In our view, the aesthetic pleasure associated with everyday objects is the enjoyment produced by experiencing how designers have chosen to realize their aims. Is the design sufficiently familiar, yet somehow unique? Would adopting the design both represent an act of autonomy and also confer some form of social connectedness? Is the way people interact with the design appropriate for what the design aims to achieve? In all these cases, an affirmative answer leads to a pleasurable aesthetic response.

People can look at and interact with a designed artifact in many different ways: perceptually [Unity and Variety], cognitively [Typicality and Novelty], socially [Connectedness and Autonomy], physically [Aesthetic pleasure in interaction], and as a manifestation of an intention [Aesthetics and intention]. The UMA model (see Figure) predicts that in each of these ways, aesthetic pleasure results from a balance between two opposing forces. One of these forces is rooted in our need for safety (e.g., order, control, belonging), whereas the other force propels us toward accomplishment (e.g., novelty, uniqueness, challenge). When maximizing both qualities at the same time we enjoy a pleasurable experience – aesthetic pleasure.

To empirically test this theoretical framework, a range of projects are currently underway.