Read the working paper
INSEAD Working Paper 2013/95/TOM revised version of 2013/24/TOM
Styles are categories of designs that share a distinctive visual concept. This paper introduces a structured approach to identifying styles in a large set of product designs. Employing a stringent conceptualization of ‘style’, we use a novel combination of clustering and experimental methods to group into styles all US design patents granted during the period 1977-2010. Validating the results indicates that our algorithmic approach categorizes designs no differently than would humans. Furthermore, we use the resulting categorization to examine the dynamics of styles, finding that some product categories exhibit more style dynamism than others and that styles overall are becoming more dynamic over time. Our approach to identifying styles opens up new avenues for investigating the role of aesthetics in innovation.