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Global Connections Research and Innovation Excellence and Expertise

Faculty Research Profile: Sina Esteky

Concentrating on branding and marketing in different cultural contexts, Sina Esteky conducts research that spans multiple continents.

Dr. Esteky at the Abbasi Hotel in Esfahan, Iran
Dr. Esteky at the 400-year-old Abbasi Hotel in Esfahan, Iran
Global Connections Research and Innovation Excellence and Expertise

Faculty Research Profile: Sina Esteky

Dr. Esteky at the 400-year-old Abbasi Hotel in Esfahan, Iran

Sina Esteky (Marketing) conducts research that focuses on understanding the effects of physical and virtual design factors on consumer decisions. His work has been published in leading academic journals and has been widely featured in major news outlets. At Miami, Dr. Esteky is the director of the Design and Consumer Research Lab and a faculty affiliate in Emerging Technology in Business and Design (ETBD).

What are some of your current research interests and/or projects?

Broadly speaking, I am interested in the intersection of consumer behavior, design, and technology, with a focus on improving consumer welfare. I employ advanced design methods and behavioral insights in physical and virtual environments to tackle societal and managerial problems. Additionally, I conduct research on advertising, aesthetics, branding, and contextual and cross-cultural influences on consumption.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your research?

Absolutely. Prior to the pandemic, much of my research was focused on the effects of design elements in physical environments on people’s thoughts and behaviors. All of my studies were conducted in physical lab environments or the field.

For several months early in the pandemic, I was not able to conduct any research. It took me a while to adapt to the new norm, which pushed me toward incorporating more technology in my research. I realized that my work, much like the rest of the world’s, needs to go remote. I learned how to conduct studies using virtual reality techniques (i.e., the metaverse). This added a new dimension to my research—one that I expect will affect how people study, work, and play for decades to come.

What are some of the outcomes of your recent research?

Let me talk about two recent projects. The first one demonstrates how environmental design affects people’s actions, and the second demonstrates how people’s cultural background influences their design preferences.

In a recently-published paper, I show that people associate the abstract concept of risk with their location in a physical or virtual space. People closer to the edges of a space are more likely to choose risky options, while those closer to the center tend to avoid them. This finding was demonstrated through five studies (and a pilot) across various decision-making scenarios in both laboratory and field experiments (including a study conducted at a grocery store). The phenomenon occurs because being near the edges of a space evokes concepts related to risk, making risky products more appealing.

The second project examines logo design. While the design of a logo can have a significant impact on a brand or company, there is limited research on what factors influence consumers' preferences for logo designs. This project focuses on how the cultural dimension of power distance belief (PDB) affects consumer preferences for different logo designs, especially as it relates to the empty space surrounding these symbols. The study finds that people from high PDB backgrounds (e.g., China, India) prefer less empty space around logos compared to those from low PDB backgrounds (e.g., U.S., Canada, Sweden) because they value order and structure. This research has implications for both theory and practice in logo design, especially in cross-cultural settings.

What are your plans for the coming year?

I hope to conduct more studies on the effects of culture on design preferences and consumer experiences. This is an area that has not received enough attention in academia and has major implications for how brands and firms operate globally.

Also, I hope to engage more with various global studies initiatives. This ranges from participating in a research fellowship program in Luxembourg to teaching branding as part of a faculty exchange program in the Middle East, to presenting my work at research workshops across universities in Central Asia. One of my life passions is to travel off the beaten path, and I can’t wait to do more of that in the future.