At the annual international plastics conference “Plastics in Automotive Engineering 2013”, hosted by the Association of German Engineers, the ongoing themes in the auto industry—weight reduction, environmental requirements, cost reductions—were all much in evidence, often in combination with one another. At the same time, various exhibitors were also highlighting the role of aesthetics in design and choice of materials, and how this can affect the perception of product quality.
The latter came to the fore in the plenary talk given by Michael Haverkamp, an acoustics engineer at Ford Engineering Centre Cologne. He discussed how synaesthetic design—a method of design in which the information provided via all the sensory channels is coordinated at the perceptual level in order to create a satisfying and harmonized product experience—can be applied to engage and stimulate customers. Instead of concentrating on just one sense at a time, in a synaesthetic design approach, all the senses are integrated and incorporated into the design. Color, sound, odor, touch, and appearance provide input for perceived properties, and, making use of the “connecting strategies of the perceptual system,” as Haverkamp expressed it, affords customers a product experience that, if the designer has got it right, meets expectation on all sensory levels; i.e., the product looks, feels, smells and sounds the way it "should". This is an aspect that is especially important in a highly emotional product like a car, where performance and appearance are closely associated in the mind of the customer....