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Yan, Y., Xu, Z., Zhu, L., and Lv, J. (2024). “Innovative design model for the mortise and tenon structure,” BioResources 19(3), 5413-5434.


The mortise and tenon structure is a pivotal component of ancient Chinese architecture and furniture, encapsulating a rich history of evolution, cultural shifts, and productivity developments. Engaging modern individuals with this historical context through innovative product design provides a way to advance the cultural and creative industries and promote the sustainable development of mortise and tenon culture. This study conducted sentiment analysis on consumer reviews of three types of mortise and tenon cultural and creative products in the Chinese market, revealing consumer needs and expectations regarding functionality, quality, and design. Utilizing Norman’s Emotional Design Theory, the study analyzed the design elements of mortise and tenon cultural and creative products across the instinctive, behavioral, and reflective levels. A systematic design model was put together, providing both theoretical support and practical guidance for the future design of these products, thereby offering inspiration and aid for the modernization and transformation of traditional culture.

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Innovative Design Model for the Mortise and Tenon Structure

Yuqi Yan, Zixin Xu, Ling Zhu, and Jiufang Lv *

The mortise and tenon structure is a pivotal component of ancient Chinese architecture and furniture, encapsulating a rich history of evolution, cultural shifts, and productivity developments. Engaging modern individuals with this historical context through innovative product design provides a way to advance the cultural and creative industries and promote the sustainable development of mortise and tenon culture. This study conducted sentiment analysis on consumer reviews of three types of mortise and tenon cultural and creative products in the Chinese market, revealing consumer needs and expectations regarding functionality, quality, and design. Utilizing Norman’s Emotional Design Theory, the study analyzed the design elements of mortise and tenon cultural and creative products across the instinctive, behavioral, and reflective levels. A systematic design model was put together, providing both theoretical support and practical guidance for the future design of these products, thereby offering inspiration and aid for the modernization and transformation of traditional culture.

DOI: 10.15376/biores.19.3.5413-5434

Keywords: Mortise and tenon structure; Cultural and creative products; Sentiment analysis; Emotional design

Contact information: College of Furnishings and Industrial Design, Nanjing Forestry University, Longpan Road, 159, Nanjing 210037, China Correspondence:


The mortise and tenon structure, a fundamental component of traditional Chinese woodworking, comprises two interlocking parts: the mortise and the tenon. Functionally, it utilizes the natural friction of wood to create tight joints that prevent warping and loosening. This versatile design is widely applied in various parts of traditional furniture, such as connections between chair legs and seat surfaces, as well as between backrests and armrests, allowing for diverse shapes and extended furniture longevity (Uysal et al. 2015). Recognized as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO, the mortise and tenon structure holds significant historical and inheritance value. However, its complexity poses challenges for mass production due to the limitations of automated machine tool processing, leading to its gradual decline in modern Chinese furniture applications. Dong et al. (2019) modernized the structure by employing aluminum-magnesium alloy and brass at the interface, incorporating non-slip soft glue to enhance stability, thus adapting it to mechanized production and contemporary lifestyles. Wu et al. (2021) integrated the principle of reduction from green design into modern mortise and tenon structure, improving its shape and connections to facilitate mass production while maintaining stability, thus preserving cultural heritage within modern production contexts. Current scholarly efforts primarily focus on simplifying processing methods or introducing new materials, with an emphasis on the furniture domain.

In China, other forms of intangible cultural heritage can be preserved and promoted through cultural and creative products. He et al. (2024) investigated the innovative design pathways for Li brocade cultural and creative products from the perspective of emotional design, constructing an emotional design model across three levels to facilitate the modern inheritance of Li brocade. Zhu and Liu (2022) deconstructed intangible cultural heritage into three levels—material, behavioral, and spiritual—extracting the cultural attributes of each level and exploring how these attributes evolve within the current cultural context. This approach ensures that cultural and creative products not only carry the cultural connotations of intangible heritage but also align with modern lifestyles, thus expanding the design concepts for such products. Cultural and creative products present significant advantages as pathways for the inheritance of intangible cultural heritage. According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, in the first quarter of 2024, the revenue of cultural and related industries above a designated size exceeded three trillion yuan, reflecting an 8.5% increase compared with the same period the previous year. Specifically, the revenue of cultural and creative design services reached 521.9 billion yuan, a 10.4% increase from the previous year (National Bureau of Statistics n.d.). This data highlights the rapid development of China’s cultural and creative design services, providing a stable environment for transforming various types of intangible cultural heritage into cultural and creative products.

