Monday, April 11, 2011

Aesthetically Incongruent I

Thank heaven I’m aesthetically incongruent by nature, or else I’d have something to worry about.

But as I reflect further, it’s probably true that I am at least marginally, narrowly, a sufferer of what is likely soon to be branded as Aesthetic Incongruity Resolution Syndrome, a psychological disorder brought on by the inability to suffer fools when it comes to decorating the modest hovel I and my family call a home.

If you’re unsure as to what Aesthetic Incongruity Resolution might be, read this study.

Here’s the definition for those suffering from Chronic Link Aversion Syndrome:
[Aesthetic incongruity is] the inconsistency that arises from a mismatch between an object and its environment, often accompanied by negative affect and a motivation to resolve this incongruity. Aesthetic incongruity is an unpleasant state, and research in aesthetics suggests that individuals are motivated to strive for aesthetic congruity.
Thankfully for our budget, we subscribe to the philosophy of embracing aesthetic incongruity. For example, the fanciest appliance we own doesn’t have a place in the house – it’s out in the shed, freezing our blueberries and raspberries. Our 30-plus-years-old freezer died last weekend, so we bought a new one. And put it out in the shed where cool temperatures for about six months of the year will keep it running at a minimum, saving electricity.

Thankfully for our budget, we also subscribe to the philosophy of making do. We have a lot of mismatched furniture in the house. Both couches are hand-me-downs, as is the television, both rocking chairs, beds, other major appliances, et cetera. We have a rather incongruent collection in our living room: A henna-ish couch, a blue overstuffed recliner, a wooden rocking chair, a tan-colored piano, plus a bleu padded rolling rocker, all perched on the ugliest yet sturdiest berber carpeting known to man. Our house kinda looks like the furniture showroom at Deseret Industries, but with much less floral print. And we don’t mind. We make do.

I do confess to one incongruity resolution-related affectation, but it’s functional, not aesthetic. When we got high-speed internet a few years back, it made no sense to have it without having both a wired and wireless network in the house. And when I bought a new computer direct from the manufacturer, I went out and bought a set of speakers separately, to save money. Those are hardly aesthetic reasons for shopping, are they? (I fit in well with the study, which shows that males are much more prone than females to buy more electronics if the aesthetics just don’t feel right.)

This study is an interesting one. The study shows that shoppers, when they encounter an aesthetic incongruity after making a purchase and bringing it home, are more likely to do more shopping to erase the incongruity than they are to return the incongruous object.

So come the suggestions:
[F]irms may purposefully design products to be unique or different and thus stand out in the consumption environment into which they are likely to be introduced. Perhaps a series of products may be launched that fit well with each other but not with other items in the marketplace. Thus, if consumers are persuaded to buy an initial product, for example by setting a low price for that item or by advertising it heavily, they may
subsequently end up making a number of follow-up purchases from the same firm to reestablish aesthetic congruity in their consumption environments. This seems especially likely in the case of complementary products, but the implications are not restricted to such obvious cases and would include any situation in which products may be used in the same consumption environment.
IKEA, I think, takes this to heart, as do the furniture stores I happen to be acquainted with – they always try to sell you the complete living room suite rather than one piece because – they all say this – “how is that [one piece] going to look with the rest of your furniture? Our answer: Good enough.

Then there’s this:
Marketers of various products for which aesthetic appeal is typically considered unimportant may choose to incorporate unique design elements into these items so as to make aesthetics a central factor to consider. For instance, the new range of George Foreman kitchen equipment involves aesthetically designed grills, toasters, and counter-top ovens that are likely to inform the design of the kitchen environment in which they are placed. In the current marketplace, even products like flyswatters and toilet brushes are being designed so as to appeal to the aesthetic sensibilities of consumers.
So put down that designer toilet brush unless you want to spend a thousand or so reaccessorizing your bathroom.

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