July 13 – 16 , 2008, Dagstuhl Seminar 08292

The Study of Visual Aesthetics in Human-Computer Interaction


Marc Hassenzahl (Universitöt Koblenz – Landau, DE)
Gitte Lindgaard (Carleton University – Ottawa, CA)
Axel Platz (Siemens AG – München, DE)
Noam Tractinsky (Ben Gurion University – Beer Sheva, IL)

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This seminar intended “to gather a group of about 25-30 participants who will exchange ideas, views, and case study results that address the seminar's themes.” We aimed at discussing methodologies and measures in the study of visual aesthetics in HCI, to explore design antecedents of aesthetic interactive systems, as well as consequences of aesthetic design or aesthetic experience in HCI. We anticipated that the outcome of the seminar “will contribute to clarifying the concept, provide an overview of existing practical resources such as measurement scales, solidify the body of knowledge in this area, and generally spark interest in aesthetics in the HCI community.”

21 people participated in the seminar. This seminar explored various aspects of the study of visual aesthetics in human-computer interaction (HCI). The growing attention that this field is gaining from the HCI community is manifested by the increasing rate of published-, and in-progress research, and by the emphasis espoused by usability- and Usability Experience (UX) practitioners on the importance aesthetic design.

We identified a set of research challenges that this emerging field needs to discuss. These can be broadly classified into four categories, which can be depicted as belonging to two major axes. The first deals with theory building vs. measurement. It includes the development of theoretical and conceptual foundations of the field on the one hand, and the identification and development of measures and research methods that are appropriate for studying it on the other hand. The second axis contrasts antecedents of aesthetic design with its consequences. The context of the aesthetic experience and the contingencies that affect reactions to aesthetic interactive products and applications fall between those two axes.

One of the seminar’s goals was to collect examples and case studies of visual aesthetics in interactive systems. Some participants have discussed the implications of aesthetics for the design of interactive systems and demonstrated the applications of aesthetic principles to design (Löwgren). Fishwick places aesthetics within the context of ubiquitous computing. He demonstrated the application of aesthetics to software representation (e.g., in Second Life) with the ultimate intent of popularizing software engineering.

Major debates and future directions

The seminar concluded with discussions of research topics that need to be addressed further. These include the following:

  • Considering visual aesthetics as a dynamic process:
  • Considering the transition of computing from an interaction paradigm to the computing-as-medium paradigm and the consequences of such a transition (Nake).
  • The educational implications of the importance of visual aesthetics in HCI (Sutcliffe). Only very few in the HCI community are “visual designers”. Who will teach aesthetics to most of the community and how (educational programs)?
  • Is the aesthetic experience and resulting evaluation cognitive or emotional? Perceptual and sensory or reflective and intellectual? Necessarily wholistic or also decomposable?

Finally, it was recommended that in order to facilitate further research efforts and improve communication among group members, we should develop a web site and/or a wiki allowing people to share resources and ideas.

A Dagstuhl-Seminar-Report about the previous Dagstuhl Seminar 02291: Aesthetic Computing (14.-19. July 2002) is still available here


  • Web
  • Society / HCI


  • Human-computer interaction
  • Aesthetics
  • Beauty
  • Design
  • Hedonics
  • Concepts
  • Measurement


In the series Dagstuhl Reports each Dagstuhl Seminar and Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop is documented. The seminar organizers, in cooperation with the collector, prepare a report that includes contributions from the participants' talks together with a summary of the seminar.


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