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Product Aesthetic Design: A Machine Learning Augmentation, Marketing Science


Aesthetics are critically important to market acceptance. In the automotive industry, an improved aesthetic design can boost sales by 30% or more. Firms invest heavily in designing and testing aesthetics. A single automotive “theme clinic” can cost over $100,000, and hundreds are conducted annually. We propose a model to augment the commonly-used aesthetic design process by predicting aesthetic scores and automatically generating innovative and appealing product designs. The model combines a probabilistic variational autoencoder (VAE) with adversarial components from generative adversarial networks (GAN) and a supervised learning component. We train and evaluate the model with data from an automotive partner—images of 203 SUVs evaluated by targeted consumers and 180,000 high-quality unrated images. Our model predicts well the appeal of new aesthetic designs—43.5% improvement relative to a uniform baseline and substantial improvement over conventional machine learning models and pretrained deep neural networks. New automotive designs are generated in a controllable manner for use by design teams. We empirically verify that automatically generated designs are (1) appealing to consumers and (2) resemble designs which were introduced to the market five years after our data were collected. We provide an additional proof-of-concept application using opensource images of dining room chairs.




Alex Burnap, John R. Hauser, Artem Timoshenko

Date Published



Burnap, Alex, John R. Hauser, and Artem Timoshenko. 2023. Product Aesthetic Design: A Machine Learning Augmentation. Marketing Science.(6): 1029-1056.


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