"We’ve all seen arguments in the design community that dismiss the role of beauty in visual interfaces, insisting that good designers base their choices strictly on matters of branding or basic design principles. Lost in these discussions is an understanding of the powerful role aesthetics play in shaping how we come to know, feel, and respond.
Consider how designers “skin” an information architect’s wireframes. Or how the term “eye candy” suggests that visual design is inessential. Our language constrains visual design to mere styling and separates aesthetics and usability, as if they are distinct considerations. Yet, if we shift the conversation away from graphical elements and instead focus on aesthetics, or “the science of how things are known via the senses,” we learn that this distinction between how something looks and how it works is somewhat artificial.
For starters, aesthetics is concerned with anything that appeals to the senses—not just what we see, but what we hear, smell, taste, and feel. In short, how we perceive and interpret the world. As user experience professionals, we must consider every stimulus that might influence interactions.
Perhaps more importantly, “aesthetics examines our affective domain response to an object or phenomenon” (according to Wikipedia). In other words, aesthetics is not just about the artistic merit of web buttons or other visual effects, but about how people respond to these elements. Our question becomes: how do aesthetic design choices influence understanding and emotions, and how do understanding and emotions influence behavior?" (Continued via A List Apart, Stephen P. Anderson) [Usability Resources]