In many markets, design is one of the key factors in determining a product’s success. The present research offers insights into the role of design for the success of cars, and offers procedures to measure the quality of the designs objectively.
The authors show that visual design plays a major role in a product’s success in the automobile market. In the study, two visual design aspects were already sufficient to significantly improve traditional sales forecasting models for cars. Visual prototypicality and visual complexity both had a positive impact on sales, and designs that were perceived as both prototypical and complex were the ones that displayed the best results.
Most design evaluation used to be based on subjective measures, but the researcher applied a new, objective procedure to measure prototypicality and complexity. While the latter was detected by the disk space needed by the compressed image file, the new approach for measuring prototypicality was even more sophisticated. It relied on the technique of image morphing. Morphing is a technique that allows the construction of a visual synthesis – or average picture – from a number of individual pictures. Once a car morph is developed, one can determine the visual similarity of different car models to the morph in order to obtain its prototypicality.
In principle, this procedure can be automated completely, and including a large number of versions is possible. These measures therefore seem suitable for supporting design decision processes in practice.