The mortise and tenon structure can be perpetuated and advanced through the development and production of cultural and creative products (Liu and Leng 2019). Liu and Zhao (2023) have investigated the application of the mortise and tenon structure, intrinsic to Dong Nationality’s wood construction techniques, within the realm of cultural and creative products. By extracting the mortise and tenon features from the Dong Drum-tower architecture and integrating them into product design grounded in the theory of symbolic symbols, they effectively bridge traditional techniques with contemporary design, fostering both the inheritance and innovation of intangible cultural heritage. Yang et al. (2024) undertook a comprehensive study, utilizing literature review and case studies to explore the connectivity, reversibility, interactivity, aesthetics, and intelligence inherent in mortise and tenon structures. They contend that this structure holds substantial promise for the development of cultural and creative products. Collectively, these studies underscore the significance and design feasibility of integrating mortise and tenon structures into modern product design. Compared to the studies on other cultural and creative products of intangible cultural heritage mentioned earlier, the current research on cultural and creative products using mortise and tenon structures still lacks sufficient consideration of emotional design aspects. The objective of this study was to analyze consumer needs and expectations for mortise and tenon structure cultural and creative products through online comment mining and emotional analysis. By examining real market feedback, the study aimed to develop a model for mortise and tenon structure product design based on Norman’s emotional design theory, thereby facilitating the modernization and inheritance of this traditional structure.


Text Mining

Text mining is employed to extract valuable information from large volumes of textual data and is particularly prevalent in the analysis of user comments. Common methodologies for text mining encompass word frequency statistics, text clustering, text content analysis, and sentiment analysis. These techniques facilitate an in-depth understanding of users’ opinions, attitudes, and emotional tendencies. Consequently, these analyses unveil the genuine feedback and implicit needs of users regarding products.

Liu and Li (2023) utilize online reviews of silk quilts as their analysis sample, applying text mining techniques to perform sentiment analysis and co-occurrence clustering on the product reviews. Their findings inform product improvement suggestions, highlighting consumer preferences from the perspectives of industry and enterprise. Similarly, Chen et al. (2022) focus on household aromatherapy products, employing text mining of consumer reviews grounded in the design knowledge hierarchy. This approach aims to uncover a method for acquiring and analyzing user needs, identifying the structural relationships among these needs, and evaluating their importance. This facilitates the formulation of product improvement strategies and design positioning.

This paper seeks to support the design model of mortise and tenon structure cultural and creative products through the extraction and analysis of consumer reviews of typical products. Given that consumer reviews are expressed in natural language, key preprocessing steps such as text cleaning, word segmentation, and stop-word removal are essential. Subsequently, various text analysis methods are applied according to the specific content of the reviews.

The Three Levels in Norman’s Theory of Emotional Design

In “Emotional Design,” Donald Norman examines the impact of design on users’ emotions and perceptions (Norman 2007). He argues that design transcends functionality, encompassing significant emotional dimensions. According to Norman, users’ perceptions and reactions to products manifest on three distinct levels: visceral, behavioral, and reflective. These levels provide a framework for designers to comprehend and analyze users’ emotional responses throughout their interactions with products.

Visceral Level: This level focuses on users’ initial impressions and instinctive reactions, typically influenced by sensory stimuli such as sight, touch, and sound. Design at this level aims to elicit immediate, instinctual responses, leading users to either favor or reject the product instantly. Designers must prioritize aesthetics, form, and materials to cater to users’ visceral needs.

