The Body – Session 5

This weeks lecture took a slightly different approach to what we normally do. It took a more philosophical route, rather than reflecting on the historical references. We therefore looked at; The Body and Affordance: Handles.

What is Affordance?

It was a concept developed in the 70s and looks at the way we interact with objects. We perceive things visually (unless visually impaired) in order to aid us when interacting with the object. We encounter objects with possibilities for action i.e. handles for pushing, pulling etc.

From this we can say that our world is designed and our bodies are directed, for example, IKEA place arrows on the floor in order to direct people around the store.

So… Affordance is the possibility for action between a person and an object.

But how do we know how to interact with objects? We know through looking at the qualities of the object, it tells me how to interact with it i.e. door handles.

Don Norman, a designer and psychologist states that if an individual does not understand how to interact with the object, then it has been poorly designed. ‘The designer cares more about what actions the user perceives to be possible rather than what is true.’ (Norman, 1999)

This is a case of AFFORDANCE vs PERCEIVED AFFORDANCE: (what happens vs what we expect to happen).

Bodies + Knowledge + Experience + Visual Feedback = our affordance.

Don’t assume that because you know how something works that someone else will know how it works.

Overall, I enjoyed the change in this weeks lecture, it really made me question what it means for us as beings to interact with objects. It is not something we think about in our conscious mind and is therefore difficult to answer how do we know how to interact with an object. It is a combination of things as can be seen in the equation above. This ability to interact with objects shapes our lives and with that demonstrates how the body is controlled.

This is definitely a subject area I’ll consider looking into for the final essay because it looks into the relationship that design has with people.

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Author: marislathamgraphics

I am a student at Cardiff Metropolitan University studying BA Hons Graphic Communication.

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