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Cosmetic obsolescence? User perceptions of new and artificially aged materials

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posted on 28.04.2016, 12:29 by Debra LilleyDebra Lilley, Grace SmalleyGrace Smalley, Ben Bridgens, Garrath WilsonGarrath Wilson, K. Balasundaram
This paper presents the findings of a user study which explored tactile and aesthetic responses to new and artificially aged mobile phone cases made from bamboo, walnut, cork, leather, brushed titanium, plastic and rubber. The paper outlines test methods for accelerated ageing of the external enclosures of consumer electronics based on the types of wear experienced in use, and the use of semantic differential scales (SDS) to probe user attitudes to these materials. The results indicate that preferences for the materials tested were extremely subjective, and even a single participant can have conflicting requirements for the characteristics of the materials (for example, sleek and shiny yet easy to grip). Whilst in general participants preferred the new materials and saw the ageing process as negative, there were examples where the aged samples either scored more highly due to durability (titanium) or received positive comments about the aesthetic changes caused by severe ageing (bamboo and leather). This study captured the participants' immediate, visceral response to the materials, which may be very different to their feelings towards materials and objects that they have owned and interacted with for a period of time.


The authors would like to thank the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council who provided all funding for this work as part of the Closed Loop Emotionally Valuable E-waste Recovery project (EP/K026380/1).



  • Design

Published in

Materials and Design




355 - 365


LILLEY, D. ... et al, 2016. Cosmetic obsolescence? User perceptions of new and artificially aged materials. Materials and Design, 101, pp.355-365.


Elsevier (© The authors)


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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: by/4.0/

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This is an Open Access article published by Elsevier and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence,