Aesthetic Convergence and Divergence: A Post-structural Analysis of the Underlying Similarities of Cross-cultural Differences in Aesthetic Value

By Aaron Francis Ward.

Published by The International Journal of Design in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

One of the central challenges to the practice and theory of design, and marketing, in the global economy, is manifest cultural differences in aesthetic values. Indeed, the concept of pattern marketing, to “think global, act local,” embodies the need for sensitivity in all aspects of the global marketing mix. The current theoretical paper extends on this position by analysing cross-cultural similarities at all levels of consumer strategy for making aesthetic evaluations of product designs. In this discussion, aesthetics preferences are reanalysed, not just in terms of preferences for particular configurations of formal design elements, but also in consideration of cross-cultural, class-based similarities in how consumers engage with product designs. Specifically, the concept of cultural capital is used to explore similarities between Western social structures and aesthetic practices, and those in Japan. Existing literature on Japanese aesthetics suggests that there are clearly discernible differences between Japan and Western contexts. However, Japan is nonetheless a cultural context with an established class structure, and cultural hierarchy. The current paper explores the relationship between Japanese social structure and aesthetic values, using theory developed and tested in Western contexts. The parallels in strategies for making aesthetic evaluations suggest that social origin, education, and social trajectory all have relatively acultural effects on consumption behaviour. Thus, although many aesthetic values may differ between the East and West, the manner in which these are exploited by consumers across, and within, social class structures is much the same.

Keywords: Consumer Aesthetics, Cultural Capital, Meta-national Marketing, Product Design, Japan

The International Journal of Design in Society, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp.65-78. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.087MB).

Dr. Aaron Francis Ward

Lecturer, Faculty of Health, Humanities and Sciences, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

I am a recent Ph.D., graduate in Marketing and Consumer Behaviour. I have an undergraduate degrees in Psychology, Business Management, teaching, and an M.Sc in Psychology (evolutionary aesthetic psychology). I also have many years of teaching experience in language. My personal interests include product design, architecture, popular culture and photography.