Industrial design is a creative activity, which aims to define the external characteristics of objects produced industrially. These characteristics define the structural and functional relations that make a given industrial design a coherent whole, both for the manufacturer and the user. Industrial design aims to cover all of these aspects of the human environment, which are either conditioned by industrial production or are their direct result. Design is based on those elements from the field of art, which express beauty in an expressive way—a positive aesthetic property of existence resulting from maintaining proportions, harmony of colours, sounds, appropriateness, moderation and usability, and perceived by the senses.
In ancient Greece, the concept of beauty was much wider than in later years. This was related above all to the idea of goodness, spirituality, morality, thought and reason, at the time it was identified with accuracy as a condition of beauty and art at the highest standard. It was argued that beauty is mainly a result of maintaining proportions and an appropriate system. This view was considered most relevant for centuries. It was professed, among others, by Pythagoreans, claiming that beauty consists in an excellent structure, resulting from the proportion of parts, their harmonious layout. They argued that it is an objective feature. According to Aristotle, beauty is something that causes positive emotions. Plato believed that true beauty is supersensual and is goodness as great as truth.
In the fifth century B. C., Sophists rejected the objectivity of perceiving this value and limited its concept to that which is perceived as pleasant by the sense of sight and hearing. Stoics, as well as some artists living in the Enlightenment, were also close with this theory. Marcus Vitruvius Pollio—a Roman architect and an engineer of war living in the first century B. C., in his work on architecture, wrote that: the value of beauty will be achieved in buildings through the symmetry and appropriate ratio of the elements—height and width. He believed that it is similar in sculpture, painting and nature. This theory was supported, among others, by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, St. Augustine, Albrecht Durer and Nicolas Poussin. While Plotinus preached that not only proportions and the right layout of parts determine beauty, but above all, the soul.
During the Renaissance, the importance of the terms “perfection” and “beauty” was considered, by analysing the works of certain artists. Petrarch and Giorgio Vasari put the value of beauty as an objective value against other aesthetic concepts, like grace, regarded by them as a subjective value.
These days, beauty and other aesthetic values are dealt with by the field of philosophy—aesthetics (Gr. aisthetikos—literally concerning sensory cognition, but also sensitive).
Modern industrial design is interdisciplinary knowledge, without which a company that has the ambitions to achieve success on the market by introducing innovative design and constructional solutions cannot function.
The importance of industrial design today is so strong, that the member states of the European Union, including Poland, are investing significant resources in the creation, development and promotion of design centres. The results of companies, which have already achieved significant successes on the market, may be convincing, in which the financial outlays on B+R activities (Business+Research) in departments dealing with researching, developing and designing a product amount to on average 8 % of annual turnover of these companies. For these reasons, the purpose of industrial design should not only be giving products, including furniture, the most attractive form, but also to build a strategy associated with this form of identity of the good on the market and creating the image of the manufacturer producing a given product. Therefore, the designer is obliged to actively participate in creating, shaping and developing new consumer needs. Thus, he should exert influence on creating a new and better material environment, in which the human being—the future user of the product—will function. It is this task that well-known designers consider to be most important and requiring the consolidation of efforts of many university-based and research and development centres.
In the evaluation of furniture design as applied arts, the basis of reactions and aesthetic experience is eye contact and the intellectual interpretation of the impression. An addition to this assessment is also the criticism of:
• technological values, including materials and finishing method.
The beauty of an industrial product is also affected by colour, which is an integral component of beauty. In many cases, colour determines both of the psychophysical condition of the user and of the success of a given product on the market (Dzi^gielewski and Smardzewski 1995).
When discussing such a significant impact of colour on the market success of products, it also needs to be mentioned about the subjective perception of colours by every human being. Some colours usually excite, stimulate and activate, while others alienate, calm, soothe, inspire concentration and set a nostalgic or melancholic mood. The colour of a product and the colours of the surroundings have a significant impact on the well-being and organism of the user. Usually, the principle is adopted that cold colours soothe and warm colours stimulate:
• yellow is the colour of the Sun, it has a beneficial effect on the nervous system, and it stimulates to work, reduces fatigue and sets a mood of focus and perseverance. It is the colour of science, intellect, optimism and joy,
• orange strengthens the psyche, symbolises vitality and increases optimism. According to psychologists, the best colour for calm children is specifically orange,
• red is associated with the colour of fire, and it acts as a stimulant, raises blood pressure, increases physical activity and whets the appetite, inspires and improves the mood and sets an atmosphere for movement and rapture,
• purple has a beneficial effect on the nervous system, it stimulates, however, for people who are more sensitive, and it can also cause a gloomy and melancholic mood. This colour is chosen at times of economic downturn of the market and investment limitations,
• blue calms and inspires, it is associated with space, it creates an atmosphere of harmony, being in blue spaces slows down the pulse and reduces blood pressure, and a blue environment also has a good effects on health of people who have a fever,
• green is the colour of peace, balance and mental focus; it regenerates one’s strength, has a relaxing and soothing effect, regulates the work of the cardiovascular system, relieves symptoms of stress and gives optimism; therefore, it is excellent in counteracting depression. Dark green is associated with a typically masculine space, so this colour often adorns the walls, as well as fabrics of upholsteries of study furniture, libraries, billiard rooms, smoking areas and law firms. Bright green is a colour that symbolises hope and youth, and so it often appears in rooms of teenagers. According to psychologists, the best colour for children with a great temperament is specifically green,
• brown is a colour that gives a feeling of warmth, security and stability, and it is associated with the colour of items that have been known to people for thousands of years now.
Without a doubt, colour has a significant impact on realisation of the design of a specific product. It is first colour which affects the observer and causes certain reactions. Therefore, very good knowledge of the issues related to colours in industrial design is extremely important.
A designed object should arouse interest in the beauty of its proportions. Therefore, it is necessary that all its elements form a complete whole, composed in a logical and harmonious way (Dzi^gielewski and Smardzewski 1995).