Behavioral Level: This level pertains to the user experience and the product’s functionality. Users assess aspects such as ease of use, practicality, and reliability at this stage. Design at the behavioral level should ensure the product is user-friendly, fully functional, and provides a seamless and enjoyable experience. Emphasis should be placed on interaction design, interface design, and functional layout to enhance user satisfaction.

Reflective Level: This level encompasses users’ deeper emotional and cognitive responses, including their thoughts, evaluations, and memories after interacting with the product. The reflective level highlights how the product influences users’ self-image, identity, and social status. Designers must consider the symbolic meanings and cultural connotations of the product, aiming to convey brand value and emotional resonance through design.

Norman’s emotional design theory underscores that successful product design must perform effectively across all three levels to meet fundamental user needs and deliver profound emotional satisfaction and an enjoyable experience.

Overall, text mining can elucidate users’ genuine needs and emotions, providing crucial insights for design and innovation. This study, therefore, incorporates Norman’s emotional design theory into the proposed design model for mortise and tenon structure cultural and creative products. By employing text mining, it captures users’ needs across the visceral, behavioral, and reflective levels, thereby constructing a comprehensive design model aimed at enhancing user experience and market competitiveness.


Research Sample

Mortise and tenon structure cultural and creative products are those centered on the traditional mortise and tenon joinery. These products incorporate the cultural elements and creative concepts of mortise and tenon structures through innovative design and production, offering cultural, artistic, and market value (Lin 2007). In the current Chinese consumer market, mortise and tenon structure cultural and creative products can be categorized into three types: puzzle toys, traditional architectural building blocks, and traditional furniture building blocks. Examples and descriptions of these three types can be found in Table 1.

Table 1. Three Types of Sample Illustrations and Profiles

Puzzle toys, exemplified by the Luban lock, are traditional Chinese brainteasers composed of interlocking wooden pieces intricately connected through mortise and tenon joints to form a cohesive whole. The design of the Luban lock showcases the precision craftsmanship and ingenuity found in ancient Chinese architecture and furniture making. It also serves as an educational tool for understanding spatial geometry and problem-solving principles. Traditional architectural building blocks draw inspiration from ancient Chinese pavilions and towers. These modern adaptations extract the shape characteristics of these structures and use a scaled-down design, typically at a 1:10 or 1:15 ratio, to create contemporary cultural and creative products featuring mortise and tenon joints. Traditional furniture building blocks, connected through precise mortise and tenon joints, display the complexity and functionality of traditional Chinese furniture design. These blocks reproduce the construction art of ancient furniture, promoting an understanding and appreciation of traditional woodworking techniques and craftsmanship.

Sample Selection

The aforementioned three types of samples are widely recognized in the current Chinese market, possessing both representativeness and research value. They provide comprehensive data support for the design model of mortise and tenon structure cultural and creative products. This study selects certain products from Tmall and Modian crowdfunding platforms as data sources for obtaining user reviews.

Tmall is a B2C one-stop retail platform under Alibaba. The primary reason for selecting product reviews from Tmall as a data source is that all brands on Tmall are officially operated by brand owners, ensuring high product quality and reliability. Tmall enjoys high consumer recognition, with data from the 2022 Tmall TopTalk merchant conference indicating that the platform has 900 million annual active consumers (Alibaba n.d.). The reviews on Tmall are not only numerous but also of high quality, providing an excellent data source for subsequent information extraction. The Luban lock is now a well-established type of puzzle toy with numerous brands and products available on Tmall, along with a wealth of consumer reviews for research. Therefore, this study selected the top four Luban lock puzzle toys on Tmall, based on sales rankings, as the research samples for the puzzle toy category.

