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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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The following section intends to provide context to the subsequent research along with an overview of the paper, before detailing the aims and objectives of this project along with a chosen journal selection.


Key decisions in a product's life are made at every stage of a supply chain, all with the consumer's response to the product in mind, especially in its development when a designer has to consider Design for X. This emotional response that the consumer experiences is influenced by more aspects of a product than ever, including elements such as form, feel and aesthetics (Vermaas, et al. 2015); however an aspect of available products that is somewhat unexplored is the morality of a product's design, including everything about the design from the product's intended application, the material's used, the manufacturing processes used, the owning company as well as their own moral values, ethics, and their influence on the finished product (Verbeek 2008). This being said, even though it is an unexplored topic, it is widely known and accepted that the way brands and products are perceived has an impact on the likeliness of a customer to invest in the product. Companies and products that are proven to cause harm to either the environment, entire culture's or groups of people, and even consumers themselves, can have such a damaged image that is impossible to recover from and in doing so slaughtering any potential profit (Mishra, Dash and Malhotra 2015).

This form of morality in design is one of the more obvious interpretations within design; however, the principles that consumers have concerning the distinction between right and wrong, or good and bad behaviour is very subjective, and can vary greatly between different people, including everything from each individual to entire cultures (Verbeek 2008). As such, it is imperative for this study to research and understand what the common view on morality is and which moral values are shared, along with the effects of these common values related to product design, including both the positive and negative sides of the values.

With this knowledge it would be possible to investigate the emotional response that consumers experience when interacting with products with specific moral values associated with them, whether it is through purchasing, viewing or using. Consumers experience a unique psychological response to every product, which is dependent on factors such as their culture and background (Demirbilek and Sener 2010). The relevance of this psychological response on the consumers purchasing decision is becoming clearer and so product design is developing to adapt to new strategies and guidelines. Recent advancements in technologies, industry manufacturing, and material engineering, paired with an over-saturated market means that consumers now expect and demand a product that has more than the fundamental requirements (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill 2015).

As a result, a human centred approach to design is being taken; where consumers' implicit moral needs are being considered. Kansei Engineering is a tool which is used to translate users' feelings and emotions into tangible product requirements (Ekland, et al. 2004). Kansei engineering is often used to ‘encourage' a positive reaction that can be measured and then used commercially to encourage consumers to buy a product (Nagamachi 2002), often this can be seen in advertisements that state how 91% of users preferred this product over another. Preventative measures have been taken to ensure the use of Kansei Engineering for this study is unbiased and the results generated are accurate.

Examining whether a person's perception of morality in products affects their emotional response experience would reveal if there is potential for companies to target ‘good' (morally right) groups of people in order to encourage all consumers to make more positive product related choices (McAloone 1998). If moral and emotional design could be applied to promote design with more thought given to the affect it has on people, then the rising number of ‘bad' (immoral) products could be reduced, and with-it a less saturated market where the products with the better marketing or technology would not always rise to the top (Crilly, Moultrie and Clarkson 2004).


The aim of this study is to investigate the influence that morality has on a consumer's response to products, and how this information can be utilised to redefine product development to consider morality for decisions regarding aspects of product design such as branding/marketing, intended application, manufacturing/production methods, human centred design - and how these might impact the products success.


The following objectives will aid this study in reaching the proposed aim:

1. To conduct a review of existing literature in relevant areas, focusing mainly on morals, product ethics and brand image and how these themes relate.

2. To identify a trend or problem requiring investigation.

3. To identify a method of developing an unbiased scale for measuring morality of products and their processes and applications; for which the user groups will be guided by and also measured against.

4. Undertake an experiment using a questionnaire/survey with a variety of participants that investigates the hypothesis and through use of morally orientated Kansei Engineering adjectives allows conclusions to be drawn and evaluated. A pilot study will be undertaken to ensure suitability.

5. To investigate and analyse the results of the experiments in order to identify if there in fact a measurable trend between consumers psychological response and the products associated morals.

6. To present the results in a way that includes analysis and evaluation – And furthermore to discuss the results and realise conclusions that will contribute to the knowledge gap identified and either reject or confirm the hypothesis.

7. To discuss the possibility of creating a framework for developing products with Design for Morality at the centre using realised conclusions from the study results.

Journal Selection

This research study has been written so that it could be hypothetically submitted to the Journal of Engineering Design. This journal was selected as it is known to support research and studies that have the intention of improving or furthering engineering and product design. Studies presented by publishers ‘Taylor and Francis' that have similar topics to those in this study include:

• Design for X, e.g. manufacturability, assembly, environment, sustainability

• Design theory and methodology

• Emotive design, e.g. Kansei engineering

• Product introduction process and new product design development

This study focuses on investigating consumers' psychological responses to products with different representations of morality through the use of Kansei Engineering. It also looks specifically at the Design for X stage of product design and the possibility of a Design for Morality variant being proposed, and as such this study is suitable for the Journal of Engineering Design.

Key considerations for authors aiming to be accepted in this journal include:

• Paper should be compiled in the following order: title page; abstract; keywords; introduction, main text, methods, results, discussion; acknowledgments; references; appendices (as appropriate); table(s) with caption(s) (on individual pages); figures; figure captions (as a list).

