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Cosmetic obsolescence? User perceptions of new and artificially aged materials

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Ben BridgensORCiD, Dr Keerthika Balasundaram



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


This paper presents the findings of a user-centred design (UCD) study which explored tactile and aesthetic responses to new and artificially aged mobile phone cases made from bamboo, walnut, cork, leather, brushed titanium, plastic and rubber. The paper outlines test methods for accelerated ageing of the external enclosures of consumer electronics based on the types of wear experienced in use, and the use of semantic differential scales (SDS) to probe user attitudes to these materials. The results indicate that preferences for the materials tested were extremely subjective, and even a single participant can have conflicting requirements for the characteristics of the materials (for example, sleek, shiny and easy to grip). Whilst in general participants preferred the new materials and saw the ageing process as negative, there were examples where the aged samples either scored more highly due to durability (titanium) or received positive comments about the aesthetic changes caused by severe ageing (bamboo and leather). This study captured the participants’ immediate, visceral response to the materials, which may be very different to their feelings towards materials and objects that they have owned and interacted with for a period of time.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lilley D, Smalley G, Bridgens BN, Wilson GT, Balasundaram K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Materials and Design

Year: 2016

Volume: 101

Pages: 355-365

Print publication date: 05/07/2016

Online publication date: 08/04/2016

Acceptance date: 05/04/2016

Date deposited: 11/04/2016

ISSN (print): 0264-1275

ISSN (electronic): 1873-4197

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.matdes.2016.04.012


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Funder referenceFunder name
EP/K026380/1Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council