The reason for selecting crowdfunding product reviews from the Modian platform as a data source is that traditional architectural and furniture building blocks are often launched on Modian as their initial platform. Products with successful crowdfunding campaigns on Modian have already gained some consumer recognition and support. Given that consumers on crowdfunding platforms typically possess higher levels of expertise, analyzing their reviews has potential to provide deep insights into the target users’ needs and expectations. The feedback collected from this group is highly professional and valuable for reference. Although the number of reviews is not as large as on Tmall, the high quality of the data can yield high-quality insights for subsequent review analysis. Therefore, this study selected the top four traditional architectural building blocks on Modian based on sales rankings as sample products. For the traditional furniture building block category, since currently the only product with sales exceeding 500 units is the “Diary of the Grand Secretary of the Ming Dynasty” by the Puzzle Master brand, this product was chosen as the sample for traditional furniture building blocks due to its research value.

The final selection of nine products from the three categories includes: Qiaozuihou’s Luban Lock, V&F’s Luban Lock, Keyi Toys’ Luban Lock, Fuhaier’s Luban Lock, Wanfengshuwu’s Summer Palace Zhichun Pavilion Building Blocks, Wanfengshuwu’s Ningxiang Pavilion Building Blocks, Chongshiyingzao’s Chilai Pavilion Building Blocks, Chongshiyingzao’s Zuiweng Pavilion Building Blocks, and Puzzle Master’s Diary of Ming Dynasty Grand Chancellor. Each of these products has garnered over 500 reviews, reflecting current trends in mortise and tenon cultural and creative product design and consumer interests, thus providing valuable insights for research. A schematic of the nine products is shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1. Nine product schematics

Data Preparation

All review data analyzed in this study were collected using a Python 3.8.5 script. Given the vast number of reviews for high-selling products, the authors manually extracted valid reviews from the past year (up to January 2024) for the nine selected products. The two fields of first comment content and additional comment content were collected for each comment. Subsequently, the system-default product evaluations were filtered out in chronological order, and the pre-processed consumer reviews were extracted. The raw review data obtained directly from the website, which is in Chinese, often contained irrelevant information, such as emojis and English characters, which can negatively impact text analysis. Directly analyzing such data is less feasible and yields less effective results. Therefore, it is necessary to preprocess the raw data. Using Python’s Pandas library, the drop_duplicates function was employed to remove duplicate texts. Additionally, functions such as str.contains and str.len were used to eliminate texts that were too short, system-default positive reviews, and those containing emojis or English characters (Zhou et al. 2022). This preprocessing step ensures that the raw data is converted into high-quality information suitable for analysis. The efficiency of the processed reviews is shown in Table 2, and examples of the review content can be found in Table 3.

Table 2. Product Review Data Noise Reduction Variation Table

Table 3. Selected Product Review Contents Table

For Chinese text, word segmentation based on standard corpora and statistical data is essential, as it forms the foundation for subsequent text processing. Currently, Chinese word segmentation methods primarily include dictionary-based methods, statistical methods, and understanding-based methods. This study used Jieba, an open-source word segmentation tool in Python, known for its efficiency and accuracy (Zhang et al. 2021). Consequently, this tool was used for the word segmentation of the review texts. To demonstrate the effectiveness of Jieba for Chinese text segmentation, consider the following example. Given the Chinese sentence “非常好的榉木材料” (which means “Very good beech wood material”), Jieba segments it into the following words: “非常” (very), “好的” (good), “榉木” (beech wood), and “材料” (material). This segmentation accurately breaks the sentence into meaningful units, which is crucial for subsequent natural language processing tasks.

Demand Mining

Sentiment analysis studies primarily employ two methods: machine learning-based methods and semantic dictionary-based methods. Machine learning-based methods use various classification techniques to identify sentiment, while semantic dictionary-based methods first construct a dictionary or list of sentiment words and then use this dictionary to determine sentiment orientation. This study used the SnowNLP library in Python, a natural language processing component, to process the text content (Ding and Li 2023). The processing flow is as follows: 1. Text Reorganization: The results of Jieba segmentation are recombined into a single string using the join(words) command, with each word separated by a space. This recombined string is then passed to SnowNLP to create a SnowNLP processing object for sentiment analysis and keyword extraction. 2. Part-of-Speech Tagging: The s.tags command is used to perform part-of-speech tagging on each word. 3. Sentiment Analysis: The sentiment command is invoked to score the sentiment orientation of the reviews. The scores range from 0 to 1, with values closer to 1 indicating positive sentiment and values closer to 0 indicating negative sentiment. In this study, a score of 0.4 is used as the neutral threshold. Scores above 0.5 are considered positive reviews, scores between 0.4 and 0.5 are considered neutral, and scores below 0.4 are considered negative reviews.

