Lens: Type: Characteristic

A design’s distinctive appearance.

Photo: stasknop
casette tape on color background

The style of a design can make it feel like it belongs in a time and place. Styling can also cause a design to look foreign and awkward. For a product, service, or system to be successful, its style should match its intended context. If a 1980s-themed t-shirt design is effectively styled, it will feel like a retro version of the 80s. If the 1980s styling is not well-executed, the shirt will look like a tired version of the 80s—not a cool retro style but an embarrassing knock-off. Details define a design outcome’s style. They set the way the design “feels.”

Researching Style

Research to determine style helps designers pinpoint what makes it distinctive and unique. This can reveal if a design is out of place in a context.

Questions to Ask About Style

  • Does the style make clear what the outcome was designed to do?
  • Is it clear who the design is for?
  • What details about the style make it distinctive?
  • What is the look and feel of the design?
  • Does it feel retro? Urban? Sleek and modern?

Look for These When Researching Style

  • Color choices
  • Materials
  • Typography
  • Composition
  • References to style from a time in history
  • Hints that the design should feel futuristic
  • Details that represent masculinity or femininity
  • Ways the design’s style suggest it is for specific people and not for others


References and sources that support the inclusion of this Aspects of Experiences for Design component.


Alben, L. (1996). Quality of experience: defining the criteria for effective interaction design. Interactions, 3(3), 11-15. doi:

Georgiev, G., Yamada, K., & Taura, T. (2017). Dynamics of shifting viewpoints: An investigation into users’ attitudes towards products. Journal Design Research, 15(1), 62-84. doi:10.1504/JDR.2017.10005350

Hekkert, P., & Leder, H. (2008). Product Aesthetics. In Product Experience (pp. 259-285). Elsevier. doi:10.1016/B978-008045089-6.50013-7

Heller, S., & Fili, L. (2006). Stylepedia : a guide to graphic design mannerisms, quirks, and conceits. Chronicle Books.

Jääskö, V., & Mattelmäki, T. (2003, June 23-26). Observing and probing. Proceedings from 2003 international conference on designing pleasurable products and interfaces (DPPI ‘03), Pittsburgh, PA.

Kattelman, B. (2022/2022). The Sound of Evil: How the Sound Design of Hereditary Manifests the Unseen and Triggers Fear. Horror Studies, 13(1), 133–148.