Aaron Kurosu
Princeton University


Open up a photo on an iPhone. You’ll see a little icon that looks like a sparkling wand. Press it to ‘enhance’ your photo. Just like magic, the photo will probably look better. Why? Because science has been making progress to demystify preferences and aesthetics (e.g., Brachmann & Redies, 2017; Cela-Conde et al., 2013; Sun, Yamasaki, & Aizawa, 2018; Yeh, Lin, Hsu, Kuo, & Chan, 2015). It’s not just with photos; all the “stuff” that we like are being picked apart. Open up Netflix, there’s some films you might like; open up Spotify, there’s some new music you might like; open up Amazon, there’s some new products you might like. How is this possible? Certainly, these companies are not running focus groups to figure out the preferences of every customer (Stromberg, 2019). Instead, they are building algorithms; they are testing theories; and they are capitalizing on the scientific method (e.g., Linden, Smith, & York 2003; Bennet & Lanning, 2007; Jacobson, Murali, Newett, Whitman, & Yon, 2016). A method, that is providing products which others, who clack clear understanding, are left to interpret as magic. Strickler forewarned in 1999, “if designers do not begin to undertake this important work, others will, and without the benefit of a designer’s perspective.” The purpose of this paper is to inspire a new generation of designers to research their craft using the scientific method.