Does This Robe Make Me Look Unhappy?


The Diderot Effect is a social phenomenon related to consumer views of self-identification with objects and experiences that posits two things—first that things purchased by consumers will be cohesive to their sense of identity and will be complementary within that system, and second that the introduction of something atypical to that system creates dissonance that often leads to spiraling consumption in an effort to regain a unified concept of one’s identity. In essence, our identities are tied up in the collection of things, experiences, and—in this age of advanced branding I would suggest somewhat more radically—the conceptual meanings we surround ourselves with. Modern brands must, if they hope to survive, embody an ethos that resonates with their customers’ vision of themselves and the existing complement of brands they affiliate with.


Ben Jura is the Design Director at HMS Design, and a Professor of Branding and Identity Systems at the Shintaro Akatsu School of Design. Reach out to for the full white paper on brands’ roles within identity complements that he discusses with aspiring designers.