ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2024, Vol. 32 ›› Issue (6): 995-1009.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2024.00995

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Professional design, user design, or AI design? The psychological mechanism of the source of design effect

WU Bo, ZHANG Aojie, CAO Fei   

  1. Business School, Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, Tianjin 300222, China
  • Received:2023-08-28 Online:2024-06-15 Published:2024-04-07

Abstract: To gain or maintain competitive advantage, firms often promote their product design, which serves as a major aspect of product design communication. Currently, there are three major design sources: professional designers, users, and AI. The source of product design may influence consumer product purchase intentions and corporate attitudes.
The source of design effect is defined as the manner in which the source information of a firm’s product design influences consumer product preferences and corporate attitudes. Despite its importance, research on the source of design effect is still in its early stages. The concept has yet to be systematically elaborated in existing literature, which renders it hard to delve into the source of design effect. In addition, previous studies on the source of design effect suffer from certain issues. These include inconsistent manipulations, inconsistent comparisons among different sources, and scattered mechanisms and boundary conditions. These issues impede a comprehensive understanding of the current research in this domain.
Based on the above limitations, the study conducts a comprehensive review of the literature on the source of design effect. After an in-depth review, the study explores the meaning, mechanisms and boundary conditions of the source of design effect. Firstly, to explain the meaning of the source of design effect, this study clarifies its definition and expands the comparative scope of previous research. Previous literature has examined this concept at both product and corporate level. This study integrates both levels into a unified definition. Then, the study identifies and expounds upon the differences among professional designers, users, and AI from the following aspects: their understanding of consumer needs and their capability to provide suitable solutions for product design. To illustrate the source of design effect, this research also analyzes consumer responses to different sources of design information. For products with low design complexity, consumers prefer user-designed products, while in the case of products with high design complexity from unfamiliar brands or those positioned as luxury products, consumers favor designer-designed products. However, the conclusion regarding consumer preferences for AI design over designer design remains inconsistent.
Secondly, the mechanisms of the source of design effect are summarized and integrated. Professional design, user design, or AI design each exerts either positive or negative influences on consumer preferences through different psychological mechanisms. Due to the professional and authoritative nature of professional designers, the source of professional design influences consumer preferences through the perceived competence of these professional designers. Users are characterized as large quantity, an understanding of consumer needs, diversity, and fewer company constraints, but they often lack expertise. In addition, user design not only enhances consumers' sense of power, but also narrows the psychological distance between companies and consumers. Consequently, the source of user design influences consumer preferences through the perceived capabilities of users, empowerment and the psychological distance between users and brands. Furthermore, AI is not a human in nature and AI design is not familiar for consumers. Therefore, the source of AI design influences consumer preferences through the value and information provided by products designed using AI.
Thirdly, the source of design effect is moderated by consumer individual differences, product characteristics and the openness of a firm’s design policy. To illustrate, consumer factors can be divided into three aspects: individual characteristics, cognitive level, and perceived psychological distance between consumers and participating users. Product factors can be categorized into two aspects: product categories and product features.
Finally, future research should delve deeper into consumer reactions to mixed design sources, the mediating role of perceived fairness in the source of design effects, the influence of different product design goals on the mechanism at play, as well as the boundary conditions of the source of design effect.
The current research builds a theoretical framework on the source of design effect, reconciles some inconsistent conclusions as well as provides promising further research directions. Beyond these important theoretical contributions, this research also provides suggestions for firms under which circumstances it is appropriate to communicate the source information of product design to consumers.

Key words: source of design effect, product design communication, professional design, user design, artificial intelligence design

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