Understanding aesthetic innovation in the context of technological evolution

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I theorize the coevolution of technology and design by integrating research on the evolution of technology with ideas from sociology, marketing, and psychology that explain the effects of design. Specifically, I apply work arguing that visible design attributes, such as color, shape, or texture, allow producers to explain what their products do and how best to use them, to excite users in a way that generates sales, and to extend the basic functionalities of their products by highlighting their symbolic meanings. I then theorize that the relevance of these three uses varies in the context of technological evolution such that affecting products' design-related attributes is a more central organizational process as product technologies emerge and when they are very mature, suggesting a U-shaped relationship between technological evolution and design. I also elaborate the moderators of this relationship: the frequency of successive product introductions, the social dynamics affecting consumption, the users' level of technological knowledge, and the volume of discourse attending to design. Thus, the article offers a holistic theory for understanding the strategic use of design in the context of technological production and, as such, advances recent work positioning design as a primary strategic challenge.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)332-351
Number of pages20
JournalAcademy of Management Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Business,Management and Accounting
  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Strategy and Management


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