Styling or product appearance is well known for holding great influence on its differentiation, branding, and overall success in the market. However, the styling process is difficult due to the intuitive and subjective way in which designers evaluate designs. In particular, negotiating iterations between designers and engineers is challenging since engineers have objective, data-driven approaches to rationalize decisions whereas designers rely on instinct and intuition. While the literature shows sustained interest in this issue and provides methods to analyze appearance objectively, many approaches rely on abstracted or simplified versions of a product's appearance as the basis for analyses, ignoring the holistic nature of product appearance. This article contributes by proposing an improvement employing digital shape comparison tools applied to three-dimensional (3D) geometry of products, and generating data on differentiation in product shape—that is, the holistic styling analysis (HSA). The HSA provides an objective assessment of difference in appearance to form the basis for designers to rationalize styling to other stakeholders during the design process. The HSA is tested through an automotive industry case study. Results show the method adds objectivity to decision-making by providing objective reference measures for differentiation in the styling of previous and competing products. Such measures can be used to inform styling goals and to identify intended degrees of difference in key features while highlighting areas to maintain consistency. As such, we contribute by providing a means for styling designers to use data to drive their activities in the same manner as other stakeholders.

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