In this paper titled “Simple as it can be, but not simpler: Perceived elegance as effective complexity in Interface Design” and that has received a best paper award at the 2020 AMCIS conference, we propose and test a method to measure the elegance of an interface (the paper and the presentation are both accessible at this link).
The attribute elegant is often associated with original as well as parsimonious information representation as in “elegant theory”. In all these cases, elegance pertains to a theory’s ability to explain more with less rules and assumptions. For Instance, the Copernican theory that puts the sun at the center of the solar system is more elegant than the Ptolemaic one in which the Earth is at the center.
Aesthetic pleasure is somehow related to the recognition of order. But what kind of order do we look for? And how much order do we need? Research on aesthetic appreciation shows that we tend to prefer combinations of stimuli that are both familiar and novel. Conversely, we can experience easily that situations in which either the familiar or the novel are predominating tend to be unpleasant, although for different reasons.
Aesthetic decision making is immediately visible in the process of artistic creation. In this short movie, Monet is making an impressive amount of micro-decisions in the act of capturing the fleeting reflections of light over waterlilies in a pond. These decisions are aesthetic not only because they are about the making of an artistic product, but because the artist grounds them on the empirical perception of light and color. The sensory flow, mediated by what the artist is trying to achieve and by his representation of the world, are a key ingredient in determining where the next brushstroke is going to fall. The word aesthetics, in fact, means “what pertains to the senses.”