Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Industrial and Systems Engineering

Committee Chair

James Swain

Committee Member

Gillian M. Nicholls

Committee Member

Dale Thomas

Committee Member

Michael D. Griffin

Committee Member

Paul Collopy

Committee Member

Phillip Farrington


Psychophysics., Engineering systems., Engineering design--Psychological aspects., Environmental engineering., System design.


Elegance has been asserted to be a characteristic of good design. To be useful in design, a measure of elegance that permits the comparison among designs is necessary. A measurement framework is developed for elegance of engineered artifacts using factors of usability and aesthetics. Usability is broken down into individually measurable sub-characteristics that include capability, user experience, and specific functionality. Complex attributes of aesthetics such as the absence of visual excess or a form which masks underlying complexity are quantified through characteristics that include slenderness, smoothness, and symmetry. These factors are based on the techniques and processes for integrating psychophysical attributes into engineering. This two factor method to measure elegance is illustrated using examples from aerospace systems such as the Boeing 707 and Concorde and consumer electronics including the PalmPilot and Apple iPhone. A technique for the subjective measurement of aesthetic characteristics is demonstrated in a study of aerospace vehicles. This method enables measurable comparisons among design options and the identification of specific areas of improvement to increase the elegance of the overall system. This method facilitates a better understanding of design quality, and can be directly applied to decisions faced by multidisciplinary product design teams.



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