Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Surface Theory

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posted on 2021-08-10, 21:57 authored by Askey, Glen

Surfaces readily communicate visual and tactile cues about adesign’s purpose and identity. An intrinsic knowledge of physicalcharacteristics of products has been established through existingresearch that relates product shape to semantic descriptors, buthas not yet addressed how a material’s surface texture mightcontribute towards a product identity.

The advent of additive manufacturing enables a new mindsettowards production and the high fidelity of these processesoffer unprecedented control over the designed identity; as suchthere is a gap for research that helps designers understand theinfluence of detailed textures on sensitive body parts, such asthe fingertip. With greater understanding that the experiencedesign and emotional acuity of a physical product is an importantdifferentiator in the market it is necessary to provide designersa more concrete understanding of how their designs could beperceived.

A great range of emotional affects can be elicited throughtangible 3D-printed form. In exploration of this a process wascreated to generate surfaces from a script-based modellingsoftware that provides strict control of 3D models. Utilisingparameter-based design a large variety of complex geometrieswere made from a shared scaffold; and in taking advantage ofthis statistical base, user studies were conducted to identifycorrelations between geometric features and emotional affects.

Novel natural language processing tools were used to analyseopen-ended questionnaires and contrasted with results fromconfirmatory questions on a series of designed textures. Furtherinquiry into these results enabled extraction of statisticallysignificant factors and their corresponding parameters to informa set of guidelines on how to elicit certain emotional responsesusing only changes in surface geometry.

The results of this research show that innovative visual andtactile textures can evoke a desired emotional response. Usingspeculative design, emotive textures are applied within theconsumer electronics industry to create a series of experimentswith unique surfaces that suggest how greater customisationfor consumers could be provided, enabling a greater productattachment and to allow products to be designed with greaterempathy. More emotional designs can be created using 3D printingthat might contribute to a more ethical and sustainable cultureof production, made possible with aesthetic changes of the nexttechnological revolution.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Industrial Design

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Design Innovation

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Title

Surface Theory: The design of emotive textures to enhance a product experience

Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Design Innovation


Ok, Jeongbin