holland running, she does the odd bit of web development, pretends her TV licence money goes only to Steven Moffatt shows, and tweets prolifically about all of the above as @vickytnz.

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