• Abstract of 200 words, and total word count of 8000, which has been stretched for this study, and as such the abstract word limit has been increased to 300 words to reflect this.

• Between 2 and 5 keywords

• 11 or 12pt. font for main text, 10 or 11pt. for ‘small-print' such as figure descriptions, 14pt. for headings.

• 1.5 line spacing, and British spelling preferred.

• Chicago style referencing and citations.

Full guidelines and instructions for authors can be found at:

Literature Review

This study was concerned with investigating the potential influence that morality has on the consumers perception of products, and how this information might impact how product designers consider aspects of product development in relation to morality. As such, the focus of this section of the study was to achieve a greater understanding of morality and its implications in the context of design, with the aim of identifying if there is correlation between the two.

The method of gathering and filtering relevant research was done almost exclusively online using search engine Google Scholar which shows accredited papers and journal articles based on keywords in the search phrase. The search terms and phrases that had the most success in finding relevant and credible literature have been used as the section headings in this literature review.

These further areas of research focus as well as morality are; Product Design, Kansei Engineering, Design for X, and a Summary of the research. By splitting the research into individual sections, it allows for the differences and gaps in knowledge between each area of focus to be more easily identified.

1. Morality

Morality is a subjective topic and has many implications especially within design. Each person has a unique set of moral beliefs, but there is a large overlap between each individual's set, and as such morals can be generalised for demographics dependant on location, age, culture, and occupation (Devon and van De Poel 2004). With the knowledge of a general set of moral views for a group of people, specifically consumers, there is potential for designers to use this information to their advantage and better design products that meet an underlying psychological demand shared by many. Furthermore, there are questions that designers have the responsibility to ask themselves about the product they are developing regarding the intended application of the product, with responsibility being defined in the context of design as their moral duty to take action (Coutts, et al. 2017):

It this adding to an over-saturated market? Is it an inclusive product? Is the product is being made to be sustainable? Does it have the users' best interest in mind?

In regard to many of these questions, there are plenty of businesses that value profit over their responsibility and the morally ‘correct' direction, and are content with producing low quality products that are potentially harmful, unsustainable, malicious, or have the potential for misuse (Eder, Hubka and Benabdallah 2004). Research does show however that over the past five years, industry has developed a better understanding of the need to take into account the impact of their image and morality in order to be successful (McAloone 1998). The success or failure of a product to a great extent is influenced by consumer perception, with mass media being as accessible as ever and public awareness of issues like data protection, environmental effects, and low-level customer service at an all-time high (Livingstone and Lunt 1994).

Often a consumer's view of a product is generally based on their own experiences obtained from the use of the product, however (Mishra, Dash and Malhotra 2015) explain how there are many factors taken into account including cost, quality, and aesthetics; and how in comparison to these factors, an underlying psychological factor with the potential for much greater influence is the morality of the product and its brand/maker, and how it is perceived as a result. Public opinion of a product is contagious, and people who had never used the product or had any intention of using it can still become opinionated on the quality of the product, often based on a handful of biased anecdotes or reviews detailing an unjust situation or a low quality service/product (Devon and van De Poel 2004). As a result, businesses are starting to include decisions regarding consumer perception into their design processes.

1.1 Morals

Morals are defined as standards of behaviour, as the principles between right and wrong. There are lots of widely accepted standards and principles that are considered right or wrong, the law is a prime example where some actions are considered so clearly wrong that they deserve punishment. Despite these laws being enforced rigorously and the public being extremely aware of their existence, there are still many people that choose not to adhere to these standards and principles. The reason behind these decisions is clear, people will often take a course of action that benefits them the most, and some people let this desire overrule their own morals to the point where they disregard the law (Devon and van De Poel 2004), and it is interesting to consider that if people who might be considered morally ‘wrong' perceive products differently compared to those are considered morally ‘right', and if so, why that might be.

This also applies to product designers and businesses on a far less extreme scale, where the course of action that is most beneficial to them can often be immoral, in the sense that they prioritise profit/progression/success over the needs of their customers, often using deceitful marketing tactics to make a product with little more than the basic requirements look like it can offer much more (Verbeek 2008). As such it creates the question that if businesses and designers were given the tools or regulations to design for morality in the design process, would this immoral course of action be less prevalent in industry.

1.2 Ethics

Ethics have many similarities with morals and are defined as ‘moral principles that govern a person's behaviour or the conducting of an activity'. In other words, they are a set of moral values that have been discussed and chosen by an organisation or business for their employees/members to adhere to when working under that organisation/business' name. It is important to consider that design is an iterative social process (Devon and van De Poel 2004), and that with different people involved, different management structures, different communication systems, and different social/cultural environments will potentially yield a unique result regardless of the consistency of the ethics in place.

Throughout the entire life-cycle of a product, the early phases of the design process are the most influential in that the decisions made there define the financial cost of the product as well as the ethical costs and implications (Devon and van De Poel 2004).

1.3 Morally influenced behaviour

People's sets of moral beliefs are now known to be correlated with “personality, family background, and political-social behaviour” (Haan, Smith and Block 1968).

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