What is cute and why?

So, what is cute ? Certain questions that come to my mind ( I am tempted to call it the intellect ) I would try and explain it to myself. What is that which is cute ? Why is a small dog cute ? Why is a little kid cute ? What is it about little things that make them cute ?

All these questions were driving me crazy. Every well reflected answer, did not convince me. I started asking people around me what they found was cute and why ? Never was the answer good enough to convince me and by now a small group of people started asking the same question to all.

And one day, I picked up Don Norman’s ‘Emotional Design’ and there, in a second I found solace.

There are 3 levels in which decisions are taken. They are the visceral, behavioral and reflective. Every decision we take, any decision is a product of one of these different independently existing levels. A decision to select the colour of ones car would be on a visceral level where as which Tv is more value for money would be on a reflective level.

Somehow the concept of what was cute, I tried pushing it top down to a reflective level. When the answer to this question was at the visceral level. A designer’s fear towards a visceral attraction had me trying to answer this question only through reasoning.

This is the thought process captured when I looked at a particular object and liked it. Why I liked it ? I don’t know. So to try and answer this question I come up with multiple reasons.

Me :Hmmm, I like it.

The Reflective Mind(TRM): Oh! why do you like it ?

TRM: Because…

TRM: Ha ha ha

Me: Hmmm I wonder why I like it, maybe it’s the organic form, or the way the user can hold it? Hmmm I think its because its usable and can fit into a person’s everyday life.

TRM: Naah, not convincing enough!

So what’s wrong if a person is unable to explain why he likes a particular thing . I believe a designer who is unable to answer this question is in tune with his visceral side apart from the reflective side. And working with these two entities together is a great combination.

One side looks at the function while the other looks at the form. Functionality and Looks. A well tuned designer’s mind would be where his behavioral traits are under control and he uses the visceral and the reflective side while designing a product.

So coming back to what is cute ? Well, I don’t think I can answer that.


9 Responses to What is cute and why?

  1. planemad says:

    whats with this designers fear to a visceral level? id like some more references so that i can read further on whatever topics you brought up.

    • notnarayanshankar says:

      Arun! Thanks a lot for the comments.

      The decisions taken on a visceral level are the instinctive ones. for e.g. looking at a Mac book pro the first thought that comes to your mind would be ” Wow, I want it !” this decision is at a visceral level. To a certain extent one is unable to explain why he or she likes that product. Now, If I were to ask why he or she likes the Mac book pro, what ever be the answer, the rationale will not be convincing enough. This is the fear of making decisions at the Visceral level. The ability of not being able to communicate why a particular product looks appealing, why it “works” visually.

      For further references please read Emotional Design by Donald Norman.

      • planemad says:

        so where exactly does the behavioral level fit into the picture? and your post still doesnt answer what is cute and why 😀

  2. planemad says:

    not a nice post

  3. planemad says:

    thanks for the pdf, will go through it.
    and yes, you can always count on my ‘generosity’ in the future 🙂

  4. Shardool says:

    Good show!!!

  5. Pingback: In the beginning… « visceral reflections

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