Characters of creative interior space: How much are they universal or culturally different?

Presented by: Ji Young Cho, Jae-sik Lee, Jaewoo Yoo

People in North America spend at least 90% of their lives in interior spaces (Repace & Lowrey, 1980). When considering interior space as a design product, we can assess it in terms of creativity level perceived. Understanding characteristics of interior design considered more creative than others is important for design practice and education. Such perception may differ individually according to culture or expertise. This presentation is about findings from a cross-cultural study of characteristics of creative interior design. Six photos of real interior design images were assessed in advance as high or low in creativity by a focus group of design professionals. The photos were then evaluated by a total 258 participants, constituting four groups: Korean experts, Korean non-experts, American experts, and American non-experts. Participants (a) rated the creativity level of each design, (b) rated the designs in terms of their aesthetic preferences, and (c) assessed four formal attributes in each design: complexity, uniqueness, curvedness, and emotionality. These four attributes were developed from literature review on assessment of creative product (i.e., Bar & Neta, 2007; Hekkert, Snelders, & Wieringen, 2003; Hung & Chen, 2012). The responses were analyzed quantitatively using statistical program. The analysis result shows that regardless of culture and expertise (a) statistically significant consensus exist in the perception of high creative design versus low creative design among professionals and the four groups; (b) participants preferred creative design; (c) high creative interior design tends to be perceived more complex, unique, curved, and emotional designs than low creative interior design; and (d) high creative design and low creative design were greatly different in complexity and uniqueness more than in curvedness and emotionality. Cultural or expert differences were also emerged: experts’ ratings of creativity and preference correlated with more design attributes than those of non-experts. Non-experts did not use the characteristics as much as experts did in their assessment of creativity or preference for interior design. They may use other aspects for assessment besides the four characteristics provided. In addition, unique design was considered high creative for all groups except Korean non experts, which reveals that the theory that uniqueness to be a predictor of creative product is not universal. Moreover, differently from existing theory (Bar & Neta, 2007), curvedness was not a strong design attribute related with creativity or preference. The presentation will bring up discussions on how to approach globalization versus localism, particularly in this globally-woven society and design communities.


  • Bar, M., & Neta, M. (2007). Visual elements of subjective preference modulate amygdala activation. Neuropsychologia, 45(10), 2191–2200.
  • Hekkert, P., Snelders, D., & Wieringen, P. C. (2003). ‘Most advanced, yet acceptable’: Typicality and novelty as joint predictors of aesthetic preference in industrial design. British Journal of Psychology, 94(1), 111–124.
  • Hung, W. K., & Chen, L. L. (2012). Effects of novelty and its dimensions on aesthetic preference in product design. International Journal of Design, 6(2), 81–90.
  • Repace, J. L., & Lowrey, A. H. (1980). Indoor air pollution, tobacco smoke, and public health. Science, 208(4443), 464–472.
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