When further analyzing the keywords in the review set, the results of Jieba segmentation are first cleaned by removing all single-character words to facilitate word cloud and word frequency analysis. A word cloud visually presents keywords, allowing complex text information to be displayed in a simple and intuitive manner, helping quickly understand the themes, focuses, and key concepts of the text (Wang et al. 2023). In this study, the Word Cloud library in Python 3.8.5 is used to generate word cloud images. By adjusting custom parameters, it is possible to modify the font, color, layout, and overall shape of the word cloud. Word frequency analysis involves counting the frequency of words to identify those that appear most frequently in the text, thereby understanding the themes and keywords of the text. After segmenting the text with Jieba, this study manually counts the highest frequency words and merges semantically similar words for the analysis.

Word cloud and word frequency charts can present the main factors that consumers focus on, but they cannot show the relationships between these factors. To explore the theme distribution more deeply, this study uses the Python Gensim library to perform co-occurrence clustering on the segmented text (Huang et al. 2023). The principle of this clustering is that the higher the co-occurrence frequency of two keywords, the closer their relationship, making them more likely to be grouped into the same cluster. Subsequently, the sentiment command is also invoked to score the ‘sentiment’ orientation for each cluster theme.


Comment Collection Holistic Sentiment Analysis

Through sentiment analysis, the emotional positioning of product reviews for the three sample categories was assessed, resulting in the sentiment distribution chart shown in Fig. 2. The data indicate that puzzle toys receive a higher proportion of positive and neutral reviews, with negative reviews being less frequent than neutral ones. In contrast, traditional architectural building blocks exhibit a lower proportion of positive reviews compared to puzzle toys, with negative reviews surpassing neutral ones. Traditional furniture building blocks have the lowest positive review rate among the three categories, with negative reviews constituting 29.3% of the total. Among the three samples, the Luban lock, categorized under puzzle toys, has been preserved and passed down for thousands of years, boasting a well-established industrial processing system for design and production. Various brands can achieve favorable market feedback by adjusting the materials and colors of their products to enhance craftsmanship.

Fig. 2. Sentiment distribution chart of reviews for three product categories

However, for the newly emerging traditional architectural and furniture building blocks, there is little prior experience to draw upon, positioning them as novel fields within mortise and tenon structure cultural and creative products. These products often rely on crowdfunding to reach the market, a commercial model that remains relatively nascent in the realm of cultural and creative products. The entire product delivery cycle, from consumer payment to final receipt, can span from a quarter to six months, posing a significant challenge in the current fast-paced consumer market. Additionally, extensive promotion during crowdfunding campaigns can elevate initial consumer expectations excessively. The long wait times may increase the likelihood of consumer disappointment with the received products, ultimately resulting in lower overall evaluations. For these innovative categories of mortise and tenon structure cultural and creative products, the initially high proportion of negative reviews can prompt timely adjustments in product design based on professional feedback from platform consumers. This can lead to market-responsive improvements and assist brands in rapidly building their reputation. However, the crowdfunding sales model imposes greater demands on product design and quality, necessitating careful consideration by merchants when selecting their sales channels.

