'To preserve unity while almost allowing for chaos': Testing the aesthetic principle of unity-in-variety in product design

RAG Post, J. Blijlevens, PPM Hekkert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Unity-in-variety is considered to be one of the oldest-known universal principles of beauty. However, little empirical research exists on how unity and variety together influence aesthetic appreciation. In three studies we investigated how unity and variety predict the aesthetic appreciation of a range of product designs, and further assessed whether perceived visual complexity and individual differences in regulatory focus influence this relationship. Our findings reveal that both unity and variety, while suppressing each other's effect, positively affect aesthetic appreciation. Hence, product designs that exhibit an optimum balance between unity and variety are aesthetically preferred. Furthermore, the research reveals that unity is the dominant factor in this relationship and facilitates the appreciation of variety. We discuss several theoretical and practical implications resulting from these studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-152
Number of pages11
JournalActa Psychologica
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Aesthetics
  • Beauty
  • Unity
  • Variety
  • Visual perception
  • Product design

Cite this