Perceiving Designs Through Visual Clues
It would be appropriate to say the world today strives on research and thus far analyzing the scope of extending the horizon of the possibilities of design while understanding the users and their limitations simultaneously. The perception of the mentioned possibilities requires the aid of visual clues, referred to as ‘affordances’ in design terminology. Affordances define as the perceived and actual properties of a specific design, primarily those fundamental properties that determine its possible uses.
A rather fruitful session on the discussion of affordances, this class was more of a review to a course attended in the previous semester. A specific assignment required students to observe and document all possible affordances of everyday design objects. To explain this through an example, one could deduce through mere visual observation that a bed may provide affordances for resting, sitting, jumping, among others.
Affordances include four categories, primarily based upon the obviousness of visual clues. These include strong, real, perceived, and false kinds of affordances. Designs whose properties may be easily comprehendible merely upon visual clues are strong affordances. Those that require minimal effort for understanding the scope of its properties and possibilities are considered strong affordances. Bill Gaver, a professor at the University of London, claims a good affordance to be perceptible.
Perceived affordances, as the name suggests, are those abilities of an object we ‘assume’ it may fulfill, either appropriate or inappropriate. For example, pressing a button that doesn’t do anything, like using the TV remote to turn the TV on, but it doesn’t work for some reason.
False affordances mislead users by providing perceptions for the capacity of an action that is untrue. This kind had brought to mind an interesting, rather fun example of the popular Instagram realistic cake trend. Compilations of a chef cutting into seemingly real objects only to reveal that they are cakes have been a popular trend around social media.
An interesting point made was that of the relationship between affordances, the user, and the aspect of conditioning. Affordances rely heavily on the users and the specifications of their acclimatization. For instance, the affordance of a cupboard may be perceived differently by people of varying heights. Affordances also have to do with the social and cultural conditioning of an individual. To understand this, car drivers in America drive on another side as compared to those in Pakistan. Thus their perception — the sensory capabilities of an individual- and understanding of ‘getting used to’ the design and objects may differ significantly.
Affordances and their significance, particularly in the field of design, are non-negatable since they help understand not just the user but also improve designs to reach their maximum extent. A few quite fascinating points marked during the lesson were that of the concept of affordances within other beings, as well as affordance brought upon graphic design through typography. Towards the end of the session, an apt conclusion put forth regarding the definition of affordances demarcates the term as a collection of bodily capacity with sensory perceptions of an individual exercised through interaction with design.