Word Cloud and Word Frequency Analysis

Word cloud analysis

To comprehensively observe consumer attention to product attributes, this study first conducted a word cloud analysis. By using the Word Cloud library, word cloud diagrams of reviews for three sample categories were generated, as illustrated in Fig. 3. From the word cloud diagrams, it is evident that consumers have some common feedback regarding mortise-and-tenon structure cultural and creative products. Consumers generally focus on the quality and craftsmanship of these products, as these two terms are prominently featured in all the word clouds, indicating that quality and craftsmanship are their primary concerns. Other notable aspects include target audience, packaging and logistics, user experience, appearance design, and cultural significance.

a) Puzzle toys word frequency chart


b) Traditional architecture building blocks word cloud chart

c) Traditional furniture building blocks word cloud chart

Fig. 3. Word cloud chart of three product categories

Regarding the target audience, these products are primarily intended for children. The prominence of terms such as “hands-on,” “ability,” and “education” suggests that consumers widely perceive these products as having significant educational value, enhancing children’s manual skills and intellectual development. This reflects the importance of these three sample categories in both educational and entertainment contexts. In terms of packaging and logistics experience, the frequent occurrence of words like “packaging” and “received” indicates that the integrity of the packaging and the timeliness of delivery significantly impact customer satisfaction. Timely delivery is directly linked to managing customer expectations and psychological fulfillment. Transparency of logistics information and communication during the delivery process are also crucial factors in enhancing customer satisfaction, as they provide customers with visibility and a sense of control over the delivery process.

In terms of user experience, “installation” and “difficulty” appear frequently, suggesting that consumers may experience some challenges when using these products. Words like “good,” “satisfied,” and “worthwhile” indicate that consumers have an overall positive opinion of these products. When users use these products after purchase, they feel a sense of accomplishment in solving complex structural problems, which enriches their experience and increases their enjoyment of the product. In terms of appearance, words like “design” and “beautiful appearance” in the word cloud reflect consumer expectations and evaluations of the product’s look. This reveals a high level of consumer interest in design aesthetics and product form optimization, highlighting the crucial role of appearance design in product development. Consumers also show a strong interest in the cultural background and traditional significance of these products. Terms such as “Ming-style” and “culture” indicate their cultural identification with the products. These commonalities in feedback help better understand consumer needs and expectations, allowing for the optimization of product design and marketing strategies, thereby enhancing overall consumer satisfaction.

Word frequency analysis

The segmentation results of Jieba processing were stored in a table, and a word frequency table was created for the top ten most frequent words as the data for word frequency analysis, as shown in Fig. 4. The vertical axis represents the ten most frequently occurring words, and the horizontal axis represents the frequency of these words, with the word frequency table arranged in ascending order from top to bottom. From all the product attribute descriptors in the word frequency table, it is evident that consumers are most concerned with the quality of mortise-and-tenon cultural and creative products when making a purchase. For instance, words such as “quality,” “packaging,” and “odor” all indicate concerns related to quality. Notably, the word “quality” appeared in the reviews of the three categories of products with frequencies of 1401, 1335, and 343, respectively.

In the current field of mortise-and-tenon cultural and creative products, consumer attention to product quality is a core consideration. These cultural products not only need to convey cultural value but also must demonstrate durability and functionality in practical use. Specifically, in the development of mortise-and-tenon cultural and creative products, regardless of how the structural design is innovatively reassembled, how novel design elements are introduced, or how they integrate with modern consumption habits, the core competitiveness of the product always focuses on its intrinsic quality. Therefore, ensuring the dual advantages of cultural and quality aspects is crucial for enhancing the market competitiveness of cultural and creative products. In the case of puzzle toys, the Luban lock primarily uses beech wood, which is known for its excellent stability and hard texture. Beech wood has good wear resistance and impact resistance, making it highly durable and ensuring the quality of the finished cultural product. Due to China’s vast geographical span and significant humidity differences between the northern and southern regions, wood materials may crack when they are utilized in certain regions. Thus, the choice of raw materials directly affects the shopping experience of consumers in different areas. Additionally, the precision of processing significantly impacts the surface quality of the product, as residual burrs on the surface can negatively influence consumer perceptions of product quality.

a) Puzzle toys word frequency chart