Can Timelessness through Prototypicality Support Sustainability? A Strategy for Product Designers

Deana C McDonagh, Flood Heaton, Rachel McDonagh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


‘Timelessness’ in design has been linked to environmental sustainability through an increased product lifetime-of-use. However, timelessness may be difficult for product designers to achieve. One approach to creating aesthetic timelessness is visual simplicity—yet ‘simple’ can be a challenge to define, let alone to create. Underutilized concepts from the field of cognitive psychology such as categorization levels and prototype effects shed light on the way our minds process visual meaning in everyday objects, and the cognitive efficiency found in these concepts may be interpreted as a type of simplicity. If designers apply these concepts to product designs to prolong positive aesthetic experience, product lifetime can potentially be extended. Products and contexts that are potentially suitable or unsuitable for this approach are identified and discussed.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S110-S121
JournalThe Design Journal
Issue numberSup 1
StatePublished - 2017



  • aesthetics
  • prototype effects
  • basic level
  • design
  • emotional sustainability

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