Product Design Complexity and Innovation: The Impact of Visual Complexity and Functional Complexity on Novelty Perception


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date19 Jul 2022


This dissertation aims to examine the effect of product complexity on consumers’ novelty perception of innovations by dividing product complexity into visual complexity and functional complexity. Consumer perception of novelty in product design is an important factor that affects the sales of innovative products. While the effect of perceived novelty has been widely studied in the marketing and innovation literature, little is known about its antecedents. Based on a systematic literature review of consumer behavior, consumer psychology, product design, and other disciplines, two essays explain how product complexity affects perceived novelty, which underlying mechanisms account for it, and which boundary conditions limit this causality.

In the first essay, we examine the impact of visual complexity on novelty perception by dividing visual complexity into global feature complexity and local feature complexity. Global feature complexity is operationalized as product shape atypicality, while local feature complexity is operationalized as pattern complexity. One empirical study and three experimental studies were undertaken to explore the impact of visual complexity of types of product images on novelty perception. The underlying mechanism of affective response is presented in the experimental studies. We find consistent results from the four studies that both consumers and designers convert visual complexity to novelty perception. We also find that product shape has a greater influence on consumer novelty perception than local patterns. Moreover, we identified that thinking style plays an important role between visual complexity and novelty perception. In addition, holistic thinking style is a boundary condition for consumers to convert pattern complexity into perceived novelty, while analytic thinkers may convert both pattern complexity and shape atypicality into novelty perception. These findings offer both theoretical and practical implications for innovation introduction by showing how novelty is perceived and how it can be adjusted.

The second essay examines how functional complexity affects novelty perception. Specifically, this essay focuses on the impact of the combination of radical product attributes and incremental product attributes. An empirical study and four experimental studies show a strong causal relationship between functional complexity and novelty perception. We find that the evaluation of radical innovation can be improved by adding incremental functional attributes to radical functional attributes because they decrease the perceived complexity and increase comprehension of the radical product. Several important boundary conditions, including the effect of visual complex images, are presented to clarify future replications. Our findings insist on the importance of utilizing incremental product attributes to help radical innovation adoption. Moreover, we present a comprehensive product evaluation model composed of complexity, novelty, comprehension, and attitude to contribute to the marketing and innovation literature.

    Research areas

  • perceived novelty, perceived complexity, really new products, radical innovation, product attributes, arousal theory, information processing